When you change your unconscious programming, being a better parent will follow naturally.
Parenting classes, reading books and learning new skills can only help you take small steps towards becoming a calmer, happier, better mum. What makes the biggest difference is changing your unconscious internal programming.
Twenty years ago this month, I left my job in the City and never returned. It was six weeks before my first baby was due, and sensing – quite rightly as it turned out – that a newborn would turn my life upside down I gifted myself this time. Time and space for me – before the storm.
And what a storm it was. It’s been a wild and precarious ride, this parenting journey of mine. I imagine yours has been too. How can it not be? The most precious cargo that ever existed is given to you to care for and nurture, and the only blueprint we have to follow is our own experience and strategies of navigating childhood.
We can read all the books we want, and attend all the ante-natel and parenting classes we can, but our internal programming is the biggest factor in how we parent. Which means that understanding and managing that internal programming is the key to being able to parent in a way that feels authentic and fulfilling.
I wish someone had told me that twenty years ago.
But then again, would I have understood what that really meant? Probably not.
I’d probably have said: OK, great, I’ll get to work on changing my internal programming with mindset hacks, healthy habits, affirmations and consistently, productive behaviour. I’ll train myself to get better, be better, do better. Just like any good Perfectionist, I would – and in fact did – strive to change and improve my internal programming in order to be the best mum I possibly could be.
Sounds good right?
But the thing is, it didn’t work.
Instead, this strategy of striving and improving made me feel more and more of a failure, because I never was able to be a Perfect Mum all of the time. This fixing and striving strategy made me lose faith in myself ever being the mum I wanted to be. Cue a deep, dark, black hole, a Jane Austin binge-fest and anti-depressants.
So what did I not understand about this internal programming stuff that I now understand?
Brené Brown says that in order to overcome perfectionism, “Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are.” And while that makes perfect sense intellectually to most of us, what exactly does it mean in reality, and how on earth can you do that?
It’s not like you can suddenly wake up one morning and say: “I’m not going to expect myself to be a Perfect Mum anymore, I’m just going to aim for ‘good enough”. Well… we can say that, and many supposed experts (who are not perfectionists themselves) tell us that we should do this, but it doesn’t really work. We still believe that we should be perfect, and denying it only scrapes a few of the sharp edges off. Also, it’s as exhausting as the striving and fixing.
This ‘letting go of who you think you should be’ cannot be done purely on a cognitive level. It has to be done emotionally, physically, psychologically too. Yes, managing your mind is one key ingredient in managing perfectionism, but if it’s your only tool, it’s extremely limited.
Two years ago I completed my Voice Dialogue Facilitator training with the wonderful Annie Stoker and knew immediately that this way of working with perfectionism was what I had been looking for. It works on all levels: emotionally, psychologically, intellectually and even physically. It really does help you understand and manage your internal programming so you can show up as the mother you want to be. Well, some of the time – because, as humans, it’s impossible to be perfectly consistent.
Understanding my internal programming – these (often conflicting) voices in my head – has been life-changing for me. The self-awareness and compassion this brings has helped me improve my relationships with my children and support them through difficult times much more effectively.
And now I can see these transformations with my clients too. This really works for women with a strong Inner Perfectionist and Inner Critic…and all the various other inner voices we pick up throughout our life.
Is it time you started to understand and manage your internal programming?
If you would like to learn more about this way of working, and know that you have some internal voices or selves that keep you stuck book a Discovery Call with me.
Until next time,
Lots of love and compassion