“You’re always getting it wrong”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“Why are you so rubbish at this?”
“Why can’t you get it right?”
“Everyone else is managing fine, why can’t you?”
“You’re such a bad mum!”
These are just some of the thoughts and stories that can whirl around my mind and, if left unguarded can send me into a downward spiral of shame and despair, bringing feelings of frustration, rage and hopelessness.
This story used to pop into my head on a very regular basis during the first few years of motherhood.
When my body failed to birth my baby naturally;
when I couldn’t settle the baby;
when the baby wouldn’t latch;
when she wouldn’t nap;
when he wouldn't go back to sleep in the middle of the night;
when she wouldn’t take a bottle;
when he wouldn’t accept solids;
when he tantrumed in the supermarket;
when I couldn’t get his screaming, back-arching, writhing body into the buggy trying to leave the playground;
when I couldn’t get him in the bath;
when I couldn’t get him out of the bath;
when she kicked and screamed and refused to dress for school every single day;
when he bit his sister;
when she screamed at me over homework;
when they screamed and tore at each other;
when I lost my sh*%.....
I could go on. And on. And on. And on….
I know you can relate.
It’s so easy to feel like we’re not doing or being enough as parents. We hold ourselves to such high standards and unfairly beat ourselves up when we don’t meet them. When things don’t match up to the picture perfect myth of motherhood that we have been sold.
We all have tricky brains which can bring us a lot of negative thoughts. According to research by the National Science Foundation, 80% of our thoughts are negative and 95% of our thoughts are repetitive. And we have around 12,000 - 50,000 thoughts daily. This barrage of critical thoughts can sometimes feel overwhelming and out of our control. And because of what we have gone through in our lives, some of these thoughts hook us more than others and become a ‘story’ we keep telling ourselves.
For a lot of parents, this story is about ‘failing’ and ‘not being good enough’ as a parent. But when it's at full power it can also seep into all aspects of our life when we make small insignificant mistakes - when we forget to buy the milk, forget to send the birthday card, make a mistake at work.
It’s so easy for us to get stuck in these unhelpful negative thought patterns about failing and they can prevent us from feeling and acting like the parent we want to be.
We can spend a lot of time and energy trying to get rid of these thoughts, struggling against them. But they return time and time again and continue to damage our self-worth.
So how can we unhook from this failure story in our minds?
On the Nourish app, Clinical Psychologist Dr Michaela Thomas shares with us a simple metaphor to help us see those thoughts about failure as ‘just thoughts’ which hook us. How when we start to notice those thought patterns and stories in our head, we can stop struggling against them and instead simply acknowledge them, and let them go.
It is when we struggle and fight against those thoughts, that they have the greatest power over us. Michael talks about how simply learning to notice and name the ‘Failure Story’ you carry, can help you unhook from it.
You can watch the full video from Dr Michaela Thomas here.
It seems simple, but I promise you this works. It has been fundamental in my healing journey from those overwhelming feelings of failure.
Don’t get me wrong, my Failure Story continues to pop up in my mind regularly. Although it is generally much quieter these days, like the volume has been turned down, and I rarely get stuck in the same spirals of shame and despair.
Sometimes however it does pipe up loud and clear, especially when we are going through a particularly tricky time with the kids, or if I am feeling under the weather or a bit wobbly emotionally.
This week I have noticed it a lot as the whole family has been fighting off back to school bugs, there has been some big emotions and I was feeling particularly exhausted. On Friday I went to the supermarket, did a big shop and got to the till, only to find I had left my phone and wallet at home and no way of paying. No time to go home and return before school pick up.
My failure story gleefully screamed in my ear and all those thoughts cascaded around me. I noticed and acknowledged them, recognised them as my Failure Story, and felt a huge sense of gratitude that I had the knowledge and power to choose whether to let them take hold of me and send me spiraling downwards.
Understanding My Failure Story has been hugely powerful for me and I hope this understanding serves you well too.
Be gentle with yourself. We all get tangled up in these negative thoughts from time to time. We all have tricky minds. None of us are superhuman. Keep exploring and finding ways to navigate that inner dialogue and celebrate all the amazing things you’re doing and being as a mum. We’re walking this path together with you.
About the Author:
Sara Campin, Nourish Founder & Life Coach
After 13 years as a strategy consultant for the life-sciences industry, Sara founded Nourish after the impact self-care had on her and family’s wellbeing. "I hit burn out with work and mothering. I was irritable, shouty and stressed a lot of the time. I was consumed by feelings of guilt and failure, and a feeling that I was completely alone in my struggles. I was a long way from the mum I wanted to be, but I knew there had to be a different way. So I set out on my mission to find more balance and joy in motherhood, and that was the beginning of my journey with self-care".