Today, let’s take a look at getting a handle on this idea and then applying it in daily life.
This skill is one of those “note to self” types where it’s most effective when close at hand/in mind. With practice using it on days when things feel easy and good, it’ll be easier to use on days when life feels hard and we really need the reminder to help get out of a funk.
To help our teen (and ourselves) get our heads wrapped around this idea, real life experiences and stories can be a great place to start (and may be more easily received than simply saying “life is messy for everyone” as our teens may feel less “told”). If you find an opening in a conversation during the day, awesome. And if not, find the best time you can and then go for it (“Hey — let’s chat for a few”).
Got a doozy of a mistake that could be shared (or age appropriate version) or an experience similar to something your teen is going through? While it might feel embarrassing and uncomfortable, some of the best and most effective stories can be from those closest to us whom we may have put on pedestals (I know I did this with my parents; as I got older and was struggling and they shared some of their life experiences, it was helpful knowing they were human too — it helped me start to cut myself a little more slack, as well as gave me a boost in seeing that they trusted me with sharing about their lives).
Outside stories can also resonate and open up a conversation with our teens. If looking for an idea, check out my talk on Hot Messes and Sh*t Shows (with slides from a presentation I gave to a group of teens, sharing some of my personal messy experiences with depression, eating disorders, and feeling like I was failing at life).
If a conversation follows, awesome. And if not, you’ve opened the door.
The next step is to keep sharing AND then demonstrate how you remind and support yourself. (“Today was a tough day. I said something I regretted at work. I’m not sure what to do about it. And so I’m going to take a deep breath, remind myself that life is messy and we all make mistakes, and that I will figure out what to do next, even though I’m not sure right now.”)
Our teens can’t see what we say to ourselves in our heads, so outward sharing can give them some insight and examples. It may also be helpful to make yourself a written reminder (e.g., “Life is messy” on a note stuck to the fridge, or whatever sort of reminder/note works for you) and put it where your teen can see it and see you looking at it. Modeling this skill is key.
Then keep sharing real life experiences and notes to self. This is a skill we keep practicing — mistakes are going to happen in life (there is no “there” where we’ll do things perfectly every time). The key is in shortening the time we spend worrying about mistakes before or after they happen, and then picking ourselves up and continuing on. And the more we practice, the easier it’ll get and the less time we’ll stay down when a hard moment or day hits (and then we’ll have more time and energy for the fun stuff).
Looking for ideas of reminders to use? Check out these options to get you started (or make your own!):
-Everyone is a hot mess sometimes.
-I can’t fail at life.
-There is no one “right” way. There are many ways to do things.
-What’s another option?
-Mistakes = Best teachers
-Life is messy — for everyone.
Yup, life is messy for everyone — and we’re always doing okay, on the most fundamental level. Being able to quickly remind ourselves of this on hard days is a big step in becoming our own main anchor.