5 Thing I Wish I had Known Sooner...
As Marriage and Family Therapists, we work with folks who are having relational issues. Sometimes the issues are in relation to others: our kids, our spouse, friends; sometimes they are in relation to ourselves. I find that at the center of many of these issues is a sense of “not being good enough.” Everyone doubts, second guesses, and almost everyone beats themselves up over what we did (or didn’t) do today, yesterday, last week, next month… I thought I’d share 5 things I wish I’d known sooner. Here goes.
#1 All people are different. I know, I know… duhhh. But many of us readily say everyone’s different, then use the same parenting style, follow the same rigid rules, or see all our relationships through the same lens. I often find minor adjustments and practice can help loosen some of the rigid thoughts and help to see through more compassionate eyes. For example, a loud voice can be enough to scare away or shut down a sensitive soul, no matter what I’m saying, and asking a thinker too feel-y a question and I’ve lost the room! Take away, know your audience.
#2 Feelings just are. People say things like, “I feel so guilty about my stress” or “I wish I didn’t get so angry.” Feelings aren’t inherently bad or good, but responses can be helpful or unhelpful. If I feel guilty about being stressed and isolate, that often makes my stress worse. If I talk with about it with someone, I can work through it and move on. If my phone won’t load fast enough so I smash it, probably not the best move; if I finally upgrade to a phone made this decade, that’s empowerment (or retail therapy!). Take away, separate the feelings from the behaviors and take the best next step.
#3 When we know better, we can choose to do better. Many were raised with a lot of “you should…” in their lives. Adult children of addicts know this better than most. They had to become the parent in a child’s body, complete with child’s resources and brain development!! Impossible, right? Except all those shoulds were internalized and normalized somewhere in our thoughts. I once heard a friend tell someone “would you please stop should-ing all over me?” It stuck. Take away, challenge the “should.”
#4 Perfect doesn’t exist. We spend so much time and energy trying to make things look, smell, feel or seem perfect, only to have one thing change and we’re back to the drawing board. Marketing and advertising is designed to convince us that we can’t live without (you name it). How much more time might we have to enjoy our relationships if we could be OK not chasing what isn’t there. Take away… #5.
#5 Good enough IS good enough. That’s not to say we don’t strive for excellence or fulfillment (however we each define it), but let’s give ourselves a little grace. If we see ourselves and others through a lens of compassion and respect, accepting that feelings just are, doing better when we know better and acknowledging our own “perfect imperfections,” we might find a little more breathing space and realize that each of us is enough just the way we are...
Kriss Murphy is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist practicing in Laguna Hills, CA.