Inner dialog: The cycle of dysfunction

I wasn't going to continue on my last post, but my post about raising my daughter led to a wonderful long conversation with my grandmother.  A conversation that shed some more light into the things I was trying to communicate in the previous post.

I sounded pretty terrified and insecure in my previous post, and all those things I said were true, sometimes are still true.  But what I realized is how much God has healed me from so much of that fear.  It used to be, if anyone ever paid me a compliment, I quickly pass it off to having pulled off a fun outfit.  All my confidence and beauty rested in how thin I was and how great my outfit was; my superficial appearance.  My acceptance never went any deeper than how I appeared to others.  I say with confidence now, how God has used the last couple years to slowly reveal my inner self to me in a way that I see and love because it is the me he has transformed.  I now believe that I am lovable even on my bad days, (sometimes believing that is still really hard), but that I still deserve love because God has claimed me and has transformed me.  My worth doesn't come from how much I get done, how great my kids behave, or my fantastic closet, though that is my favorite part.  I am the same me on good and bad days.  I am normal.  I am loved.  I am a creation designed by the creator.  I won't ever be anybody else, and I am more OK with that than ever before.  I like me now.  I'm still not proud of my behavior most days, but I understand that mistakes are a part of life, and God is still working in me.  I still don't shower for days, yell at my kids when I am tired and immediately regret it.  I waste days on TV sometimes and get down on myself for not being more than I want to be.  I am proud, and selfish, and angry still, but I am also forgiven, redeemed, selfless, and giving too.  I am a strong combination of good and broken.  I am human.  But I am me, and I kind of like me, because God has placed good in me, he has placed his Spirit in me.

I would like to pass that Spirit filled confidence onto my daughter.  I would like her to see in me a woman who seeks God in all she does.  A woman who tries to love others as best she can.  A mom who did her best and rejoiced over her children.  I would like her to see a REAL woman who accepts who she is and lives her life to God's glory.  I want to give her that.

What I don't want to give her is a negative inner dialog.  I don't want the bad things I say about myself to be her guidelines for what a woman should be.  If she hears me always angrily calling myself fat, than she will understand that 1. her mom doesn't like herself, and 2. that the measurement for fat, is the weight her mother is at and apparently that is a bad thing.  Now I'm not overweight, but if she hears me saying I'm fat, than she must remain thinner than me to NOT be fat And if I don't like myself, what does that say to the child who looks up to me?  This is very confusing to a child who thinks the world of her mom, the person who outweighs everyone else on the planet.  No one is better than mom, at least for awhile. And what does that say, when your favorite person doesn't like herself?  Cuts herself down, and disregards the child's compliments that they are beautiful?

If someone pays me a compliment, and my immediate response is, "Oh no, I don't have any make up on, my hair is a mess and I'm in sweats.  I look terrible."  This inadvertently communicates to her that in order to be beautiful, I need to be put together.  I need make up, I need my hair done and I need to dressed in a fun get up.

Why are so many of us women are always cutting ourselves down so easily?  We are so incredibly harsh on ourselves.  Why is it so impossible to see the beauty in ourselves?  Because the thing is, we are the measuring stick by which our children will understanding beauty and confidence and self acceptance.  In the way we talk about ourselves, we are giving them their inner dialog.

So, my children will never hear me call myself fat.  EVER.  Even if I feel it, I have never said these words in front of them.  One time Big heard me say, "oh man these jeans are getting tight, I have put on some weight."  His immediate response was, "Mom you are NOT FAT!"  I said without hesitation, "You are right, I am not fat, however, I probably shouldn't be eating two desserts a day and sneaking one as a snack.  It's not healthy, and not fitting in my jeans is a good indicator that I should stop."

My children won't ever hear me criticize myself in a photo.  Doesn't matter if the camera added 10lbs, or if it was a bad angle, the photo was there to capture a memory. I don't want them hearing me care more about my looks and cutting myself down, than I do about the fun moment that photo captured.

When I get dressed up to go out, I have decided to use the word fun when asking how an outfit works.  "Is this outfit fun?  Does it match?  Would different shoes be better?"  This may sound really silly, but the last thing I want to hear or have them understand is that the outfit makes me beautiful.  The outfit may be beautiful, I may be beautiful in it, but what I am wearing, in the end does not make or break me.  The beauty is in my confidence.  The beauty is in how I treat people.  The beauty is in how love lives in my life.

I try to take captive every negative thought about my looks before they leave my mouth.  This way, in every way possible, they don't have a mother who cares most about the way she doesn't like they way she looks.  However, in my behavior, my children always hear my repentance and prayer for God's strength to do better, so that there is more love in our house than anger or frustration.  I want the comments they hear me say about myself always to reflect my character, not my looks.  I hope they understand in this, that character and spirit are far more important to work on than the way we look.  (with all obvious health issues aside, this is purely cosmetic talk here.)

You may think all of this is a bit over the top, but I don't care.  For as long as I can remember, I only had negative inner dialog.  Do you know how hard it is to change your entire mindset?  It's taken me awhile, and I would like to save my daughter as much of that pain as possible.  Your inner dialog about yourself COMPLETELY effects the way you interact with other people.  Your partner.  Your family.  Your co-workers.  Your friends.  Your neighbors.  And the way we see ourselves, talk about ourselves, becomes our children inner dialog, their frame work of how to understand who they are.

Don't get me wrong, I still struggle with some of these things.  It's hard to live one way your entire life, and then try to think completely different.  It takes time, but God is faithful, and he has worked miracles in my heart already in this.

God is bigger than all of this, and heals every kind of pain and issue, but can't we participate in ending the cycle?  Helping give them a healthy self awareness?  A love for themselves because they are created by God?  This is what I want to give my daughter.  I used be very afraid that I couldn't overcome my own demons and create a healthy inner dialog for myself to ensure that I could give her one too.  But God is good, and he has done wonders in the dark places of my head.

And in the end, when I read this, its not even at all about the way we look.  It's about who we are.  .

Stopping the cycle of dysfunction

***Yes, you probably noticed the blog is different.  I tried to update it a little.  There is still some work to be done, but I am happy with the progress.  Maybe in a couple weeks, my blog and website will be in one spot.  Simplify right?***

Back to this blog...

I wasn't blessed to have faced all of my demons before marriage and incidentally before having children.  So it has become their burden as well to walk this life with me, broken, struggling, full of mistakes.  Just as  my husband hasn't laid down his dark spirits either, but I walk with him through dark times.  Our sweet innocent children haven't had major heartbreak yet, so their time will come.  I am not talking about sin, I am talking about the issues in your life that tear at your spirit, the ones you live with and are afraid to let go of.

For years, I  didn't want a daughter. I was scared she would see the demons.  In true honesty, I am more terrified I am slowly revealing the demons to her and handing them to her in a fun package that will weigh her down for the rest of her life.  I am handing them to her in the things I say, in the way I talk about myself, in the way I talk about other people.  Dark things that don't reflect confidence, or security.  Negative self talk, eating issues and one of my greatest downfalls, comparison.  Always seeing the better in others and the worse in myself.

The first day I had both my boys in school I cried a lot because I missed them.  I was a wreck for awhile, seriously, I didn't think it would be that hard.  But on that first day, I had a friend trying to cheer me up, and she said, "You get all this time with Little.  You have this rare three years of just you and her, and you get to teach her what it means to be a girl.  To be a woman."

My fear and insecurity and treacherous negative thoughts enveloped me at the thought of teaching someone else how to be something I don't even know how to be.  I am to be her role model.  Her example of a woman.  A wife.  A mother.  A christian.  A girlfriend.  A girl.

I took this picture the other night when I was up late, and Little woke up sad.  I pulled her out of bed and crawled on the couch to snuggle her and rub her back till she peacefully drifted back to her dreams.  I laid there looking at this face and just praying to God that I wouldn't screw her up so deeply that even He couldn't fix her.  How do I love her enough to hopefully not pass along all my issues, all my faults, all my insecurity about what it means to be a woman?

And then God slowly spoke in my ear..."give them to me.  You can't give them to her, if you've given them to me."
(what I love about this picture is that by just looking at it, you would never know the doubt, fear, control issues and insecurities that lie deep within someone.  Everyone is more than skin deep.)

See in order to teach Little how to love herself for who God created her to be, I need to face my issues with who I am and love me because I too belong to my creator. It's easy for me to say to my children, "I don't love you because you got a golden ticket at school, or you learned how to tie your shoe, or helped wash the dishes."  The same is true for the mistakes they make.  I don't see the good or the bad, I just see my kid, and I love them because they are mine. (I know they are God's and I do pray that my control issues will always allow me to understand that and not hold on too tight.)  But really, its just because they are apart of me, they are mine.  That is why I love them.  And I know that God would express the same opinion  about me if I dare ask that question and open my ears to hear the answer.

I love that face.  I mean I really love that face and the personality that goes with it and the girl that she is.  I am wholeheartedly in love with my daughter.  That night while she laid on my chest, I just wept.  I want the most for her life.  I want her to love without abandon.  I want her to have real confidence, the kind that comes from knowing that no matter what, she belongs to God Almighty and no make up or boy will ever change that.  I don't want her to be a people pleaser, always bending for the approval of others to the sacrifice of herself.

I deeply wish she won't be a perfectionist like me, never pleased with what she creates because it won't ever be good enough.  I don't want her inner dialog to be negative thoughts that tear at her character and value in this world.  I want her to live a life outside of guilt, unlike her mother, who is a struggling recovery addict to guilt.  I want her to feel comfortable in her body and skin without make up and a dress.  That she could love herself just as much in sweats as she would in glitter.

I deeply desire that she would know that her beauty is far more greater and goes much deeper than her skin. She will be told she's beautiful her whole life, because she is, and I am terrified that it will take her a lifetime to realize that it is her heart and character that make up her beauty.  I don't want her to use her beauty to manipulate people like her mother did in High School.  I don't want her to use her beauty to obtain privileges that aren't rightfully hers just because she has big stunning eyes.

I don't want her to think she has to perform for us to gain our acceptance.  That she needs to be funny, outgoing, creative, exciting all the time, but that truly we love her without those things.  That she could be whoever she wants or needs to be and that is all we ask, for her to be true to herself and in tune with the creator who made her.

I desperately want her to realize that I don't want her to be me, but I want her to be her.  I desire for her to forge her own path.  To find out what being a woman looks like for her.  To love and respect who've I become, but look at me and say, "I want to do things different."

Helping her means having to face my own demons.  Helping her means letting go of all my baggage.  Teaching her means forgiving myself.  Guiding her means loving myself.  Respecting myself.  Believing in the woman I have become.  It doesn't mean perfect, it means respect.  Respect for the mistakes I've made and the forgiveness and understanding I've gained.  It means respect for my body and how it ages.  How I talk about myself will speak directly into her self talk of what a woman is.  Oh man, I am one respect away from quoting the song, so I'll stop before my inner Aretha comes out.

So far this girl has her own strong opinions about everything.  Her clothes, the way her animals should go to sleep on her bed, her hair, her toys, her books, her food.  She has nothing short of the strongest will I've ever seen.  I don't want to break that with giving her my issues.  I want to help train her in how to use that.

I want to help her embrace her life.  I want her to always love food, art, music, people, books, God and her family.  I desire for her character to run deep and her faith to be strong, so that when she is faced with trial, she can confidently stand in the grace she has known all her life.  I prayed a lot that night with my daughter tucked in tight with me.  I let go of my fear and insecurity of raising her.  I held on to my other issues, because apparently I'm not done with those yet.  But I don't look at her with fear anymore.  I look at her with hope.  I am hopeful because I know God is capable of healing me and helping her.  I have hope, and in that hope, I can love my daughter with abandon and fearlessness.  I don't know what "a woman" is supposed to look like, but I look like me, and I'm what she's got, so we'll start there.

And the thing I pray over Little every night is, "Let your insides match your outsides sweet girl."  And I believe God answers prayer.