“I’d give my life for my kids.”
I’ve said it before. I’ve thought it before. And I still believe it’s true.
I know that if it came down to a choice, one of them or me, I’d sacrifice myself in a heartbeat so they could live. I’m not a unique mom in this respect. I’d say most moms would do the same thing. We love our children more than we love ourselves. If it’s not universal, then it’s pretty close.
I’m sure you’ve also heard the following idea in one form or another:
“You have to love yourself first. You can’t love someone else more than you love yourself.”
I also believe this.
They seem contradictory – these two ideas.
So, how can both be true?
They are both true for me, but to understand fully, I need to tell you my story.
I had one of those lives that looked very good from the outside. I had the husband and two healthy kids, and a great house in a sought-after neighborhood. But I felt trapped and powerless. I had very little love for myself. It didn’t even occur to me that something else was possible for me. I believed that since I chose the husband I did and I chose to have children that this was my life now and I was determined to make the best of it.
It came down to one moment of epiphany – as life often does.
I’ll never forget the scene. It was several years ago, but I can see it like it was yesterday.
It had been a long day and I was exhausted. As per my usual routine, I had worked all day at the office. I picked up kids, came home, made dinner, did the dishes, straightened the house and then headed down to the basement to do laundry.
The basement was unfinished, with gray concrete brick walls and poured concrete floors. It had very little natural light, with a few of those tiny windows at the top of the wall. It felt like a dungeon and I saw myself as a prisoner in my own life.
It had been a long day; did I say that already? Well, it had. So, when my daughter came to the basement to ask me to help her with something, I felt rather put out.
I thought, “I wonder if I could just disappear?” I thought how great it would be to just have some peace and quiet and not have anyone ask me for anything for a while. I remembered thinking that I could not handle one. more. single. thing. I longed for escape.
The only words that came out of my mouth were something to the effect of, “Go upstairs and I’ll help you when I finish the laundry.”
I didn’t give the encounter another thought until the next night when I read my daughter a book and we were sitting on her bed chatting, telling each other goodnight.
She paused and then she said, “Mom, do you ever feel like you just want to disappear?”
In that one moment, I was devastated.
Here is what I realized in that moment:
I could no longer hide from the fact that my kids were being negatively impacted by my feelings of unworthiness and unhappiness.
I thought I was hiding it all from them.
I knew I was miserable, but I had convinced myself that it wasn’t that bad. I convinced myself I had to make the best of it. I convinced myself that this was the life I had chosen, so I’d better deal with it and keep moving forward. I convinced myself that my happiness wasn’t important, that I would live for my kids instead of myself.
But it wasn’t working. And this knowledge was devastating, because I had no backup plan and I had no idea how to change my life or where to even begin!
I could bare everything, all the pain, all the misery, being trapped in what felt like prison, all of it, as long as I thought I was sacrificing myself for my children. When I realized that I was taking them down with me, that my pain was creating suffering for them too, it was too much for me to take.
It still took me years after this incident to build up enough self-love and self-esteem to leave my husband and start a new life with my kids.
Looking back, it’s so clear to me.
I didn’t love myself enough to believe I deserved happiness in life.
As my bitterness and resentment built up over time, it was impossible to keep this from affecting my children. Of course it affected them.
Having a mom who wanted to disappear was teaching my daughter that she also needed to disappear.
We are the role models for our children.
Our children learn by what we do, not by what we say.
Our children cannot learn to love themselves more than we love ourselves.
It’s about the quality of love that we are giving.
The quality of love you are able to give to yourself is equal to the quality of love you have to give to your children, or anyone else. It cannot be otherwise.
The highest quality love is accepting and unconditional. Circumstances don’t change it. It doesn’t come and go. It doesn’t depend on the weather or behavior or my mood. It is unwavering and unfaltering, perfect and pure. I see the real you, and I love you for all that you are and all that you are not. I accept you completely without condition and no matter what happens. You don’t have to do anything to earn this love. It just is. I give it freely without any expectations in return.
Lower quality love is dependent and conditional. Conditional love only loves under certain circumstances. Low quality love thinks you need to behave a certain way to deserve my love and acceptance. It comes and goes based on your behavior and my mood. Are you performing the way I think you should? Then, we are good and I will show you my love. Are you defying me or acting in ways I have told you are not acceptable to me? Then, I withhold my love until you decide to change. This kind of love believes it needs to be earned.
When I was living life as a martyr, sacrificing myself for my children, the love I gave myself was completely conditional and low quality. I held myself to impossibly high standards. I never felt I measured up. I didn’t believe I deserved my own love.
So, even though I thought I was giving my kids a tremendous amount of love, after all, I put them above myself in all things, it was not lifting them up.
Unconditional love lifts us up.
Conditional love weighs us down.
My daughter was feeling the weight of the burden I had chosen to take on for my life – whether I wanted her to or not.
Fast forward to now – life is very different for all of us!
I’m a single mom of two teenagers. I’m a life coach and I still work on loving and accepting myself more – all the time! I am and will always be a work in progress.
I am finally able to love my kids unconditionally and accept them for who they are and who they aren’t. They feel that love from me, and I can see them already loving themselves more than I ever dreamed possible when I was their age.
I believe that learning to love myself unconditionally has had a more profound impact on my life and the lives of my children than any other work I’ve done.
That’s the main reason I created my free course; Love Yourself More – 7 Days to Gain Self Acceptance, Confidence & Fulfillment. You can check out the course here, if you would like to start the journey to loving yourself more and changing what’s possible in your life.
One thing I know for sure:
You deserve your own love and acceptance!
Are you ready to Love Yourself More?
All for love,