In my practice, the most common refrain I hear from parents is, “I’m so worried about my daughter! If she would only study more/be on her phone less/listen to me then I know she would be okay.” I can empathize. My middle child turned 21 last month, and I am finally able to take a deep breath and smile with the knowledge that she’s just fine. I have been worrying about that girl since she was born, and it hasn’t helped her at all. All worry has done is to burn up the energy that I could have used for supporting her, instead. And that’s the insidious quality of worry and fear; it eats energy and love.
Some people will say that worry shows that you care. Wrong! Worry is not love; worry is fear. It has nothing to do with the worry-ee and everything to do with the worrier. Worry is the inability to accept reality, as it is. Worry is the ego’s response to a situation that it can’t control. Worry is really supreme ego masked as concern. To think that you will control an outcome with the sheer force of your fear is bordering on delusion. The only thing you affect with fear is your own health, because fear and worry keep your body in fight or flight mode, 24/7, and, as we all know, that is not a healthy place.
I know of what I speak, as I spent about 35 years of my life worrying. First about surviving boarding school, than about getting into an Ivy League school, than about why I sabotaged my chances of getting into said school, then about getting married, then about why I sabotaged myself by marrying the wrong person…twice. Do you see the pattern worry sets up? Because you’re only focused on the reaction to circumstances, there’s no room for play or creativity or listening to your own intuition. Your Inner Judge (the part of you that forever compares you to the group to keep you “normal”) will try to keep you safe, at all costs, and her vehicle is worry. She will sabotage you with stupid mistakes, like forgetting the application deadline to the Ivy League school that was a shoe-in at the admissions interview, thereby relegating you to your vastly safer and less-challenging back up school. Your Inner Judge will keep you forever comparing yourself to other people, and their seemingly perfect lives, worrying that your own life won’t measure up. So, you decide to spend your life worrying instead of actually doing anything. Or your decision to act leads you to playing it safe instead of living your life.
Decisions made from a place of fear are never based in thoughtful compassion, love and creativity. The only way to stop fear-based decisions is to stop worrying and start practicing acceptance. Yes, you CAN! You can, too, stop worrying. It’s just a choice—an in the moment decision to choose acceptance and gratitude over fear of the future, or the past. How many times have you worried so much about an outcome, say protecting a private correspondence or your daughter being shunned by mean girls, that you leave the company salary figures on the copy machine, and your daughter goes to school with bed head just to get away from your craziness? Worry and fear produce crappy fear-based results. You can actually worry the feared result into reality.
So, how do you stop the worry train? You stop listening to your Inner Judge and start valuing your Inner Guide (the part of you that knows your true path, regardless of how “different” and challenging it may be). When you’re feeling worried, you notice it in the moment, then choose to feel the fear. Accept it. Forgive your Inner Judge for using fear to protect you from harm, and then choose gratitude, instead. Think about all the ways you are grateful for your life right now. Better yet, write them down! I do this every day in my head. When I first wake up I think of 10 things that make me smile. If I’m having a case of the worries, I stop and write down my 10 things. Right now they are: 1. Air conditioning on a hot day 2. My hot husband on any day 3. My daughters who make me laugh daily 4. My career that doesn’t involve punching a clock 5. My Pride of friends 6. My volleyball girls who make me the proudest life coach alive 7. My puppies who seem to think they must always be in my bubble 8. My computer that allows me to work from faraway lands 9. The ability to travel to faraway lands 10. My audience of fabulous moms and girls. See! Now, I am grinning from ear-to-ear, thereby making my seatmate on the plane a little concerned with my sanity. Gratitude works anytime to take us out of our fear-based brain, where everything looks like a threat, into loving acceptance where everyone looks like a friend and even really challenging situations seem manageable.
Acceptance of my daughters, as they are, has been the biggest gift of my coach training, and it’s the real secret to Plugged-In Parenting. Even if your kids are not in the place you think they should be, accept them. Find something about them that makes you grateful: the way they smile at you in the morning when they’re still half asleep, the way their humor is so funny even with a little bite, the way they are kind to little kids and animals, the way they challenge you with thoughtful and baffling questions out of the blue. They are YOUR kids, and they will be just fine—because you’ve taught them well. Trust yourself from a place of love—and trust your daughter, as well. From a place of acceptance and gratitude, you are both much more likely to make good decisions. Teach your daughter that worry is meaningless, by choosing love instead.