Why You're Probably a Better Mom/Wife Than You Think
I learned a lot of life-changing lessons through my experience with PPA. One of the most important (and surprising) lessons was that I couldn't always trust my thoughts. This was news to me--I was a 4.0 student (up until college when I got a life and consequently got a little distracted--oops). I thought I was smart and had a strong mind. Unfortunately, everyone is susceptible to these "cognitive distortions," or "thinking errors." Being smart doesn't make you immune, in fact, sometimes it makes those thinking errors more powerful and seem all the more real. The good news is once you take time to analyze the negative thoughts that are dragging you down, it gets progressively easier to realize those thoughts aren't true.
|Since I referred back to college, I had to show this picture of me (right) as a college freshman.|
Like any skill, it takes practice. I had to start by going through the list of "thinking errors" (examples below) and physically write down thoughts I was having that fit into each category. From there, whenever I was down on myself or life in general, I would take a minute to see if what I was thinking was actually true (it never was).
So if you're ever feeling down, give this exercise a try. Go through this list and see if what's dragging you down ("I look awful." "I'm not a good mom." "I'm a terrible wife.") isn't actually true at all! It will take time to re-train your mind and even the most emotionally healthy people will still occasionally fall into some "stinkin' thinkin'." The key is not to stay there. Realize that your thoughts are just that--thoughts. NOT reality. Here are a few common thinking errors:
UNREAL IDEAL: Making unfair comparisons between yourself and people in different situations, thinking you should be "as good" as they are.
Example: So-and-so is amazing. She exercises, does crafts with her kids, her house is always clean. I don't do any of those things. (Reality: Everyone has different priorities and capabilities. Maybe they have more help at home, better health, etc. And if that's the case, rather than dwell on things you can't control, adjust your expectations and focus on the things you can do at this stage in your life.)
PERSONALIZATION/Blaming Yourself: Wrongly assuming your influence on a situation.
Example: My daughter is painfully shy. I'm not doing a good job teaching her how to socialize. (Reality: We can be rockstar parents and our kids will still have their own unique challenges and difficulties. That doesn't mean we're bad parents, it just means everyone has their own opportunities for growth.)
MAGNIFYING NEGATIVES / DISCOUNTING POSITIVES: Focusing on only the bad things and ignoring the good.
Example: "My hair is frizzy, my skin is terrible, and my nose is huge." (Reality: Our bodies aren't always perfect, but there are so many things they can do. I've always admired Stephanie Nielson's ability to focus on the things she was still able to do, even at the height of her physical difficulties.)
CATASTROPHIZING: Exaggerating the extreme negative.
Example: "If I have postpartum depression/anxiety/OCD, etc., I can't be a good mom." (Reality: You have a really common medical condition that affects over 20% of new mothers. I know it feels really awful when you're going through it, but it's a treatable illness that will get so much better--trust me!).
GRANDIOSITY: Expecting yourself to do something perfectly even though it's difficult and everyone has struggles.
Example: "Being a mom is so hard for me. Everyone else makes it look easy, but I feel overwhelmed--I must be a terrible mom." (Reality: Being a mom is hard. Taking care of children is physically and emotionally exhausting, even when you're well rested and healthy. Doing it when you're dealing with crazy hormone swings and utter exhaustion? Talk about overwhelming! Take the stress as a sign of how much you care and realize that you're doing so much better than you even realize.)
OVERGENERALIZING: You see isolated events as conclusive. You use words like "always," "never," and "every time."
Example: I'm always going to feel like this. Life's never going to get any better. (Reality: Everyone has ups and downs. Life gets hard for everyone for a while, but it just makes that next stage seem all the more sweet.)
MAXIMIZING/MINIMIZING: Diminishing your own imperfections and exaggerating others' good qualities.
Example: She's so perfect. Her hair is always done and her kids are always well behaved. I'm a disaster. (Reality: No one is perfect and we all have things we're good at. Some moms might be good at getting out of the house and doing activities. Others are good at making sure their children feel loved. Give yourself some credit! You do more than you even realize.)
For a more complete list of "thinking errors," look here.
Do you ever get trapped in any of these thinking errors?
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