Living with Yourself and Unpredictability

When doing your best is good enough.

Posted Jun 01, 2011

Most of us tend to be hard on ourselves at one time or another. But for women who are going through postpartum depression or anxiety, the impulse to judge oneself harshly is intensely magnified. Decisions feel impossible to make and then, once made, women often beat themselves up with constant rumination and guilt. Did I do the right thing? What if such and such happens? Was was I thinking? Why didn't I do it this way instead? What is wrong with me?! The list is endless. Women who are biologically and psychologically vulnerable and feeling the pangs of inadequacy during the postpartum period are only too familiar with this extremely loud inner critic.

Postpartum women need to give themselves permission to turn the volume down on this internal voice and begin to let things be. Things are going to be unpredictable for awhile. That's a given. Chaos comes with the territory. Learning to tolerate higher levels of stress and change (not easy!) will help ease the pressure to be perfect and in control right now. Self-help books can help. Mindfulness exercises or CDs can help. Therapy can help.

Ralph Waldo Emerson teaches us this when he says: "Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense."

We know it's not really nonsense, but when we worry, we spend energy focusing on things that have not yet happened.  You need to try to stay in the present moment so you can get better at appreciating where you are and what you have. You need to remember that it's really okay to make mistakes. You need do believe you are doing the best you can so you can begin to forgive yourself and shed the burden of self-criticism. Why? Simply because it feels better to feel good. It takes a great deal of energy to worry and focus on things about which we can do nothing. 

No one is doing a better job than you are. Everyone is just doing the best they can.

Be kind to yourself. It feels better.

copyright 2011 Karen Kleiman

About the Author

Karen Kleiman, MSW, LCSW, is the founder and Director of The Postpartum Stress Center, a treatment and training center for prenatal and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.

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