I’ve been studying mothers for years and if there’s one thing I believe it’s this: Mothers are not at war with other mothers, we are at war with ourselves. Every day we battle against ferocious dragons of self-doubt as they weigh us down and wear us out by inhaling everything we do wrong, nothing we do right, and blowing it back in our face.
Self-doubt is a beast like that.
One of the tell-tale signs that you have a dragon of self-doubt taking up space in your psyche is operating from what I call a “more mentality.” You believe that you always need “more” than what is in front of you in order to be happy. You need to lose more weight, get another promotion, take a better vacation, or win some big award in order to finally feel up to snuff.
Dragons of self-doubt feed off a “more mentality” by convincing you that you must supersize your career, salary, home, and fitness routine in order to feel better about yourself. The refrain is simple: You’re not good enough and more is more is more is more. So, go ahead, get your tired self up and figure out that next promotion, vacation, school application, or dream house.
What if we stopped letting the future predict our happiness and instead found it in the present moment? What if you didn’t strive for any life other than the one you’re currently living?
If you’re looking to stop basing your happiness in a hypothetical future and start soaking it up right now there is a simple answer: gratitude. In other words, being thankful for what you do have versus longing for what you don’t.
Why does gratitude work so well? Because it can’t coexist with resentment, fear, and anxiety.
Try it. Try to be thankful for a sunny day and pissed off that it will rain tomorrow. Your mind finds it impossible to process both emotions at once because they’re in direct opposition to each other.
So, the next time you find yourself annoyed with the present moment and tempted to go fix the future with all your might, hit pause and be thankful for what’s around you. And magically you’re reminded that what you have is enough without the need to always grasp for more.
The power of gratitude is simple. It turns your stuff into enough.
Here’s an example of gratitude snapping me out of my more mentality: last year when my daughter and I went on our first cruise together, I found myself incredibly overwhelmed by the number of people on the ship, lack of food between meals, and near-constant seasickness.
In other words, I found myself wanting (and sometimes begging) for more than was meeting my eyes. More space on the boat, more alone time with my daughter, more margaritas that didn’t come out of slushie machines. The list was endless. By the end of the trip I had a bad taste in my mouth but desperately wanted to be grateful for the current situation instead of trying to fast forward to a better one.
On the final day of the cruise, my daughter and I made a list of the fifty amazing things we saw or experienced on the cruise. Our list included things like eating soft-serve ice cream five times a day, getting henna tattoos, contorting our bodies to fit in the tiniest shower on the planet, and reenacting that famous scene from the movie Titanic on the front of the boat.
It was a fun exercise and forced me to recognize that it was a better vacation than my mind was allowing me to remember. In other words, it taught me that the imperfect vacation with my daughter was enough. I didn’t need more.
This experience reminds me of a fortune cookie message I keep posted inside a cabinet I open every morning at home; it simply says “The pleasure of what we enjoy is lost by wanting more.”
Gratitude is a powerful force against our dragons of self-doubt. Gratitude says, “What I have is enough and I don’t need more.” There’s nothing else quite like it.
If you’re looking for a daily gratitude practice that’s easy to stick to, try turning gratitude into a game with your children. As part of our bedtime ritual, I lie next to each of my kids and we name our peak and pit from the day, i.e., the best and worst part of the past twelve hours. It’s easy and doesn’t require a lot of brainpower or time.
Give it a try! The demands of a busy life are taxing, but they don’t exhaust your soul. It’s the warped belief that you can and should be doing more, that’s keeping you down.
QUESTION: Do you find yourself plagued by self-doubt, dissatisfied with your current life, and/or always wanting more?
CHALLENGE: Choose a way to incorporate a gratitude practice into your routine this week—whether it is adding it to your child’s bedtime routine or your mealtime conversations, or just keeping a personal journal. See if you feel differently about your life after this regular practice.
Edited for Power of Moms by Sharon Brown and Nollie Haws.
Image from Unsplash via PicMonkey.
This article originally appeared on Katherine’s blog here.