I knew that being a good mom to my daughter would start with becoming a better version of myself. But I didn’t know that she would lead the way in showing me how to grow. By watching her learn how to self-soothe at such an early age, I began wondering how, and why, we seem to forget this essential lesson as we grow into adults.
Instead of giving ourselves what we need, or even recognizing that we have what we need to begin with, most of us begin to rely upon external factors. We yearn for the validation of others; we look to food as a substitute for feelings; we find ways of distraction rather than sitting with what’s happening to allow our innate ability to self-soothe kick in.
How can we go back to what we already knew from the beginning and give ourselves exactly what we need as adults to thrive? How can we become healthier versions of ourselves to model for our children?
According to my daughter, the answer is to keep it simple. She communicates hunger when she's hungry, fatigue when she's tired, desire for physical contact when she needs to be supported. She practices the art of authenticity, and without apology.
Here are three lessons in authenticity and self-care from my 8-week-old:
1. Allow yourself to be really, really curious.
When we walk around our backyard, my daughter’s eyes become wide as we move from the open air to a covered lanai. She’s processing the shifting light. Everything for her right now is an opportunity for her brain to process vital information.
The same could be said about the experiences we have as grown-ups. Rather than judging things as “good” or “bad,” each moment offers learning we can benefit from, especially if we’re able to maintain a sense of innocence and curiosity about them. By doing so, we can evolve in ways that allow us to share valuable pieces of wisdom to our children.
2. Feel your feelings unabashedly.
My daughter smiles with delight at seeing me, though in the very next second, she’ll cry because she’s hungry. Whatever she’s feeling, she shows it — totally unapologetically.
As adults, we often cover up our truths to placate others, because we’re afraid of what other people will think or that the emotion will be too much to handle. Even if you can’t show your emotions to others, find a private space and make time for what you’re going through, because it’s valid and deserves airtime. And, you’ve got to feel it to heal it.
Also, be easy on yourself in the process. Emotions don’t always make sense, because they’re not linear, but unless you go through them, you’ll have a hard time processing to let go. Find the stimuli in your life that’ll make you turn up the corners of your mouth and express what you need to get that request met.
3. Be direct in asking for what you need — even if it's just a hug.
When my daughter is overtired, she’ll flail her arms causing herself to become overstimulated, a sign to me that she needs to be swaddled. I wrap her snugly in a muslin cloth and hold her in my arms, where she’s comforted by a safety similar to what she experienced in the womb.
But honestly, I don’t think this feeling ever goes away for any of us. There are times when we’re really losing it, even if it's just internal. All we need is affection, reassurance, or a hug.
So start by giving it to yourself. Wrap your arms around your chest and squeeze tight. Then, be brave and lean into the love from those around you.
Someone recently said to me, “Children are great imitators. Give them something great to imitate.” This is true, and yet I am finding myself channeling my daughter's pure authenticity in these ways. Together, we can learn from one another. When each of us feels better, our inner child feels better, too.