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Turning Shame into a Sense of Worth

Talking Back to Shame
If you berate yourself for being less than a perfect mother, think about what you would do if you heard another person speaking to a friend - or, heaven forbid, to your child - in the way you speak to yourself. Surely you would stick up for your friend or your child; why not yourself? Here are a few examples.

Linking Your Worth to Your Child's Behavior

    Negative Thought
  • Mark is melting down and people are staring. I'm a klutz as a mother.
    Positive Alternatives
  • Mark is out of line but I am not. I am not Mark.
  • Most people understand that kids from good parents sometimes misbehave.
  • People who know me think I'm a good parent. If strangers come to a snap judgment, that's their problem.
Comparing Yourself to Your Mother
    Negative Thought
  • I'm just not handling things as well as my mom did.
    Positive Alternatives
  • My memories of my mother are those of a child, with little real idea of the mistakes that occurred out of my sight. I probably look pretty good to my kids, too.
  • She did not have to juggle home and work. She received more support from neighbors, relatives, and the community. She felt safe with us playing outside, and she didn't have to drive us everywhere. Considering what I have to deal with, I am actually doing very well.
Feeling Bad About Being Needy
    Negative Thought
  • I need so much from my partner and my relatives. It's shameful that I can't manage on my own.
    Positive Alternatives
  • Mothers throughout history have always relied on tremendous support from others. That's the normal state of affairs, and that's what my child needs me to do.
  • There's a nutty idea in our culture that everyone is supposed to be super-self-reliant. Most other societies emphasize community much more than ours does.
  • While I do get some help, the truth is that I handle almost everything on my own.
Equating Your Fundamental Value as a Human Being to Your Performance as a Parent
    Negative Thought
  • I blew it today when I yelled at Keith during his tantrum, and I feel like a bad person.
    Positive Alternatives
  • What I do is nor who I am.
  • I blew it for about fifteen minutes. That's a tiny fraction of a life. And the part of me that came out is just a small aspect of my total personality.
  • I can repair what happened.
Key Ways to Turn Fear into Security
  • Replace anxious thoughts with hopeful ones. Retrain the worry impulse.
  • Take action to change the things that concern you. Routinely relax your body.
  • Get professional help for chronic anxiety or experiences of traumatic stress.


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From Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships by Rick Hansen, Jan Hansen, and Ricki Pollycove. Copyright © 2002 by Rick Hanson. Jan Hanson, and Ricki Pollycove. Used by arrangement with Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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