From Inner Critic to Inner Mentor

innermentor
innermentor

How many modern parents identify their own inner critics as the main cause of overwhelm, stress, guilt and worry? I can't tell you the number of parents I talk with who tell me that the biggest obstacle to their having a life filled with joy and fun is their own inner critic constantly riding them about what they should be doing, how they aren't quite hitting the highest standards, telling them to work harder and harder to keep up with perfection, achievement and success, externally-defined, in order to "make it" and to be sure their children will succeed as well. What if I told you there is a way to decrease the volume on this inner critic voice? What would it feel like instead to hear, identify, understand and transform the inner voice of criticism, perfectionism, worry and fear to a more empowered, centered, grounded voice of wisdom, guidance, inspiration and hope? One area of work I do with parents as a life and leadership coach is to support them in transforming their inner critic into their inner mentor, whose purpose is not to protect using fear and shame, but to guide and inspire with visions of their own true life calling and purpose.

I coach clients with visualizations, meditations and journaling exercises which lead to a stronger, more grounded relationship to their inner mentor. This inner mentor is us in the future, reaching back, helping us understand and live up to our true visions of the life we most want to lead.

When we can mentor ourselves to live the life we know we are meant to live, rather than beat ourselves up with the ways we are not measuring up to an external standard, we show up for our kids as mentors rather than as critics. This work on ourselves completes the parenting circle, beautifully.

Click here to schedule your free From Inner Critic to Inner Mentor Strategy Session today!

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Reach for the Sun

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“It's not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can't tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself.”         ― Joyce Maynard

While modern parents take the time to read every parenting book published, discuss behavioral, policy and schooling solutions with friends, educators, family members, colleagues and co-parents at every opportunity, deep down each of us understands the simple truth of this quote:  if we want our children to be their best selves, to grow into happy, well adjusted, life-loving, confident, capable, successful individuals personally and professionally, the power we have to influence that outcome is to do and be the exact same thing ourselves; to treasure our own lives by making them what we know they can be.

When I became a parent, I put my own life on hold for some time so that I could be available and present to the needs of each of my kids. I slowly took on building a new business serving parents, completed certifications, learned the tricks of my trade, but mostly, have spent the last 5+ years savoring the preciousness of these early years of life with my children.

At times, I have felt lost in my career. I gave up a certain career track that was headed in a workaholic direction that I didn't feel I could sustain while being the Mom I wanted to be nor modeling the life I most wanted to live to my precious new children.

I took my own path, and I am so glad. However, it has not been easy. There have been many days when I've worried about the future of my children, mostly from a place of projecting my own unfinished dreams and business.

It is on the days when I am attending to my own dreams and needs as a learner and doer and contributing member of society and feeling fulfilled in my life's purpose and mission that I parent at my best.  On these days, I attend to my self care by eating healthy foods, meditating and exercising.  I think, write and create and enjoy my time.  I serve others by giving talks and coaching.  I volunteer at our school.  I see friends and family and feel that I am living a rich, meaningful, FUN life!

This vision for what reaching for the sun means, looks and feels like is unique to every individual!  There is no cookie-cutter definition for what "success," "dreams," "reaching for the sun" looks like.  That is the beauty of this life - becoming centered and grounded in ourselves, our values, our skills, abilities and passions and then offering those to the world in the unique way that only we as an individual can.

I invite those reading this post to stop what you are doing and thinking for a few moments and get honest with yourself. How are you reaching for the sun in your life today, this week, this month, this year? Have you been allowing yourself to have enough time and space to experience and create in your life what really matters most to you?  What has been getting in your way?  How can you handle those obstacles this coming year in a way that gets you on track to your dreams?

I will help you to gain clarity, focus, motivation and action steps towards living the life you most want to live, so you can inspire your children to do the same in their one wild and precious life.

Click here to schedule today!

The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto

healings-hands-heart As parents, we are often looking for the perfect answers about what our children most need from us. By the time many of us arrive at parenthood, we’ve often achieved success in our careers and feel as if we should be able to transfer that success to each of our interactions with our children. But we soon discover that there is no certainty in parenting. Instead, it is a humbling and ever-evolving experience that, in the words of Dr. Brené Brown, is “by far [our] boldest and most daring adventure.”

Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame. She spent the first five years of her decade-long study focusing on shame and empathy and is now using that work to explore a concept that she calls wholeheartedness. In her latest book, Daring Greatly, Brown applies this concept to parenting and explains how embracing our vulnerability as parents can help us to connect with our children and show them how deeply they are loved, just as they are.

In a recent article for The Huffington Post, Brown describes an Oprah interview with Toni Morrison as having a longstanding impact on her daily parenting practice.

Morrison asked one provocative and penetrating question of parents: “When your child walks into the room, does your face light up?” Or like hers, do your words and facial expression often focus on what needs fixing—hair, clothes, dirt, laces, phrasing, politeness, grade—first?

Often, the parenting culture we live in focuses on being perfect. We have to have the perfect thing to say, and our children have to grow into creations who are academically and socially perfect, play the perfect sport or instrument and also one day go to the perfect college. All of that perfection is somehow supposed to be a reflection of ours. It’s all supposed to mean that they are worthy, and by default, so are we, as their parents.

In order to remind herself that parenting is about practice, not perfection, Brown wrote “The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto”:

Above all else, I want you to know that you are loved and lovable. You will learn this from my words and actions—the lessons on love are in how I treat you and how I treat myself.

I want you to engage with the world from a place of worthiness. You will learn that you are worthy of love, belonging, and joy every time you see me practice self-compassion and embrace my own imperfections.

We will practice courage in our family by showing up, letting ourselves be seen, and honoring vulnerability. We will share our stories of struggle and strength. There will always be room in our home for both.

We will teach you compassion by practicing compassion with ourselves first; then with each other. We will set and respect boundaries; we will honor hard work, hope, and perseverance. Rest and play will be family values, as well as family practices.

You will learn accountability and respect by watching me make mistakes and make amends, and by watching how I ask for what I need and talk about how I feel.

I want you to know joy, so together we will practice gratitude.

I want you to feel joy, so together we will learn how to be vulnerable.

When uncertainty and scarcity visit, you will be able to draw from the spirit that is a part of our everyday life.

Together we will cry and face fear and grief. I will want to take away your pain, but instead I will sit with you and teach you how to feel it.

We will laugh and sing and dance and create. We will always have permission to be ourselves with each other. No matter what, you will always belong here.

As you begin your Wholehearted journey, the greatest gift that I can give to you is to live and love with my whole heart and to dare greatly.

I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you. Truly, deeply, seeing you.

Brown’s manifesto is so refreshing for modern parents because it gives us permission to breathe a sigh of relief as if we are letting hot air out of a very tense and over-full balloon and to let ourselves be the imperfect human beings we are. It allows us to raise imperfect, human children, too. The point is not to be perfect but to be present, loving and accepting with whole hearts that love what is strong as well as what is vulnerable.

Brown’s most important message to both parents and non-parents is that being vulnerable is the most courageous thing we can do to improve our relationships and our lives. Our culture perceives vulnerability as weakness, yet her research has found that the opposite is true. It takes real courage to open our hearts and let people see what isn’t perfect. When we show our imperfection as parents, our children learn that we are human, that we are courageous and that we love ourselves with both our strengths and weaknesses.

So how can you use Brown’s manifesto as a touchstone in your own parenting? Here are some examples:

  • Try noticing the look on your face when your children are near. Does your face light up, or is it tense and worried? Try to smile through anxiety and worry, and see how it feels. Over time, see how this one simple shift affects your children’s mood as well as your own and the culture in your household.
  • When your children seem to be in states of vulnerability, such as sadness, anger, disappointment and fear, instead of negating their feelings or forcing some replacement experience onto them, try staying with the vulnerability and accepting it. Hold your son or daughter, and let your child know you are there and want to listen. This minor shift can have a profound impact on your relationship and on how safe your children feel in opening up when life is tough.
  • Lastly, the most important variable in our ability to parent wholeheartedly is our relationship to our own whole hearts, to our own vulnerability. How well do you embrace your own feelings of vulnerability? Are you often looking for ways to change your inner experience of these states by distracting yourself or forcing yourself to feel something else? If so, it will be hard to be open to your child’s vulnerability. We must start with ourselves and work from there.

The great thing about Brown’s work is that she doesn’t take herself, her work or vulnerability overly seriously. She takes all of it in human stride, laughs whenever possible and is one of the most authentic people you will ever have the pleasure of listening to.

Kiran Gaind is a certified integral coach for modern parents and owner of The Connected Family, based in Palo Alto. You can drop her a line at kiran@theconnectedfamily.net and visit her website.