This morning as my son left for school and I kissed him goodbye; he made a nasty remark under his breath about his older brother.
This from my child who is kind-hearted and deeply empathetic; it was very out of character for him, but I had noticed he was doing it more and more. I pulled him up and asked, “What’s going on—that’s not like you—why did you say that?” He muttered something else and then walked out the door.
I stood there feeling a little sad and bewildered, pondering where this had come from and why it sounded so familiar. Then it hit me, I had been doing this with my husband for years: muttering my frustration or dissatisfaction under my breath—not saying it out loud or to his face, as that would cause a fight—just mumbling and grumbling about things that were pissing me off, not thinking that my kids were often close by.
So here it was, right back in my face—not from my husband, from my beautiful, loving, twelve-year-old son, who had adopted a behaviour that was never going to create anything positive or loving for him.
I had created this behaviour in him by who I was being—he hadn’t dreamed it up. He had consciously or unconsciously observed, absorbed and then copied what I had been doing.
After my son had left that day, I sat down and thought about how often I had been that person. I could not undo my past behaviour and the regret and shame I felt were real.
In response to this, I could criticise my son—telling him he was not to talk about his brother this way. This having the added bonus of allowing me to avoid my uncomfortable feelings and giving me a way out from having to change what I was doing.
Or, with my new realisation, I could suck it up and take the painful step of owning my part in this negative behaviour. I could then make a commitment to stop doing it and model for my son who he needed to be, to build quality relationships in his life.
This is not the first time I have had to gulp down this lesson. A few years ago it dawned on me with such clarity that all the good, bad and ugly that was happening in my life wasn’t random. I wasn’t a victim of some unseen forces—nor did the world have it in for me. I was creating everything: I was creating my successes and I was creating the battles, the betrayals and the dramas—they weren’t happening to me, they were happening because of me!
I had such a strong, palpable feeling of sadness, as this sunk in—all those years of missed opportunities and squandered potential, as I allowed my victimhood to justify shitty choices.
I didn’t wallow there long though; I owned my past—knowing I had done the best I could with what I had back then. My feelings of regret were replaced with a beautiful, powerful, realisation that just as I had many times, chosen unwisely, I could now choose all the things I wished for: self-respect, abundance, tolerance and love.
This brave step towards self-awareness and personal responsibility is one of the most important lessons you need to learn. Until you can take the immensity of this to heart and embrace the truth of these words, it will be hard for you to stop repeating past mistakes and create lasting change.
My dear brave warrior friend – you are creating everything.
This is not a new-age statement about you having the power to control the universe. This is a statement about getting you to truly understand deep down inside, that you are in control of your life. Every choice that you make, big and small, creates outcomes that have a ripple effect.
I know hearing that you are responsible for the state of your life can be very hard, especially if your world feels like a shambles or if life has handed you some awful circumstances.
I get it; I had ragged scars I could hold up high, to justify my behaviour.
We all do, all the time, and it is not that I don’t have compassion and empathy for your story – it is that letting it define your future, is not going to bring you what you want.
Even if you have the best excuses in the book which allow you to blame your circumstance or other people for the way your life is—does this create the life you want?
You may even be good at giving yourself a hard time and dumping all the blame on your own shoulders, constantly putting yourself down. How’s that going for you—does that get you what you want?
Probably not, but I’m guessing it feels more familiar and easier than taking active, forward-focused responsibility for your part in the way things are.
You may feel stuck. We can help you work through your issues and work towards finding solutions but first you will need to accept that you are in control; that you always have choices. You must accept that moment by moment how you choose to behave builds the picture that is your life.
I think you are super awesome for being here. I love your courage and am so inspired by your decision to start doing some of this important work of self-discovery.
With love, I encourage you each day to look into yourself and see what you can find, not with judgement or shame—with compassion, vulnerability and curiosity.
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