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.
Wife, mom, grandma. Introvert who finds joy in good books, sunshine, and authentic conversation. Fitness enthusiast and personal trainer. Often seen with a steaming mug of tea in hand.