Mothers Day was this past weekend. I am a mother of three magnificent boys and yet, I’m pretty set against the way Mother’s Day is celebrated here. Did you catch my rant on social media about how it’s not your kids or your spouse’s responsibility to make the day special for you? The message is true and is actually bigger than this. It’s not your kids, your mom’s, your spouse’s, your neighbor’s, or anyone else’s responsibility to make you happy on any day of your life; Mother’s Day or today. It’s yours. If you grasp this one concept, your life will be spent in a happier, less emotionally-reactive place. If you’re happy it’s because of the thoughts that you’re thinking, not because of the gift you were given or the dinner you went out to. Our thoughts create our feelings.
I work with pre-teen and teen girls and my intent is to develop their emotional intelligence. At a recent meeting, I asked a group of fifth-graders: What makes you feel a certain way? One after another, they said that what they’re thinking makes them feel a certain way. I almost cried tears of joy. If you listen to the news, scroll Facebook, or talk to your girlfriends, you’ll see the opposite message:
-Those new jeans will make you happy.
-Drinking that wine will make you feel less stress.
-Getting a new bracelet will make you feel loved.
Sure, those things can leave you feeling those feelings but is it because of the action or the item? Nope. It’s because of the thoughts you think about those things. One of my friends always gets flowers from her husband for Mother’s Day and she hates it. Does she hate flowers? Nope. It’s her thoughts about the flowers that leave her feeling resentful, unvalued, and unappreciated. Repeat after me: My thoughts create my feelings.
Here’s the truth: The day you take responsibility for how you feel is the day you are free. You will still feel crappy, angry, sad, unloved, depressed, anxious, and stressed. The difference is you will know that you are in charge. You feel that way because of the thoughts you’re thinking. The people around you in your life can do whatever they want to do: they can give you flowers or not give you flowers. They can take you out to lunch or they can forget to even call. You are in charge of what you think about it. Do you make up a big story or do you drop the drama and stand up for yourself? Ask for what you want. What are you making it mean? Is that helpful for you?
Taking responsibility for your emotions is not easy. It’s much, much easier to blame other people or things. If I can blame my spouse for my anger then, when I snap at my kids I can blame him and feel less guilt. If I can blame my boss for the stress at work, then I can blame him for the two glasses of wine I drink nightly to “de-stress”. The thing is: when you give everyone else power of your emotions and actions, you let them decide how you live your life. You and your mom might be big-boned but the reason you’re overweight is because of you, not your genes and not her. Stop eating when you’re not hungry. Get up off the couch.
What’s interesting is that so much of this blaming stems from our own inability to take care of ourselves. Often we reach middle age and realize we are so disconnected we don’t know what we want or like. Mother’s Day is a perfect example: We put pressure on ourselves and our families for what the day ‘should’ be like. Stop looking at other people’s lives to gauge what yours should look like. What’s right for you? What’s right for your family? What do you want to do? What do you like to do? Then make it happen. The thoughts you have of what your kids ‘should’ do or what your spouse ‘should’ do or what your day ‘should’ look like? Drop them. They aren’t helping anyone.
The day you stop depending on anyone else to make you happy is the day you feel happier. What do you like to do? What are you good at? What makes you smile? Laugh? What are you doing when time stands still? So many of us don’t know. I suggest you start trying. Start small. What is one thing you can do today that brings you joy?
“If you want to give the light to others, you have to glow yourself.” Thomas Monson
How do we find our light? Do the things that bring you joy, make you smile, and utilize your gifts and talents. As moms we tell ourselves that we have to take care of others before we take care of ourselves. Please stop. When you do that you show up as a bitter, resentful version of yourself. Ask your kids what they want: perfectly matched socks lined up in a drawer or a happy, calm mom. In order to give your light to others, you have to give it to yourself first. What is one thing you can do today that brings YOU joy?