On any given Saturday you will find me running. Mile after mile, for hours as I condition my body for the longest race I will ever run. I think. Pray. Reflect. Worry. Doubt. Cry. Laugh. Be. It’s the worry, the worry I have over other’s words that I want, no, need to let go. I have friends who are so good at this. I admire their strength and wish I could have even an ounce of their ability to let the words that don’t matter, slide off their backs.
A friend shared a quote with me recently and it stuck with me. I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet. ~Mahatma Gandhi.
I think of it often because I have a tendency to take things to heart and let the words of others hurt me to the core. Someone can say something negative, and it doesn’t matter if it was to intentionally hurt me or not– I’ll stew on those words for a very long time. Someone else can share kind and positive words with me about the very same matter, and yet it’s the ugly, negative words that replay in my head, filling me with hurt and heartache.
I was out for a 3 hour run one Saturday and the negative words someone said to me replayed over and over in my head. Up until that point, this person has never asked about my training. The one and only time she brought up training for my ultra-marathon, it was negative. For three hours, her dirty feet trampled through my head.
I tried pushing those negative words out of my head but each step I ran, I thought of all the words I should have used to defend myself. To explain that my training has been a true gift from God. I wanted to show her that my children and husband have been so supportive and let her peek into my house on any given Saturday and she would see my family enjoying a lazy morning of building legos, watching cartoons, building forts–my sweet children and their father spending the most beautiful quality time together, while I’m running my heart out. Sometimes checking in every so often to refill my water bottles and get a chorus of cheers: “Mommy you can do it! You’re going to win the race!” And sometimes there are whispered confessions: “Mommy! Daddy gave us a cookie!” My heart bursts.
I wanted to defend myself–and show how day in and day out I spend all my time with my children. I run during Baby’s nap times, after the kids are in bed, while the big kids are in school, sometimes early in the morning before they wake up—that those 3 hours they spend with their own father on any given Saturday are a gift to all–I refill my cup and they refill theirs.
But that quote replays in my mind. And I know I need to make the change to stop letting the dirty feet of others march through my head. Because as another friend pointed out: when I let those thoughts consume me, I’m not making room for the positive words of the people who do love and care for me.
Why do I let negative words effect me so much? Why? Because words are powerful. Words can lift you up or tear you down.
I recently read a blog post called Tell a Friend: You Are a Good Mama. It tugged at my heart. I realized I don’t tell my friends and loved ones enough that I think they are good mamas. Because they are. And what I realized on just one of the many Saturdays I was out running is: we don’t lift each other up enough with our words.
Because words are powerful. Words can lift you up or tear you down.
We’re so quick to pass judgement and share our opinions. The mom who throws fabulous pinterest worthy parties? She’s criticized for being an over achiever, for wanting to impress others instead of focusing on her children. The mom who works out? She’s criticized for neglecting her kids, for being selfish for taking care of herself and being vain. The mom who keeps a tidy house? She’s criticized for not making memories with her children, for not having her priorities straight. The mom who works full time? She’s accused of letting others raise her children. The mom who stays at home? She’s dismissed as not being a valuable member of society, for having nothing to contribute other than making babies. The mom who has 1 child? She’s depriving her child of siblings. The mom with 5 children? She’s accused of not having enough time to spend with each child–surely her children are neglected and don’t feel loved like those in a 2-child household. The stay-at-home-mom who sends her kids to preschool, rather than keeping them home? She’s criticized for not caring enough about her children to keep them home.
Why is it so hard for us to compliment those moms. To say: You threw a beautiful party. You’re setting such a good example of health for your children. Your house is beautiful–your hard-work shows. You have my utmost respect for working and helping support your family. You are valuable. Your heart must be full and your child is blessed to call you mom. Your heart must be full and your children are blessed to call you mom. You are a great mom and you know what’s best for your children.
I remember a moment last year when I was picking up my daughter from school. Twin Brother, Twin Sister and I excitedly waited to see Big Sister walk out with her first grade classroom. I was pregnant with Baby number 4 and was almost due. A parent of one of my daughter’s classmates from her kindergarten year glanced at me, and I said hello. She took a second look and her mouth dropped open while she muttered with disgust: You’re pregnant with another one? My heart sunk. Her words stung. I gripped the twins hands tightly as they looked up at me with their beautiful brown eyes, sensing something was wrong. It didn’t matter that I had so many people happy for me. It didn’t matter that I was over the moon with excitement and love as we awaited our Baby’s arrival. Because her words hurt. More than I should have let them. And all it would have taken for her to change that interaction was a simple congratulations when she realized I was pregnant. Just words.
Because words are powerful. Words can lift you up or tear you down.
photo credit: rubigirl photography
And looking back to when Baby was just born, I realize now my heartache over her words should have never happened. Her dirty feet should never been allowed to enter my mind–those words were insignificant when I see the beauty and joy four children have brought me. My promise to myself this year is to not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.
I cringe as I look back, just over the last year and think of the many comments I have made in passing, not thinking before I spoke (or typed on Facebook) that could have unintentionally hurt someone else’s feelings. I’m truly sorry. As we start this new year, I am challenging myself to compliment more–not just friends and family, but strangers too. True compliments. Not words like: I don’t know how you do it. Or, I could never do that. Or, You must have your hands full. But genuine compliments, words to affirm and show I notice something true and good about them. Words that will lift them up, rather than tear them down.
I don’t want to be the dirty feet in someone else’s mind.
Never Give Up,
Dear Friends. I challenge you. Please join me on my journey this year. The Kindness Project. Many of you have heard of the pay it forward movement…people will pay for a meal or a coffee for you and you do the same for someone else. Please join me in the movement of lifting up others with something as simple as words. It can be to a friend, family member, stranger. It can be face to face, text a note/post on Facebook. I’ll be posting a weekly check in on Facebook where you can share your experience for that week.
Also published on The Huffington Post’s: The Third Metric