Every time I go for a run I have moments when I feel like a rock star and moments I question my sanity for ever deciding to run, but I never fail to have plenty to think about. Recently, I was contemplating my form as I ran, and noticed that I make an effort to look less like I’m dying when there’s anyone nearby. If I think other people think I’m an awesome runner, I can trick myself into thinking it for a while, too. Trust me: on long runs, bridge runs, and/or sticky hot days, I need all the help I can get!
Continuing that thought as I plodded along, I realized that’s one of the many ways I still care what other people think about me. I’ve made big progress in my forties in regards to people-pleasing, but the tendency lives on.
I wondered what it would take for me to absolutely 100% not care what anyone else thought. What might change if I truly believed the only thing that matters is being loved by God? That my value is unrelated to how others perceive me. Surely if I could wrap my brain around that, I would no longer care how awkward I am in new situations, how many why-did-I-say-that things come out of my mouth, or how ridiculous I look when I run.
If that sunk in deeply enough, would I act differently?
Another thought followed: what if the reason my youngest girl acts the way she does is because she doesn’t feel loved and therefore, valued? I never understood the truth behind “any attention is good attention” until this child became part of our family. How might that change if she felt loved enough? How might I make that happen?
For a child with a trauma background, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Her behavior + my crappy way of handling it have created a cycle of frustration. Although I’m the grown-up, the one who has read and researched attachment and bonding and creating connection to heal the trauma, I’m stuck in a rut of negative feelings with her. (This is not uncommon; many adoptive parents develop secondary trauma from parenting kids with attachment issues and/or difficult behaviors related to trauma, but knowing that doesn’t make me feel any better about it.)
Even though I’ve questioned this because of how ill-equipped I feel most days, I know God put her in this family with me as her mother for a reason. I remind myself I’m here, I’m steady and stable, I keep her safe, and I do what needs to be done. It doesn’t seem like nearly enough, but it’s more than she had in her earliest years.
So that day, I refrain from speaking as many negative words of correction. The next day I cut her sandwich into the little shapes she likes. These are minuscule gestures in the grand scheme of things. But maybe, if I remember this lesson on self-worth and feeling loved, I can keep on doing tiny things that might add up. Maybe I can learn how to love her well enough to teach her what that means.