67: Loving My Inner Child

67: Loving My Inner Child

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Think Possible

Loving My Inner Child

You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.

~Buddha

A friend brought clothes over to my house. “I was cleaning out my closet and thought you could use these clothes.”

“Thanks,” I said. After she left, I searched through the bag. The clothes were clean, but faded, and the wrong size for me. I kept a couple of shirts that kind of fit, and donated the rest.

It wasn’t long before yet another friend came over. “I have too many clothes,” she said. “I thought you might need them.”

Again I gracefully accepted them. Again, most were too big, but I kept some more shirts.

A couple months later, another friend showed up. “I lost weight and had to buy a new wardrobe. I thought these might fit you.”

“Thanks,” I said. My reflection in the mirror showed I had gained some weight. Did my friend think I was fat?

My friends were good people. But why were they always giving me their used clothes? I looked in the mirror at my typical outfit of jeans and an old shirt. I rarely ever bought myself anything new.

My priority was always my four children. I would give up everything so they could have voice lessons, dance lessons and money for a school trip. But me — I was their mom. That was my identity. I was the one who sacrificed, who took care of everyone else but me.

On a typical day I would berate myself. “I am so ugly and fat. I can’t do anything right. I am a big nothing.” These words ran through my head in a constant, negative tape that would never stop playing.

“No one loves me. Life stinks. I never have enough money. No one cares.” I was a victim in life. I was a martyr. I was the one who sacrificed for everyone else so that my children could succeed. That was my job, wasn’t it? Isn’t that what moms were supposed to do, put themselves last? Moms were the ones who took the smallest piece of meat at the table and ate the ruined egg for breakfast. Moms were the ones who cleaned up the messes in life. Moms were the ones who told their children they could do amazing things. It was wonderful to watch your family living their dreams. So why wasn’t I happy?

Because of me, my children excelled. Because of my sacrifices, the household ran smoothly. Yet, why wasn’t I content?

Why, when I vented to my friends about how much I sacrificed, did they suddenly go silent and have to hang up the phone to answer the door? One by one, people began to get too busy to listen to me complain. I was a victim in life, and I desperately craved attention and validation for my martyrdom. Didn’t the Bible say to love others more than yourself?

Then one day it dawned on me. It didn’t. The Bible said to love others as yourself. I realized this one day and it floored me when the sad truth was revealed. I loved my family a lot, but I didn’t love me. I constantly berated myself and said horrible things to myself that I would never dream of saying to anyone else.

One day I looked at my reflection. I thought of the little girl inside me who once had dreams of her own. I never did anything for her, not even setting aside a few dollars to buy her a new outfit. The cruel things I said to her on a daily basis were appalling. I would never dream of giving her singing lessons or sending her to a good college. I had given up on this little girl a long time ago. She felt sad and unloved.

It was then I realized I could change things. I had the power to change my life completely. Nothing was stopping me except for my biggest obstacle — me. My children were grown and happy and didn’t need my constant fussing over them anymore.

I started loving the little girl inside me as much as I loved my own children. I stopped saying mean things to her. I looked at my reflection and said all the inspiring and nice things to me that I had said to my own confident children.

I changed “You’re ugly” into “You’re beautiful.” I changed “Nothing good ever happens to me” to “Great things happen to me.” I changed “I never win anything” into “I am a winner.” I changed “I never have enough money” to “I have more money than I could ever need.” I changed “I can’t” to “I can.” In the beginning it felt forced and fake, but after a while, as I kept repeating these new affirmations to myself, it became easy.

Miracles began happening. I faced my fears and chased after my dreams. I allowed myself to further my education, to work at losing weight, to pursue my career goals, and to buy myself some new outfits, without guilt. Soon, I was managing money better and rebuilding my life. Whenever I reached out to do something for myself, I found the resources to do it. Obstacles disappeared. It was amazing.

I stopped complaining about life, and soon my friends didn’t mind talking to me again. Some of them actually looked forward to my phone calls. One of my friends gave me the highest compliment. She said I inspired her. Some of my fondest dreams were realized. When I graduated college in my forties, my children were proud of me. My success inspired my daughters even more.

And then, one day, I noticed that people weren’t offering me their hand-me-downs anymore. They asked me where I bought the pretty dress I was wearing. The little girl inside me smiled. I was finally taking care of her too.

~L.A. Strucke

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