With Mother's Day approaching on May 11th, I am pleased to share a story of how my mother helped me learn to help myself. When I was twenty-two years old, I was in the first year of my psychology doctoral program. Even though I had all the outward bravado of a beginning graduate student, I didn't have the discipline and maturity needed for graduate school. I realized this when I received a very disappointing grade on a large research paper!
Being a well-adjusted 22-year-old male, I used one of my very prized, highly sophisticated coping strategies – I called my mother to complain and get pity. My parents, by the way, have always been, and continue to be, huge, supportive fans of mine, with their indefatigable encouragement and endless patience and understanding. I told my mom how hard graduate school was and that I was not getting enough "positive strokes" from my professors. My mother, in her infinite wisdom, said something I did not expect her to say: "Jeff, I suggest you buckle down, try your hardest, and give yourself your own positive strokes. "
My mother's words hit me right between the eyes. Yes, I have to be strong for myself and not wait for others to praise me for my efforts. So I share this wisdom with you. When you encounter those inevitable disappointments and setbacks in life, don't get hung up on waiting for others to give you positive strokes! The only person you truly have control over is yourself. Give yourself gratitude for choosing to get back up, dust yourself off, and go forward. Life is not easy. But it is easier when we can value ourselves when facing hardships and adversity!
Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein is a psychologist with over 23 years of experience specializing in child, adolescent, couples, and family therapy. He holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the State University of New York at Albany and completed his post-doctoral internship at the University of Pennsylvania Counseling Center. He has appeared on the Today Show, Court TV as an expert advisor, CBS Eyewitness News Philadelphia, 10! Philadelphia—NBC, and public radio. Dr. Bernstein has authored four books, including the highly popular 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child (Perseus Books, 2006), 10 Days to a Less Distracted Child (Perseus Books 2007), and Why Can't You Read My Mind?