How to parent yourself and why it’s so powerful
If your parents were unreliable, abusive, or neglectful, you will need to learn how to parent yourself. That means teaching yourself life skills like setting boundaries, healthy habits, emotional regulation, and relationship building.
Because parents are crucial to our survival, inadequate parenting can leave you feeling like the world is a scary place, and you have only yo
urself to lean on. All your energy and resources have gone into survival and a sense of deprivation follows you into adulthood.
Lack of parenting in childhood negatively impacts relationships, creates self-loathing and an intense inner critic, and leaves you feeling unsupported and isolated.
Those of us who suffered this way are more likely to turn to substance abuse and experience depression and even suicidal thoughts.
Why self-parenting matters
You need to learn to parent yourself so you can receive the care and attention you lacked as a child and live a more satisfying, authentic life.
Parenting yourself means letting the hurt child feel heard and seen. Otherwise, she’ll try to get that attention in unhealthy ways that feel beyond your control and which sabotage you.
Until you learn to parent yourself, you’ll keep seeking surrogate parents in toxic places. This is why you might end up with romantic partners that hurt you or feel inferior to your friends and coworkers.
Until you learn to parent yourself, you’ll keep repeating the same patterns that hold you back. You won’t establish the healthy routines necessary for success. You’ll continue giving up in the face of challenges because you haven’t learned the skill of long-term goal orientation.
When you start to care for yourself, however, your tolerance for pain and abuse will lower. You’ll no longer feel comfortable in relationships where your needs are not being met. You won’t be so desperate to hold onto someone who treats you like you don’t matter.
When you learn to parent yourself, you begin to live a life that aligns with your values and makes you feel more like yourself. You discover who that “self” really is.
Parenting yourself requires more than being nice to yourself, though that is part of the equation. The other equally important piece of the puzzle involves caring for yourself through self-discipline.
How to parent yourself through self-care
Learn to be kind to yourself. If you’ve been abused or neglected as a child, you probably beat yourself up a lot. It’s not enough to say, “speak nicely to yourself”. First, you must begin to treat yourself in ways that demonstrate you are valuable.
Start by sitting with yourself for 10 minutes. It might feel strange and self-indulgent to spend time by yourself at first. But the more you do it the more familiar it will become. You create a new normal for yourself and it places a chip in your brain that says, “you’re worth it”.
Some people call this practice of sitting alone doing nothing “mindfulness”. Put simply, mindfulness means paying attention to the present moment.
Some prefer not thinking at all during these times, but you will benefit even if you let your thoughts roam. Instead of judging those thoughts, observe them and let them go.
Understand your likes and dislikes
Start saying no to things that don’t interest you and yes to things that scare you but excite you. Taking time to understand your likes and dislikes and doing more of what pleases you will help you value yourself more. Find a hobby or passion and do it because you love it, not as a job.
If your parents never helped you know your strengths and weaknesses, this is the time to find them out for yourself. Pay attention to what you do well and ask trusted friends and loved ones to help you with your list.
You may be getting to know yourself for the first time. All your life you’ve been surviving and seeking outside approval, rather than looking within. Self-care will help change your inner voice from one of criticism and loathing to loving and cherishing.
How to parent yourself through self-discipline
As children, we missed not only nurturing, but structure and discipline as a result of under-parenting. Even loving parents can be over-nurturing and fail to discipline their children well.
So, in addition to learning self-care and nurturing, we need to discipline ourselves as well. Just as a good parent offers both soothing and structure, we need to teach ourselves the necessary life skills of establishing routines, delaying gratification, and sticking with challenges even when we want to give up.
The importance of routines
Forming good routines is an important aspect of parenting yourself. If your parents never taught you the value of such structures, it’s natural you’ll struggle to develop them.
This leaves you at a huge disadvantage in getting what you want out of life. Most things worth having come from sticking to a plan, repeating tasks, and taking good care of ourselves.
For example, making lunch every day before work keeps you healthy and financially fit. Going to bed and waking up at the same time makes you more alert and refreshed.
Reaching goals requires doing the same things over and over. If you’ve never learned these basic life skills, you may not realize how important they are.
Sticking with mundane routines can feel hard for someone who never learned how to establish them. Persevering with the tasks that lead to success is difficult because we have no guarantee of the outcome.
You might fear failure more than others because you were not allowed to explore and try new things as a youngster. That fear subconsciously stops you from moving forward. If you give up, at least you didn’t fail, you tell yourself.
So, learning to parent yourself is not only about the obvious forms of self-care. It’s also self-discipline and establishing healthy routines. It’s valuing yourself enough to follow through on promises you make to yourself.
Once you establish these healthy habits and routines, success will come more easily. You’ll see the fruits of your labor as your consistency brings results in all areas of your life.
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