“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”(Gandhi)
I have always loved this quote.I think it resonates deeply with me because I tend to be a “fixer.”If I see something not working,I want it to work. If I see someone suffering, I want them to feel better. I tend to develop angst over problems in the world and wish things could be different.I have loads of adviceJ, as well as a huge passion, for easing the suffering of others.I became a social worker in the first place, frankly, because I wanted to change the world.
At the same time, I know on a very deep level that the most powerful thing I can do is to embody those changes myself.I am not advocating passivity - in fact, quite the opposite.I believe that in order to change the world, we must first tune inward.
In my role as therapist, coach, friend, volunteer, and passionate supporter of making the world a better place, this has gotten much easier. (I’m sure you’re familiar with the quote, “therapist heal thyself” - well, I took that to heart!).It has become clearer to me that when I am struggling with wanting to “change” someone or something, I have to tune in to myself first;I have to focus on healing this part of me before I can really be of service to anyone else.
However, in my role as a mother, and oh, how I hate to admit this, as a daughter and sometimes a wife - HA! This is not so easy!
Do you know what I mean??Are there certain people in your life that you NEED to fix or change?That you so desperately wish were different in some way??
Since this is a “Mother’s Day” issue and so many of my readers are moms, I am going to use the role of “mother” as an example to illustrate my point.
It is painful to see our children struggling or even frustrated. It is also painful to imagine their potentially doomed future (which often has more to do with our own projection, by the way) if they DON’T LISTEN TO US!!We as parents have powerful ideas about what their behaviors, thoughts, values, characteristics, issues, actions, etc. should be so our children can live their best possible lives.In the service of loving our children, we may try, try, try to get them to BE a certain way.
I don’t know about you, but in my less than wisest moments, I’ve resorted to begging, pleading, bribing, nagging, and yelling to get my children to SEE and DO things MY WAY.In the service of “helping them” because I “want them to be happy or healthy,” I have acted in ways that weren’t in any one’s best interest.Even more importantly, these ways have not worked.
Don’t get me wrong.I am a huge believer in setting limits and guiding and being clear about our expectations and even being very firm.This is part of what being a parent is.
However, if we don’t model what we are trying to teach; if we do not internally emody the values and behaviors and beliefs that we are trying so hard to convey, we will be teaching and setting limits and being firm until we are blue in the face.We must be their living example.
So what are the values you want your children to grow up with?Where in your life might your internal experiences or feelings (or even outward actions) be in conflict with what you are preaching to them?Believe me, even if you think they don’t see these things, kids KNOW everything.They know when we are saying things that are congruent with what we feel, and they know when we are blowing them a lot of hot air.
When I get annoyed with my children for begging for more toys and not recognizing how lucky they are given all the starving children in the world, I know it’s time to examine my relationship with my own stuff.Do I value (and treat kindly) the things that I have?Have I been grateful for how lucky I am, or instead feeling sorry for myself because someone else has “more”?
Here’s another example:If I want to make the world a more peaceful place (which I do), then I need to focus on peace in my own life. Where am I struggling? Who am I struggling with? What am I doing to make my little world - and the larger world - a more peaceful place (complaining about our administration, for example, is NOT an example of tuning inward, unfortunately).
If I want my children to stop begging for sweets, I have to work on my own feelings of deprivation when I say “no” to sweets (or other things) for myself.I also have to get clear on what saying no to them means, and work on my own guilt over disappointing them. Most importantly, I have to value my own body and health and wellbeing so I can convey to them the importance of valuing theirs.
In the words ofYehuda Berg*, “. . .like candles, we should allow the radiance of our thoughts and deeds to warm and enlighten our children [and ourselves].In this way, the changes in our own lives become examples and inspirations for them to follow.”
We are all a work in progress.There are no perfect parents (really).And this article is in no way an attempt to get you to be a better mother or daughter or partner or friend.(My goodness, there is already plenty of advice on how to “be better” out there!).My wish for you this Mother’s Day and beyond is that, rather than trying to be the perfect mother or the perfect wife or partner or daughter or son, you take this opportunity to tune into yourself. To fully embody the change you wish to see.To offer yourself the love, compassion, nurturing, confidence, kindness, and care that you so freely give to, and want for, others in your life.
*”72 Names of God” by Yehuda Berg
———————————— Karen Schachter is a licensed clinical social worker & certified nutrition counselor who works with women who want to have a healthier relationship with food & in turn, improve their nutrition, improve their mood & energy, decrease their cravings and just generally enjoy life more fully. She helps parents figure out what to feed their children & how to feed their children. Sign up for her FREE newsletter @http://www.healthybodieshappyminds.com/