All The Things I Tell Myself

Categories Life, Love, Self

I am not where I imagined I would be at this point in my life.

When this topic came up at dinner a while ago, my husband asked me to promise I would not host a self-pity party. I told him I would do no such thing because some lies just cannot be told. Even as I read my own words, I am a little stunned. Did I actually say that? Wow.

Perhaps the earliest drafts of this post were indeed a running list of self-perceived failures.

I am not as thin or as fit as I would like to be. I am not good at house-cleaning or maintaining organization.

I told myself it was OK to say those things because these are facts and the truth can always be told. I allowed myself a little bit of room to run.

Of course you’re not thinner – you didn’t exercise today. 

Your house is messy because you’re lazy. Or maybe you’re overcommitted.

You’ve never been organized. You’re too distracted to be organized.

You set yourself up for failure by taking on too much. You don’t know how to prioritize.

Before I knew it, I had allowed that horse to take off on a gallop; a wellspring of self-doubt and self-criticism flowed freely.

I am not a good wife. I am not a good mother. I am not on top of things like my mother. I am not patient like my grandfather. The cat is sick so I must not be a good pet owner. I am not a good cook anymore. I am not on time for anything. I am not a famous writer. I am not ever going to be a famous writer. I’m not even a good writer. I am not making as much money as I want from my writing. I am not getting enough done every day. I am not making enough progress on my goals. I am not what people expect me to be. I am not what I expect me to be.

 I am not good enough.

 I am not enough.

I am not…

It’s amazing how quickly that mindset took hold. And for the next few many days I felt it affect every part of me.

Every part.

I would like to tell you that I have been doing an intentional experiment to see how mindset and attitude affect the whole person, but that would be a lie. I could hit delete right now, never tell anyone a word of this, and write instead about how awesome everything is going right now, but that would also be a lie. I would like to tell you that I quickly and effectively pulled myself out of the muck and adjusted my attitude. Lie. I’ve been pretty damn miserable lately.

My husband is helpful in his completely rational and practical way. “Hon,” he’ll say. “You don’t have time for this line of thinking right now.” And that sets me off, even though I know he is completely right. Time and energy spent wallowing in self-criticism could be so much better spent otherwise.

I give him credit though, for always being the calm to my storm. That doesn’t mean I always see the light and actually become calm; but I do hear him and I do at least throw the thought into the back of my brain somewhere.

This particular funk of frustration has lasted quite a while. I’m not entirely certain that I’ve completely emerged on the other side just yet. Sometimes when you get yourself into a ripe bad mood, it feels strangely good to hang out there for a while.

But there is someone here who calls me Mom. And she hears every word I say.

It makes me sad to admit that my child has heard me say – out loud – so many negative things about myself lately. And every time I do, she disagrees. She puts her hand on my cheek, looks me straight in the eyes, and tells me in simple and direct words what I have always told her: You can… You do… You are…

She tells me I am a great mother – the best in the world. Her eagerness to read my words tells me she loves my writing and her empty plate tells me she loves my cooking. She tells me what I have told her countless times – keep working and you will get there. But instead of heeding my own advice, I kept saying it, but not doing it. And that was the problem.

The truth is I am the only one making these judgments about my value. I am the only one holding me back from reaching the goals I have set. I am the one who sets expectations about who I am or who I want to be. And I am the one who needs to remember to tell myself countless times that I can… I do… I am…

Because someone here calls me Mom. She calls me beautiful and wonderful. She calls me a great chef and a great writer. She calls me love. In her eyes, I am good enough. I am more than enough. I am still, in so many ways, everything she knows about the world and people and how to love…

The truth is I know she is right. I am a good wife and mother. I am a great cook. I am a writer, whether great or not. I am moving steadily on the path to my dreams. And so I will keep on working to be the best example of everything I can possibly be, and to be the best version of myself I can possibly be. It’s not an easy task. Some days life is tough – really tough. But I’m tougher.

I am good enough.

I am enough.

I am…a work in progress.


This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s post is inspired by a combination of two prompts: “I am not…” and “They call me…”

FINISH THE SENTENCE FRIDAY is a link-up where writers and bloggers share their ideas based on a particular sentence. If you’d like to stay ahead of future sentences and participate, join our FACEBOOK GROUP

Lisa A. Listwa is a self-employed writer with experience in education, publishing, and the martial arts. Believing there was more to life than punching someone else’s time clock and inspired by the words of Henry David Thoreau, she traded her life as a high school educator for a life as a writer and hasn’t looked back. She is mother to one glorious handful of a daughter, wife to the nicest guy on the planet, and reluctant but devoted owner of three Rotten Cats. You can find her adventures and thoughts on living life deliberately here on the blog.

28 thoughts on “All The Things I Tell Myself

  1. Noticing is the first step. One morning I caught myself picking out socks from the sock drawer. Looking at the balls of socks covered in pet hair I began to lambast myself. I don’t vacuum enough. I don’t do laundry enough. Only a loser would have per hair covered socks. ETC. Now in that one area I have learned that socks are just socks. We need to catch ourselves.

    1. Noticing and catching – I like how you put that. Very true and very important.
      For the record, I have pet-hair covered socks in this house. Even when they come out of the laundry “clean.” I think pet hair is just that pervasive. And perhaps a reminder that we need to hold ourselves to reasonable standards, you now?

  2. When you said you were gonna go write a post you weren’t kidding! Great job. Shoulda woulda coulda never works. Oswald Chambers called it “the unfathomable sadness of ‘the might have been.’ ”

    You go and do what you can, It has to be enough.

    1. Thanks, Paul. I had to finish this one and get it out there. I like that Oswald Chambers line…that’s very true.
      Right now I’m off to do what I can to finish a thing I promised I’d finish by today.

  3. This is brutally honest, beautifully written, and I felt so connected I thought you were me! I get the blues every now and then, I hate those dark cloud, and the presence of doom. Roll it out, write it all down on toilet paper, and give it a flush! Great post Lisa.

    1. Cheryl, I suspect many more of us feel like this from time to time. This was indeed brutal – so much that I had to put it aside and stop when I first started it because I could find no redemption. I think that was when I realized I needed to do a little flushing, to use your words. But I got the spark I needed and I’m glad I put it out there. Loved your post this morning, too – reinvention is a big thing for me.

  4. I feel this post so much <3. It really is my daughters that remind me how important positive self-talk is and motivate me to engage in it. Otherwise I would be struggling a lot more than I am.

  5. Why do we do this to ourselves? Oh friend, you ARE enough. Today and every day. Listen to Zilla. She knows what she’s talking about. I’m glad you got this out there and while I can’t speak to your cooking, having never tried it, I know that you are a great writer.

  6. Oh, the monkey mind! It’s those messages behind the perceived failures that can drag us to what I can the pit of toxic thoughts. Your husband has much wisdom in saying no time for that kind of thinking. And you have the wisdom to recognize the watchful gaze of Your little ones. Mine are grown up now, but I still love to see myself through their lens. That’s what I love you to. Great post!

  7. I hear you. I do the same far more often than I’d like to admit. You are enough…the seeing yourself as in progress is enough….isn’t it so much easier to tell someone else than to tell ourselves?

    1. SO much easier to tell someone else than to tell ourselves, Hillary. My husband was the one who pointed out that I tell our daughter the positive things all the time, but wasn’t telling myself. I kind of hate when he’s right, but I’m also very glad when he is.

  8. This was excellent, so very honest and something I could relate to so well. We spend our lives telling ourselves everything we are not, all summing up to we are not good enough, we are not good, we are not even ok. Then one day we see that we are teaching our daughters, and our sons by example, and they will learn that message from us. It’s not the one we want them to learn. We want them to learn I AM, I CAN, I WILL, and also I WILL NOT when it is appropriate or time to change the expectations we place on ourselves. Sometimes we need to re-evaluate. Even at sixty I can safely say that very few people find life turns out like they expected, but that doesn’t mean it can’t turn out to be something you feel good about and are at peace with. We all go through a funk now and then when we can’t quite stay on track with anything, but as I preach at my daughter over and over, life cycles. Take time to breathe, and even mope a little, then get up and get moving. One thing, one step, one day at a time. I can counter all your negatives with positives I know for certain about you, but you are the one that needs to believe how amazing you really are. The key to life is starting where we are at (not where we wish we were), and figuring out what to do next. I suspect that by the time you reach the old age of 60-something you will find that your life has worked out pretty well, and that your daughter grew up to think hers is good too! XOXO

    1. Thanks, Josie. You are a dear and sweet friend. I really do know that life has worked out pretty well so far. Truly. It may not be quite what I planned or expected, but maybe it’s better. Maybe the rough patches are blessings in the end – I do believe that. But even as I believe it, it’s still hard when you’re in the midst of the obstacle or whatever. I’m impatient. Very impatient. And I want things to work the way I want right now! So perhaps God’s helping me practice a little. But I do keep going – I promise that I haven’t stopped moving toward these goals yet. Just got stuck in a puddle of muck for a bit, I suppose.
      Time for sleep now and tomorrow get up and keep moving.

  9. My daughter heard me say aloud that I’m invisible. She said, “Of course you’re not!” I was half-healed and half-horrified that she heard me.
    We are all beautiful works in progress.

  10. I do this too, Lisa. Beat myself up. No matter how much we’re loved, we have a way of making ourselves miserable by measuring ourselves to standards that we have set for ourselves. I’m glad you have your loving husband and daughter to keep reminding you that you are enough.

  11. Your daughter is a wise soul, Lisa – and she gets at least some of that wisdom from you. That itself is proof that you are enough, and that you are doing a great job at your most important job. I appreciate your honesty – this is a powerful and beautiful piece. You write better than “good enough” – don’t let the negative voice in your head tell you otherwise.

    1. Dana, thank you so much for your beautiful note here. I am repeatedly amazed at how much this child affects me, influences my choices. I mean it makes sense, of course, but it is profoundly impressive. This one took me a while to get out – wasn’t even sure I was going to hit publish, but I’m glad I did. The FTSF prompts have a way of pulling some hefty thoughts out, don’t they? 🙂

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