“You’ve been criticizing yourself for years, to no avail. Try to admit yourself and see what happens.” ~ Louise Hay
When I was growing up, I felt that nothing was enough for my father. And all I wanted was his acceptance and love.
He quickly exploded in anger and blamed me for his feelings. He made it clear that his actions were my fault. I wish he hadn’t exploded if I had behaved better.
When he said I wasn’t good enough or worthy, I took him at his word. His angry words really hurt, so I was always walking on eggshells around him and trying not to annoy him.
What confused me about my dad was that he wasn’t always like this. At times he was loving, affectionate and warm, but he could quickly turn into a cold, controlling and cruel demeanor.
As a child, I believed deep down that I was the problem. I thought the only way I could protect myself was by pleasing him and being the perfect daughter.
I became obsessed with accomplishment. It started with my grades and school, then getting the job he wanted me to do. Because sometimes when you achieve something you get a piece of love from him. As a kid, I would sometimes push myself to give up rest and hydration just to show him how hard I had worked.
But it was never enough for him. One day when I was on vacation, he got furious and told me I was worth nothing.
He even told others how terrible his family was when he got drunk. It was beyond humiliating.
Now that I’m 41, the memories of my father are past, but they’re still haunting me. He is dead, he took his own life 15 years ago. Turns out my dad wasn’t okay and was battling the effects of his childhood trauma.
But rather than seek help, he allowed his family and himself to suffer through his addiction, which ultimately led to his suicide.
His dominant and critical voice still lives on in my subconscious. It’s his voice that asks you to try harder, that you’re not good enough, or, “Who do you think you are?”
I now, as a trauma transformation coach, consciously know that his actions are due to pain and that his words are not true, but the younger part of me still believes him. Because the younger part still feels blamed, humiliated, and not good enough.
After his death, I found myself in a relationship where others criticized, controlled, and denied my reality, and again I felt as helpless as I had felt as a child. I realized that
But by investing in a variety of safe havens like support groups, therapy, and coaching, I’ve been able to walk away from these relationships, maintain boundaries, and see how my younger self was hurt by the pain of my past. I was able to keep it from triggering. This created room for a more kind and loving relationship.
However, I recently realized that despite leaving a toxic relationship, I had kept him to myself. I was speaking critically to myself and belittling myself. None was good enough and I pushed myself to achieve it at any cost, repeating the cycle of overwork and burnout.
I push myself to get the “perfect body” through extreme exercise and diet. But then my inner rebel began to rebound and sabotage my diet and my health with emotional eating.
I found myself subconsciously still chasing his love after constantly pushing myself to be better. Even though he wasn’t here, he accepted me.
I had become a controlling, critical parent. The time has come for me to be the parent I longed to be, and not the parent I used to be.
Here are five habits that have helped me recover from a controlling, critical parent. This might help you too.
1. I ask myself: Am I kind to myself?
I created a pattern-breaking pattern by asking myself at least three times a day if I was being kind to myself, and if not, how I could be kinder. I become aware of my actions and inner dialogue and seek out how I can transform them into kindness.
For example, if you’re not sleeping well, is it better to push yourself with cardio or long hours at work, or is it better to go for a walk in nature and go at a slower pace?
Or, if I’m talking to myself without pity for myself, is there a more loving way to communicate with myself than being mean?
I consciously choose to step into that energy every day. I treat myself the way I wish he had treated me.
2. I celebrate myself every week.
Every Sunday I reflect on what I am proud of and celebrate myself even if I do something small like always being kind to myself. I became the parent of the cheerleader I longed for, and my self-esteem grew.
3. I use affirmations.
All day long I affirm that I am safe and sufficient. No need to prove your worth or people, please. I can be just me This helps soften critical voices against past horror stories.
I use affirmations to communicate that I love and care about myself. that you are your number one priority.
4. I choose to listen to my body and respect it.
Instead of pushing yourself physically, ask yourself: “How do I feed them?” Or how do I move my body? What should not be put out of love? Ask yourself if you need rest or if certain relationships or situations are causing you physical and mental stress. I speak softly about my body instead of being ashamed of not being good enough.
5. I regain the parts of myself that have suffered in the past.
My father will always be part of my story. You can’t change the past, but you can take care of the different parts of yourself that have been hurt. Through parenting and inner child work, I can show kindness and love to those areas.
My favorite habit is to go back in time and visit my younger self. I hug her, ask her how she feels, and do everything I can to meet her her needs. I soothe her wounded parts instead of letting her do or accomplish her performance.
Some days the old behavior comes up, but I ask the question, “Am I being kind to myself?” to get myself back on track. Also, I never say to others what I say to myself, so I practice self-compassion and forgiveness.
You had a parent just like you, so if what I wrote resonates with you, take the step to become the parent you’ve always wanted to be. Because a child who is happy, loved, and affirmed will lead a happier and healthier life than a bullied child who hates himself. Give yourself the gift of love and kindness and watch your story transform.
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