There is something so beautiful and natural in the way we encourage children, isn’t there? As they learn to walk, ride, swim: the air rings with the sound of “Atta girl! You can do it!” “You are doing so great, I’m so proud of you!” “Keep going, doesn’t matter if you fall baby, just try again, you’ll get the hang of it”. Our communication is clear and bright. Enthusiasm exudes. Expectations of perfection are firmly managed as we keep it positive. It’s a very easy way to communicate. It takes virtually no effort.
We know that emphasising the positive is a faster and more enjoyable route to the desired outcome than continual berating. We want to keep them interested, connected to the process, excited, enthusiastic, so we lead from the front. It’s joyful. And it gets results.
If someone has a go at our kids, shouts, screams, judges, criticises: my goodness are we not fast to react and protect? Our boundaries on the quality of words that should enter our children’s ears, and therefore hearts and minds are strong. We are the gatekeepers and we take that very seriously indeed. If someone is to bully our child they will meet with every bit of wrath we can muster. And then some.
And so what happens when we get to adulthood and we talk ourselves? Where does the “Atta Girl!” go then? For every Mum I see cheering her child on, on the sidelines with such unbridled positivity I see the same mum in the gym or in the yoga class giving herself the exact opposite experience. “You are useless at this. Hopeless. What’s the point of even being here? Everyone else is so much better than you. You suck at this, be honest. And. Shelia…those leggings are not fooling anyone…you are looking FAT”.
The Attta Girl has been swiftly replaced by the meanest of mean girls in the school. She undermines. Berates. Criticises, Judges. Expects perfection. We should be faster. Thinner. Younger. Stronger.
It’s mean girl talk. It’s emotionally abusive. It’s the bully in our heads. And we are doing it TO OURSELVES. Then we wonder why we don’t want to go to the gym or try the new boot camp or enjoy book club.
You wouldn’t allow the mean girl to repeatedly tear down your son, or daughter, niece or nephew, grandson or granddaughter. You know that bullying is wrong. You know those taunts can last a lifetime which is why you protect so hard and so vigilantly against it. You would not stand for it with a child you care about (or even one you don’t!) so stop allowing it for yourself.
The words you use, to yourself, in your own head, are the most powerful of all. They determine how you feel, and what you do. They govern your mood and your actions. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that just because no one else can hear them does not mean they carry great weight. They are the most influential of all.
Don’t let a mean girl live in your head when you would not have her at your table. Channel your own encouraging voice that is there is spades for your child. Be kind and encouraging in your own self-talk. You will be blown away by the instant difference in your disposition, what accomplish and what you enjoy. You will appreciate everything more when you kick your inner mean girl into touch and come from your inner Atta Girl instead.
She’s in there; let her talk to you too.