I got grounded a lot when I was growing up. I don’t think it was because my parents were overly strict to be honest, I think it was mostly because I was a bit of an asshole. Not doing what I was told, leaving crap laying around for mom to clean up, fighting with my sister or getting in trouble at school. I pushed the limits, a lot, but at the time I just thought my parents were unreasonable.
My mom once found an old duo tang in my closet and inside it, written on a blank piece of paper I had wrote, and I quote “There mom goes again, bitchin and naggin, naggin and bitchin, will she ever let up?”
I remember this quote word for word, mainly because she has never let me forget it, but also because I laugh at my teenage self thinking I had it so tough. Raising kids is hard work and sometimes you can’t help but be at your wits end and fly off the handle for something that might seem tedious in hindsight, but just might also be the straw that broke the camel’s back. I didn’t understand the pressures my parents were dealing with at the time. Financial struggles along with raising 4 kids (2 of your own and 2 step kids, which I have come to realize that step parenting is not even close to the same as parenting, it’s a challenge all on its own but Ima save that for another day!). So mix that on top of their individual personal and emotional struggles of trying to get their own shit together, it was no wonder I was in trouble a lot. I pushed my parents to their limits and frustrated as they might have been while tearing yet another strip off me for drinking underage or skipping school, they were never just mad for the sake of being mad, unbeknownst to me, they also wanted to make sure that they didn’t raise a delinquent hellion that never amounted to anything in life. Which, in their defense, probably looked like the path I was leaning toward on more then one occasion!
I got punished when I screwed up like most kids did and I learned to do better next time, or in some cases, be sneakier, but either way I learned.
This is a normal part of childhood and adolescence in my opinion. We test our limits, push our boundaries, and rock the boat every once in a while to see what we can get away with.
So what happens when we become adults? When we are no longer under the supervision of our parents or guardians and there is no one telling us we are grounded from the phone if we don’t make the responsible choice? Do we automatically channel our inner mom and dad and make the right decisions? Sometimes, but certainly not always.
If you have been following my blog for a while you know that I am all about growth, self development, and learning lessons. It’s kind of my jam and my message to the world.
So when we make mistakes as an adult, how do we ensure we learn the lesson to not make the same mistake twice? Unfortunately, we punish ourselves.
It’s what we know. It’s how we are raised. When we make a mistake, we must be punished in order to learn, it’s how it’s always been.
But here is the key take away in all this and why punishing ourselves NEVER works. Punishing ourselves does not come from a place of unconditional love. It’s just doesn’t, and here’s why.
I never understood the love of a parent until I became one. When my mom punished me as a kid, no matter how much of an unreasonable nag I thought she was being, she loved me more then I could ever love myself, possibly even more then she loved her own self. She wanted me to do better, to be better, to eventually know better. She punished me, but she didn’t beat me over the head with my mistakes and no matter how mad I made her, she would always forgive me and never once did she ever stop loving me.
When we punish ourselves we don’t even come close to being as forgiving as we would be if someone else was in our shoes. We punish ourselves and beat ourselves up and make ourselves feel like complete and total shit for making a mistake that anyone else would forgive us for and move on. We are so much harder on ourselves then we need to be.
We take self punishment to the extreme. Somewhere along the lines we have decided that we must pay for every single mistake we have ever made and that by telling ourselves we aren’t good enough we will somehow make ourselves better, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. It is important to learn from our mistakes yes, but as functioning adults in society it is no longer necessary to be punished for making a mistake that may or may not happen again.
We live and learn and at the end of the day, as long as we are always learning from our mistakes then punishing ourselves is just kind of a bummer more than an actual lesson.
Now it’s ok to be mad at yourself, even disappointed for doing something that you know you shouldn’t have, but do it with the same love and compassion you give to your kids, your spouse or your bestie if the shoe was on the other foot.
When we scold our kids we don’t make it a life sentence. We deliver the lesson and we move on. Yet, when we scold ourselves, we belittle, judge and scrutinize every little thing about ourselves, we make ourselves feel guilt and shame and hold ourselves to this regard that we are the only one in the world who has ever fucked up like this and our behaviour is somehow far more unforgivable then if it had been anyone else. Seriously, why do we do this?
What if today, we change all that? What if you could start to show yourself them same love and compassion and understanding you show everyone else when they mess up?? I know you have it in you, it’s there every time your kids say “I’m sorry” for the one millionth time. It’s there when your girlfriend is beating herself up for taking back that deadbeat ex once again and you don’t slam her with an “I told you so”. It’s there every time your husband tells you he just wanted to watch the football game so the shelf upstairs will have to wait till tomorrow to get fixed. Our ability to be understanding and forgiving is actually quite fierce, yet, when it comes to our own standard of what’s acceptable, all bets are off.
Can we cut that shit out please?
The other key point in this whole story is to realize that no matter how forgiving and understanding you have come to be, we will all continue to keep screwing up from now until the day we die. This is part of our journey. Screwing up is an essential part of our growth. Just because you fail once, or twice, or seven hundred times, that doesn’t mean you quit and walk away.
Think of it this way, there was once a time in your life where you didn’t know how to walk, or read, or even feed yourself without making a mess of your face. You didn’t know any better and it took months, and in some cases years of quiet observation to begin to even attempt to try these things. And you know what? Not a single one of you succeeded on your first attempt. Not one. Thank Gawd our childish minds are so much more resilient then our adult minds otherwise we would be surrounded by an entire population of dirty faced illiterate humans crawling around on all fours.
Furthermore, once you got yourself to a point where you mastered such tasks it wasn’t a guarantee that you would never trip and fall, spill on your shirt or get stuck on a word that you have never in your life heard before but has legit meaning in the urban dictionary. You would never berate a toddler for not learning fast enough so why is it ok to treat yourself with such lack of understanding?
My point is, if we could all just be a little kinder, a little more loving and fuck ton more forgiving of ourselves perhaps we wouldn’t be struggling so much.
If we are never really done learning then that means we are never really done making mistakes. There is no finish line, well, there is, but it’s 6 feet underground and by the time you get there you can’t even toast yourself at your own party to say you made it.
What I’m saying is, life is too goddam short to spend it as a prisoner to these bullshit life sentences that we created for ourselves.
You made a mistake, big whoop. Life goes on and you can choose to either let it teach you or torture you. The choice is yours, but ask yourself this, if you were your mother, would you still be grounded from the phone for this? Or would it be water under the bridge by now??
Yah, that’s what I thought.