mother holding toddlers hand whilst balancing

Beyond Parenthood

Written by Nikki Cox

The key to knowing whether you truly value yourself as a human being is by looking at the way you act toward yourself. When we have self-value, we see ourselves as being worthy of love and respect, and we consistently treat ourselves accordingly. More often than not, however, mothers tend to view acts of self-care, self-compassion and self-kindness as weak, indulgent or selfish.

If you are like most mums today, you probably believe your kids are the most important people in your family. It’s true that they are usually the loudest and most demanding, but the most important? You love your kids so much that you want to make them happy and give them everything, but to put them first all of the time is not only de-valuing yourself, it can also be detrimental to your own mental health, happiness and life satisfaction.

You and your family do not exist because of your kids; your kids actually exist because of you, and they will thrive because of the stable family you have built. Your kids wouldn’t eat well, have nice clothing to wear, live in a nice home, and enjoy vacations without you. The most important person in an army is the General. The most important person in a corporation is the CEO. The most important person in a classroom is the teacher. And the most important people in a family are the parents.

Although it is natural, normal and necessary to put your children's needs ahead of your own, we mums tend to over-action this message. It is in our biological make-up to want to help others, and this is especially evident once we give life to another human being. But while it’s wonderful to make selfless gestures or give your time to good causes, you need to be wary of meeting other people’s needs at the expense of your own all the time, as this is subconsciously telling yourself, and your children, that you are not worthy enough to be treated as valuable.

Let’s take a look at how you can start to shift the behavioural habits that may be showing a low sense of self-value, and establish new ones to begin treating yourself like the valuable human being you are!

Know What Doesn’t Define Your Value

There are many misunderstandings and misperceptions about self-value and self-worth. Taking a look at a list of all the factors that do not determine your self-worth can help remind you to refocus on the parts of you that are truly valuable.

  • Your to-do list: Achieving goals is great, but doesn’t have a direct relationship with your self-value
  • Your job: It doesn’t matter what you do; what matters is that it fulfils you
  • Your social media following: It doesn’t matter how many people think you are worthy of a follow or a retweet
  • Your age: This is simply a number and does not factor into your value as a human being
  • Other people: It doesn’t matter what other people think or have done or accomplished; your personal satisfaction and fulfilment are much more important
  • The number of friends you have: The quality of your relationships is what’s really important
  • Your relationship status: Whether flying solo, casually dating, or in a committed relationship, your value is exactly the same
  • The money (or lack thereof) in the bank: If you have enough money to physically survive (which can, in fact, be $0), then you have already achieved the maximal amount of ‘worth’ you can get from money (which is absolutely 0!)
  • Anything or anyone but yourself: You are the only one who determines your self-worth. If you believe you are worthy and valuable, you are worthy and valuable. Even if you don’t believe you are worthy and valuable, guess what - you still are worthy and valuable!

It’s easy to get caught up in chasing money, status, and popularity - especially when these things are highly valued by those around us and by society in general. But by making an effort to take a step back allows you to think about what is actually important.

Challenge Your Inner Voice

Self-talk is the voice you may sometimes hear in the background of your mind (for some more loudly than for others) and can be positive or negative. Observing your own self-talk patterns can help to see what effects they are having on your self-value and the way you act towards yourself.

For some people, their inner voice always has something negative to say, and they often hear words like ‘can’t’, ‘sorry’, ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘hope’ and ‘maybe’. This kind of self-talk leads to concentrating a lot on your mistakes, and immediately interpreting criticisms and comments negatively. You tend to see all the bad things that happen to you as permanent, and frequently generalise them to other aspects of your life, for example, “I screwed up again; I always screw up; I’m not good at anything.”

When your voice inside your head is talking positively, it uses words like 'want', 'can' and 'will', and is considering bad things as temporary and seeing them as isolated. For example, "The weather caused it”, “That was a rough couple of hours”, and “That wasn’t so great, but I can do better next time." It is also considering good things to be permanent changes, for example, “I’ve done well with this; now I know how to do it.”

As you might imagine, it can be very difficult to see yourself as worthy and valuable, and act kindly towards yourself, if your inner voice is not being so kind. Some strategies to counteract or change the negative messages being sent by your mind to be more positive include:

  • reminding yourself of past, related events where you were successful in achieving something
  • reminding yourself of all the skills you have to perform well with
  • quickly interrupting thoughts with a verbal phrase like “I Reject It”, or a tactile reaction like flicking a rubber band on your wrist, then replacing the thought with something positive
  • daily practice of positive affirmations, such as “I am a strong, beautiful woman and a great mum” or “I am doing a great job”

Show Your Value Through Self-Compassion

Many mothers struggle with showing themselves compassion, even though we are ever-so-quick to extend compassion to others. Adapted from the original exercise developed by psychologists and leaders in the field of mindfulness and compassion, Drs. Chris Germer and Kristen Neff[1], the ‘Self-Compassion Pause’ can be extremely empowering and liberating, as it can become a powerful tool to improve your ability to be kind to yourself.

The Self-Compassion Pause

  1. When you find yourself stressed out in a difficult situation, take a moment to pause
  2. Reach up and touch your heart, or give yourself a hug if you are comfortable with that
  3. Take a few deep breaths
  4. Acknowledge that you are suffering and see if you can treat yourself with as much kindness as you would a dear friend or your child who was struggling
  5. Say out loud 3 phrases of compassion:
    • first, acknowledge your suffering — “This is really painful/difficult right now” or “Wow, I am really suffering right now!”
    • second, acknowledge that all humans suffer and struggle — “Suffering is a part of being human”
    • finally, offer yourself compassion — “May I love and accept myself just as I am” or “May I remember to treat myself with love and kindness”
  6. Return to your daily activities, intentionally carrying an attitude of self-compassion and acceptance to your day

The last step may be the most difficult, it is also the most important one!

Start Valuing Yourself

So, if the key to truly valuing yourself is acting toward yourself with love, compassion and kindness, here are 10 simple ways that you can start to achieve this:

  1. Carve out regular pockets of quality ‘me’ time
  2. Nourish your body and brain
  3. Move your body regularly
  4. Engage in regular stress management and maintenance techniques
  5. Reconnect with nature
  6. Practice heartfelt gratitude daily
  7. Invest in good quality sleep
  8. Practice saying ‘no’
  9. Reward yourself regularly, even for small achievements
  10. Talk to yourself like you would your own child or best friend

By investing in these small actions, you are creating a more positive narrative that is telling both you and your children that you are a worthy and valuable human being, beyond being a parent.


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