Embarrassed by my children’s appearance

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Episode #133  Embarrassed by my children’s appearance

 

Question of the Day: 

I’m glad this post is anonymous because I’m embarrassed to admit this but I want to get it off my chest and I think you will help me. 

I’m embarrassed by my children. I look at moms posting photos on Instagram of their cute “mini-me” and mother-daughter BFF’s and I get jealous. 

I have a 13 and 15 year old who I love to pieces but I’m having a hard time feeling at peace with their choices. I take pride in my appearance and think how we present ourselves goes a long way towards our success in life. When I was their age, I worked hard to fit in, to look nice and be accepted by my peers. I mean, research shows that good looking people are more likely to get hired, make money, and be promoted. Why wouldn’t someone want to look as good as possible? 

My girls are beautiful, inside and out, but they don’t care about showing it. One identifies as non-binary and is experimenting with weird hair colors, piercings, and funky, gender neutral clothing. The other looks like she just rolled out of bed. She only wears oversized sweatpants and t-shirts, preferably used from thrift stores. Neither wears makeup, jewelry, or uses a curling iron. 

I was looking forward to the day I would take my girls to get makeovers or go shopping for cute clothes. I WANT to love them unconditionally but my judgment of their appearance and disappointment in their priorities is blocking me. How do I love them unconditionally when they don’t value the same things I value? How do I support them and feel proud of them, when I’m stuck in disappointment and embarrassment?

Anonymous

 

Parent Educator Answer: 

I just want to thank you SO MUCH for this question. I love it when someone so beautifully articulates something so many of us feel. I admire your courage and self reflection and I believe your question is going to help many other moms so thank you for asking it. 

 

Your feelings are so normal. Sure, we don’t publish it on social media or buy an ad in our child’s yearbook to talk about how embarrassed we are, but it’s good to shine a light on it so those that feel it don’t need to be ashamed. 

 

Raising kids is frickin’ HARD. It triggers every old wound, every unresolved issue from our childhood, it makes us feel every emotion under the sun while testing our limits and threatening our ego.

It is perfectly normal to look at our teens and tweens and think: 

I love you, would give my life for you, and I can’t stand you right now. 

I am so proud of who you are but I will pretend I don’t know you when you act like that.

You are absolutely perfect in every way and can you please change your hair, your outfit, and your attitude? 

Raising children is an experience in feeling ALL THE FEELINGS, AT THE SAME TIME! 

Proud, embarrassed, love, exasperation, anger, disappointment, joy, gratitude, sadness, annoyance, impatience, compassion. 

 

Let’s answer the questions :  How do I love them unconditionally when they don’t value the same things I value? How do I support them and feel proud of them, when I’m stuck in disappointment and embarrassment?

 

What you’ve got here is JUDGMENT about your judgment. DISAPPOINTMENT about your disappointment. SHAME about your embarrassment. 

 

The first step to feeling love and pride is to give yourself permission to feel what you feel. Let go of the shame, judgment, and disappointment about how you feel, and let it be what it is.

 

All parents come with expectations for the kids they are going to have. I felt sure my son would like performing on stage and dancing since it’s something his dad and I had in common. I was so disappointed when my 4 year old declared he “wasn’t born to dance”. 

 

Every year kids grow older, we get deeper glimpses into who they are meant to be. It’s exciting to see their personalities revealed, but it’s also a little grieving the loss of who we thought they might be. 

I remember finding out I was having a girl and I was so thrilled because I really wanted a girl. Even though I got what I wanted, I still had to grieve the loss of the boy I had spent time imagining. 

As kids grow older, we enjoy seeing their creative side, their love of animals, but at the same time, we are grieving the loss of the athlete, beauty queen or book lover we thought we were going to have. 

Expectation is the root of suffering. If we didn’t expect anything, we wouldn’t be troubled, but that’s what humans do, we create expectations.

 

I think it’s perfectly natural to feel disappointed, embarrassed, even rejected, while watching your children disregard your values, and explore other ways of being and belonging in the world. 

 

What you are encountering is the age old battle between the soul vs. the ego. Love vs. Fear. The social self vs. the essential self.

 

I can hear you wanting to reject the fear/ego/socialized conditioning, snap your fingers and just enjoy unconditional love. But when we ignore the ego and reject this part of ourselves, it creates cognitive dissonance. Holding 2 competing beliefs at the same time isn’t pleasant. When your teen walks downstairs in an outfit that makes you cringe but you bite your tongue and hold your breath, there is a consequence to that. Your kid senses your disapproval and your body feels the tension. The tight jaw, the upset stomach, the headache, all start forming when we live with duplicity. Smiling on the outside and trying not to be bothered on the inside is not the ideal way to enjoy raising kids. 

 

Instead of duplicity, we want integrity. By integrity, I mean that your thoughts, feelings, actions, and values are all in alignment.  

 

My advice is to find someone safe you can vent to about all the annoying and embarrassing things your kids do, wear, and say. If you can find someone to honestly reciprocate, you will be exposed to a whole world of gratitude. 

 

This is what happens in my Leading Your Teen group class. Moms get on there and complain about their kids’ disinterest in school, their messy rooms, their eating habits, personal hygiene, friendship drama, attitude, and more. Suddenly you realize your kids are better than you thought and you are a pretty amazing mom!  When you are exposed to other moms who are stuck in areas you aren’t, it makes parenting these teens so much easier to deal with. 

 

Sometimes we just need a bigger perspective and that’s hard to get over social media. Having a good-old-fashioned vent session with a compassionate Supermom in solidarity, will help release the shame of feeling embarrassed by your kids and the judgment you have of your judgment. 

 

To deal with the disappointment that your teens have different values, we’ll go to the life coaching answer.

Life Coaching Answer: 

You found a path to success that worked for you: caring for your appearance, dressing nicely and fitting in. The ego is not going to let go of that easily. My hunch is that your ego perceives your daughter’s choices as unnecessarily risky and wants to swoop in and take control in order to secure a successful future. 

 

Our brains perceive fitting in, getting hired, making money, and being successful as a SAFETY issue. When safety gets involved, our ego (fear) will not let go easily. We start futurizing and catastrophizing, and start imagining we are fighting for success and avoiding failure. 

 

We lose sight of the crazy things we wore when we were 15, the trends that barely lasted a month. How worried our parents were that we would fry our brains by standing too close to the microwave and become a menace to society by listening to inappropriate song lyrics. When safety comes into play, we become momma lions, ready to protect our cubs from danger. We lose our perspective.

 

Are your kids presenting themselves in a way that is DANGEROUS? Are they causing harm to themselves or others, right now, in this moment? If not, it is safe to take a deep breath and remind yourself that they are safe. Adolescence is a fleeting time and how they present themselves to the public is bound to change as they grow and evolve. Most people do not top out at 13 and 15. Chances are, they will continue to grow and make more thoughtful, mature choices as they age. That doesn’t mean they will adopt your values around appearance, but it does mean that they will find people who accept them as they are. They will navigate friendships, jobs, bosses, and teachers and through positive and negative experiences, they will carve out a niche for themselves in the world that works for them. 

 

It’s disappointing that your girls don’t value what you value. That’s what we call clean grief and it’s ok to be sad about that. Sadness is just helping us identify what we need to let go of. The expectation that your kids would value the same things as you is a good thing to let go of. When you grieve the loss of the kids you thought you would have, it creates space to enjoy raising the ones you’ve got.

 

First, release the fear.

Second, allow the sadness to identify what you are ready to let go of.

Third, commit to your values.

 

You have a value around caring about your appearance. You can still embrace that value even if your kids don’t. You also have a value around loving your kids unconditionally and being proud of their choices. Find reasons why you admire their choices, even if you don’t agree. 

 

I admire my daughter’s desire not to eat animals, even though I don’t follow the same rules. 

You can admire your teen’s self awareness. They know who they are and what makes them feel comfortable. They know what clothes best express their essence. They aren’t letting arbitrary rules made by advertising companies tell them what they should look like. Instead of falling prey to fast fashion and polluting the environment by subscribing to consumer culture, they are wearing second hand clothes and being selective with what they purchase. 

 

You won’t worry about your kids’ future success or about you failing as a mom, when you can find reasons to admire their choices that are aligned with things you also value. 

 

Then the unconditional love and pride will come naturally, from the inside, and you won’t have to pretend to feel something you don’t. 

Supermom Kryptonite: Denying our shadow side

I’m a big believer in the law of attraction which says what you focus on, expands. I do see how like attracts like. You don’t always get what you WANT, but you attract to you, what you ARE. It’s about emotions. If you feel peaceful and calm, you attract more peace and calm. If you feel a lot of fear, you will attract more things to be fearful of. 

Most people are drawn to the law of attraction with the intent to manifest what they want. By thinking and feeling positively, they will attract more positive experiences. 

 

This only works when someone is in ALIGNMENT. Cognitive dissonance, holding two competing beliefs simultaneously, causes someone to be out of alignment. 

 

There is a subtle but important difference between focusing on the feeling of unconditional love, and focusing on the WANTING to feel unconditional love. When you stay in the WANTING to feel loving, you are identifying the lack of it. When you WANT to feel proud of your kids, you are dwelling on the fact that you don’t currently feel proud. 

 

Better to embrace the shadow sides of ourselves, release our frustrations, shame and guilt to a good friend (or life coach) who will help you feel normal, then you get access to the TRUE emotion of love and pride. When we feel heard, seen and felt, it cleans up our energy so we can connect with our values and attract what we REALLY WANT. 

 

Supermom Power Boost: Unconditional love

Moms have so many jobs. We have to provide food, shelter, clothing, opportunities. We have to clean, fill out forms, discipline, organize, coordinate, teach, drive, the number of hats we wear is endless. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the busy-ness of raising kids. 

 

But when our kids act in a way that keeps us from LOVING them, it’s time to act. When our fears, our ego, our overwhelm, prevents us from feeling LOVE, it does something to a mommy’s heart. We NEED to feel love for our kids. It’s medicine for our soul. 

 

Even when they are jerks. Even when they wipe their snot on their sleeve. Even when they refuse to go to bed or get out of bed. If we can’t LOVE them, it will nag at us. If we look at them and all we see is what they aren’t doing right, our higher self will not let us rest. 

 

We need to love them. Our most important job is simply to love them and they are 100% lovable at all times. 

Love the hot mess who can’t remember to turn in their school work. 

Love the pre-teen who thinks you are ruining her life. 

Love the kid who cannot soak a dish if his life depended on it.

Unconditional love is 100% available to you. Not fear, dependency or control. Just pure love. No matter what they do, you get to love them. It is your privilege and your #1 job as mom. Their job is just to be there for you to love. Anything that blocks you from feeling that love can be addressed so that you can get back to loving your kids as they are, right now, today. 

 

Quote of the Day: “Beauty is not in the face. Beauty is a light in the heart.” Kahlil Gibran 

 

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