Perfect Parenting Isn’t a Thing- 6 Ways to Forgive Yourself When You Make a Mistake
We’ve all been there. Made a mistake that we feel terrible about- yelled at our kids, spoke sharply to our partner, and afterwards felt like a real jerk. Deep down you know this isn’t who you are but now you can’t stop replaying how bad you messed up. You’re stuck in a beating-yourself-up loop and don’t know how to forgive yourself.
Here’s the thing. If you are expecting yourself to be perfect it means you are not loving yourself unconditionally. And if you can’t be emotionally generous with yourself how will you be emotionally generous with your child? Perfect parenting just isn’t a thing and soaking yourself in your guilt is not productive. You don’t need to aim for perfect, you need to aim for love! Here’s 6 ways to forgive yourself.
1. Start by letting go of all the ways you need to be different before you are enough.
I know you know what I’m talking about. That little voice, the one that says “If only I were ______”. You fill in the blank with a little nicer, thinner, better. It’s that voice that’s putting all the pressure on you. You have permission to let go of it. You are already enough. If you want to be capable of loving others unconditionally you have to start by loving yourself unconditionally- just the way you are.
Try saying to yourself “this mistake is showing me an opportunity to grow”.
2. Check in with yourself
Take a breath and notice what your feelings are. If you listen to the story your mind is telling you there is probably a lot of fear talking. Fears like “if I don’t yell this kid will never learn” or “if my kid keeps acting this way people will think I’m a bad parent”. Our minds have lots of stories like these that we learned when we were kids. We used these stories back then to keep ourselves safe. We keep using these old stories now hoping they will make things better but they’re really just keeping us afraid. Feeling afraid is the enemy of feeling love so checking in with yourself helps you get better at recognizing when it’s your fear doing the talking.
Try looking under the frustration and past the story and asking yourself “what am I feeling right now, where is this feeling in my body?”
3. Decide on love
The only way to stop that beating-yourself-up thought loop and forgive yourself is to decide on love instead. Your heart doesn’t know how to be negative. So deciding to let your heart in on this decision to love derails that negative thought cycle. If you notice your brain trying to get on that negative treadmill, pause, breathe, and let it go.
Try saying “I am enough just the way I am”.
4. Create a new story
If your BFF came to you distraught over freaking out on her kid you wouldn’t tell her she sucked as a mom. You would reassure her, hug her, remind her of all her awesomeness.
It’s okay to give yourself that same unconditional positive regard. Your old story was that you had to be perfect and mistakes made you unworthy. Your new story is loving.
Try saying to yourself “everyone makes mistakes, I’ve got this, I can get through this, I don’t have to have all the answers, I just have to be loving…”
5. Forgive yourself
It’s time. You made a mistake. Because you are human. I want you to know it’s totally possible to make mistakes and still be a wonderful parent and live a fabulous life. How? By forgiving yourself, by graciously accepting that you’ve messed up and can survive it and repair it. By extending that same kindness you would give to your best friend or to your child to yourself. It’s so much easier to move on from mistakes when you are not beating yourself up.
Try saying to yourself “I’m human and I forgive myself, I’m trying and I’m moving in the right direction, even though sometimes I mess up I love and accept myself”.
6. Reach out to repair
You’ve gotten this far so you are mature enough to realize you’ve made a mistake and created a problem. But, you learned how to turn your thoughts away from that beating-yourself-up treadmill and toward solving this problem. And now you’re being a role model for your child! You are showing her how to forgive herself and focus on repair! She will survive your mistakes as long as you can forgive yourself and repair those mistakes.
Try telling your child “I messed up and I’m sorry”.
Perfect parenting isn’t a thing.
Instead of trying to be perfect, try being human. Beautifully, imperfectly, human. Here’s the thing. Your child is also human, so she could never be perfect either. Trying to be a perfect role model sets her up to feel inadequate because perfect just isn’t possible. Plus, if your child sees you as imperfect but unwilling to admit it, what is she learning?
Instead, realize that you being perfect is actually bad for your child and revel in the freedom that brings you! Decide to let go of perfectionism and choose being loving. Choose believing that being human means making, owning, and forgiving mistakes. This belief turns mistakes into chances for growth and love. By filling yourself right up with this love, all that love will naturally squeeze out and get all over everybody around you. Forgiving yourself is harder than forgiving others and takes practice. Keep at it and watch and see how this changes everything.