5 Things Moms Should Never Say to Themselves

5 Things Moms Should Never Say to Themselves

Here’s how to stop negative self-talk that can slip out when you’re stressed.

By Laurie Sue Brockway

I was sitting in my friend Pamela’s kitchen recently as she expertly prepared dinner for her family. She is a smart, talented person -- and a far more competent cook than I could ever be -- but she doesn’t quite see herself in a positive light. Somewhere between cutting vegetables and turning on the stove, she accidently knocked over a glass of water on her counter. The water splashed onto the food she was preparing and, then, made its way onto her floor. All of a sudden I heard her yell, “I am so stupid!”

Another person might have just said “oops,” or may have called the glass of water “stupid,” but my friend took it all on herself. Many of us can relate to occasionally uttering a self-defeating phrase -- in the privacy of our own minds or out loud, in front of others. Some of us may do it quite regularly.

Experts say old habits die hard, and this kind of negative self-talk often slips out when we are stressed or in a crisis that makes us feel out of control. “Over time, these types of negative self-statements simply become habit,” says David Prescott, PhD, director of healthcare studies at Husson University in Bangor, Maine. “Psychotherapists in the field of cognitive psychology often term these 'automatic thoughts.'”

It helps to be aware, so here are some of the most damaging things we can say to ourselves.

1. “I am not worthy.” Many women cannot see their own value and use language that reflects lack of self-worth. “Sadly, many of us learn these self-deprecating comments during our own childhood and adolescence,” says Prescott. “In some cases, these are the things that our parents, relatives, or peers have said to us, and we internalize it, later saying it to ourselves.”

2. “I am hopeless.” This sentiment may be expressed in a variety of ways, such as “I can’t get anything right,” or "Nothing I do will make it better." Prescott says statements like these that imply hopelessness or exaggerate or blow things out of proportion are never healthy.

3. “I am such an idiot.” Sadly, most moms feel like this at some point. The trick is to not let it be your mantra every time something goes wrong. “The expectations society places on mothers leave many of us feeling overwhelmed and ill-equipped,” says Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT, of The Training Center for Mental Health. “Comments made at corner playgrounds and school pick-ups echo the judgments mothers cast on one another, and on themselves.”

Being saturated with media images of “perfect” celebrity parents add to feelings of inadequacy. It is important to not get sucked into thinking that they are the best models of motherhood.

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4. “I am disgusting.” Childrearing is not meant to be glamorous, and it gets messy. We have to learn not to beat ourselves up for our imperfections. “[Moms] feel like they're inadequate, trying to compare themselves to a vision of perfection that can only be created as an image,” says psychotherapist Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC. “Everyone is imperfect. Accept your weaknesses and learn to pump yourself up with your strengths.”

5. “I hate myself.” Once you declare war on yourself like that, an internal battle wages. “That [phrase] echoes out into almost everything a woman does,” says Sarah Walton, CEO of Better Way Moms. “Loved ones can feel it, work suffers, the woman suffers, and even uttering those words can deflate energy and any hope for happiness. ‘Hate’ is such a damaging word, and we hear it so often we can forget the effects of it. But it can drive a rush of adrenaline or anger, and cause more stress to the body.”

Tips to Stop Berating Yourself
The good news is that changes can be made, one step at a time. “Start practicing the habit to developing positive messages about one's self,” says Tasha H. Kornegay, PhD, LCPS. “Confront past issues that may be the cause of negative comments about one's self. And seek professional help if necessary.”


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Walton suggests this simple exercise for awareness: Keep a small notebook handy to write down any negative self-talk you hear yourself speaking during the day. After three days, go through the list, and find the ones you say most often. List them on a fresh sheet, and next to it, reframe the negative statement into a more positive one. For example, instead of “I hate myself,” try “This was a bad day, but tomorrow I can do better.”

Taking even a small step toward revising negative self-talk is better for you, and ultimately better for your children and family.

“Low self-esteem can affect so many aspects of a woman’s life,” says Cara Maksimow, LCSW, CPC. “Her confidence and how well she takes care of herself is noticed by her children. Kids pick up on subtle messages of self-hatred. Even if we are building up our children's self-esteem with what we say to them, they learn so much by watching what we do and how we treat ourselves.”

How many times a day do you notice negative self-talk?

Laurie Sue Brockway is a journalist and author who has written extensively on love, marriage, parenting, well-being, and emotional health. Her work has appeared in hundreds of print and online publications, including Everyday Health and The Huffington Post.

Image ©iStock.com/fotostorm

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