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Turning Shame into a Sense of Worth

Nurturing Your Sense of Worth
The factors that might make you feel guilty or inadequate - from frustrating struggles with a child to critical looks from other parents - are busy every day, so we think you ought to actively nourish your sense of worth. Here are some suggestions.

Carry a picture of yourself as a child. You take pictures of your children with you wherever you go, and one look is probably all it takes to feel a surge of love. But you were once such a little person yourself, and within you today is still a precious being that deserves to be treated with love and respect. One of the best and simplest ways we know to keep that feeling alive - of your innate worth and the need to be kind to yourself - is to find a picture when you were a baby or young child and carry it with you. You might put it in front of the driver's license in your wallet. Each time you reach for some cash or a credit card, that innocent little face will remind you that you are the same dear person, just older and more seasoned by life.

Appreciate your accomplishments. As you go along, try to pay conscious attention to the things you get done. And as a sample of a typical day, you could keep a running list one day of all the tasks you've completed, down to the details. Review it in the evening, maybe with your partner, to see the incredible number of things you take care of every day.

Take some credit for how well your children are doing. Unless something is terribly wrong, your children are thriving, and you have had a lot to do with that. From time to time, take a few minutes to reflect on the many ways you have nurtured and guided them.

Pay attention to positive feedback. Many times each day, your children, mate, co-workers, or friends offer you a compliment, appreciate your work, give you affection, or let you know they like you. It could be obvious - a child running to give you a hug - or implicit, like being asked to be co-president of your mothers' club. But in either case, it is sincere and real, and you deserve to take it in.

Ask for acknowledgment. This may seem a little bold, but there is no law against asking for legitimate recognition, appreciation, or praise. You could take the plunge with your partner or a friend and ask for some positive feedback about how you are doing as a mother. Or, if you're paid a compliment, say thanks and then ask if the person might be able to explain a bit why he or she sees you that way.

Reflect on your fundamental worth as a person. Take a minute or more every day as a small sanctuary in which you focus on the goodness inside you. You could also try one or more of the meditations on worth that are listed below.

Meditations on Your Worth
You can do the mini-meditations below separately or in combination. Just find a place where you can be quiet for a few minutes, close your eyes, and begin.

  • Think back over the last hour and recall as many things as you can that you accomplished. Think back over the past day or so and recall some ways you held your temper, had patience, were determined, or otherwise showed good character.
  • Imagine how much you matter to your children. Think about the many ways they depend on you. If you went out of town for a week, what would be missing in their lives?
  • Visualize one or more people who care about, like, and respect you. Take a moment to imagine each one of these persons speaking from his or her heart about your good qualities. Let it really sink in that you are seen and accepted, wanted and cherished.
  • See if you can experience a sense of connection with these people or others. You could feel this in your body, or visualize lines of energy linking you together, or have an intuition of the philosophical and scientific truth that all seemingly separate things blur into and depend on each other. If you can, let that experience of connection extend from these individuals to other people, perhaps to the entire human race. Try to sense that you belong to that larger family. Finally, see if you can shift from looking outward at all these people to their perspective, in which they have a connection with you.
  • In particular, imagine your connections with other moms, starting with those closest to you and extending ultimately to all mothers alive today. Feel how you are joined to these women by shared experiences and commitments. It is an honorable community, the wellspring of humanity, and you are a valued member.
  • Let an awareness grow of your innermost being, inherently good and wise, your essential self. Nothing can taint that inner being or alter its quality. Let a sense of its worth fill you. In the deepest sense possible, who you are is that being, and its worth is your worth.
  • You could imagine God within you and you within God. Sense that radiance as it is expressed through you, a profound source of your life's meaning and worth.


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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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