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Reframing criticism

During one season of my life - the season that these hooligans (my darling youngest children) were about this size - I regularly received not-so-constructive criticism from store clerks and the strangers standing around me in line.

"Watch out!"
"He is too big for a cart."
"Aren't you watching them?"
"Why don't you do something before one of them cracks a skull?"
"They are giving me a heart attack!"

Going shopping wasn't my favorite thing, but over time I learned to laugh at the inevitable comments about my entourage.

Leveraging this skill, my therapist helped me learn a very valuable lesson about "bossing my brain" in other situations. I was struggling with the negative comments a certain person in my life routinely launched at me. The criticisms were very painful, as I was just trying to do my best, and this person's opinion mattered to me.

I cried about the situation more than once while slumped on my therapist's couch. Finally, she replied to one of my stories by teaching me a life skill I will never forget.

"React to her words like you would if the same comment came from a grocery store clerk."

In other words, I should not allow idle comments from people who don't know a thing about me (or my kids or my life) to wreck my day. I can channel Jody Moore and think, "It's okay for people to be wrong about me," or "I'm 50% awesome and 50% a hot mess."

This skill works in so many situations, like:

  • when my child leaves home after arguing with me and I know he will make frustrated and one-sided comments about me to his friends.

  • when someone at church says something they wouldn't have said if they knew my heart.

  • when "a bottom-dweller recently belittled my existence" (name that movie).

Now, this skill takes time to develop. After years of practice, I am not impervious to the outlandish things people say. (Sidebar: WHY do people feel compelled to say rude and insensitive things? This is a topic for another day. And also, the 10-year-old photo above still raises my blood pressure a bit.)

However, I am getting better at it. The phrase, "It's okay for people to be wrong about me" has become almost a kneejerk reaction to negative feedback. Like last week, when the Barnes & Noble store manager said she liked When Mommy Feels Sad but didn't think it would sell in her store. It's okay for people to be wrong about me.

Certainly, sometimes I am wrong and need to be corrected, but most of the time my instinct to fret over the silly things people say just makes me tired. Feeling wounded is not worth the effort! I don't need to carry around a bunch of heavy stuff that doesn't serve me. And neither do you.

That's what grocery carts are for.


Are you looking for a great tool that will help you talk about mental illness? When Mommy Feels Sad is an illustrated children's book that teaches about depression and the difficult feelings and experiences that go along with it. Start a conversation about depression with your loved one today.

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