was convinced I destroyed my life.
My late nights, party weekends, and the ability to spend all my cash on myself abruptly ended. Suddenly I needed to grow up overnight but was dealing with feelings of loss, shame, and disappointment. Even my parents were low-key appalled, while trying to act supportive. “We didn’t raise you this way” was the undercurrent of embarrassment they spoke out loud. When I brought up my predicament to friends, they pretended to care but also informed me there was no way I’d be good at this, and stopped hanging around as I endured new changes. I felt alone, terrified, and negative.
I was a pregnant college student with no plan, no money, and no idea how to land on my feet.
Life rarely goes the way we plan. Whether we’re living at home still, enduring a nightmare of a breakup, facing the reality of college debt, or living paycheck to paycheck there’s often a vision we have for our live that gets derailed. Each of us tries to control our circumstances — but we can’t. “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey,” well-intentioned people remind us. But let’s be honest, the journey is hard. The journey sucks sometimes. What I knew during that difficult season in my life was that in less than a year I would be a mom. I planned to be a kick-ass one, but it would be a battle — against myself.
Each of us will endure suffering and trials. Bad things happen to good people. But dealing with disappointment, grief, failure, and letdowns makes us resilient. Pain is part of life — part of humanity — and you won’t get far in life without learning to stay positive when life is getting you down. And it will, inevitably, get you down.
So how do you keep standing when it feels like the weight of the world is on your shoulders? Here are three tips that helped me develop a PMA (positive mental attitude) when I went through troubled times:
1. Show Yourself a Little Grace
I used to love making myself feel like shit. I would wake up every morning and remind myself how stupid, irresponsible, and awful I was. It was easy to think about how I let my family down and how my friends were non-existent. Those thoughts alone literally made me sick. At one point, I pulled my car over to vomit in a dumpster because of how disgusted I was with myself. The turning point, however, was a conversation with one of my co-workers who had a child at age sixteen. Unlike me, her parents disowned her, and she was under a significant amount of stress.
The sage advice she gave me was this:
“Kayt, you can do this. You’ll be a great mom, but please don’t do what I did. You need to forgive yourself. I was so stressed and upset during my pregnancy — so panicked and terrified during the birth that my son — that he was born under duress. He came out covered in his own feces, choking on them in his mouth. He was underweight and I could just feel it was because I had been so negative and afraid the entire pregnancy. I felt at that moment I failed him and I vowed to always do my best so it wouldn’t happen again.”
I have no idea if her attitude during pregnancy had a real medical effect on her son but I don’t need to. The story alone touched me deeply. It was what I needed to hear to get over myself. Every time I berated myself I would think of what my friend said and think of the amazing, innocent little life growing inside of me. If I wanted to be a good mother, I had to start now. I had to learn to be positive for myself, and for my daughter.
I began making efforts to be kind to myself. So what if I made a mistake? Who hasn’t? What you may need to realize is that failure is a part of life. Give yourself a break and stop being overly critical. Instead of dwelling of the negative, I thought of the things I did right each day, no matter how small. “
Congratulations self, you took your prenatal vitamins today. You finished a good book. You practiced gratefulness. You ate a healthy meal.” Begin to focus on your accomplishments, and not your failures. What did you do right today? What have you learned lately? How have you grown? Now celebrate those accomplishments! 2. Create a Positive Environment
Every expectant mother goes through a nesting phase but mine was a little different. Sure, it was about that deep biological need to get ready and have everything in order but it was also about something deeper. I was creating a positive environment for me and my child to grow — I was creating a home. My daughter and I lived in a tiny room for about a year but it was a wonderful room, full of beautiful things I loved. It was a wondrous place where I learned to be a mother and she learned I would always be there for her.
Not all of us have a way of controlling our physical environment, but we can find small ways to make our space more positive. Even when I was an angsty teen living in my parents house with little to no money, I still made my room feel like mine. I brought in things that made me feel good, like photographs with my friends or notes we passed in class. Then I got rid of things that made me feel bad. Like magazines with pictures of women I would never look like and couldn’t stop comparing myself to. I played music I loved and borrowed books from the library to make the space mine.
Having a positive environment is not just about the physical space, it’s also about the internal landscape. Those friends that told me I would be a terrible mom?
Is there a person in your life bringing you down? Do they have nothing constructive to say or maybe judge you? Create boundaries. Miserable people love company and some people are more than happy to drag you down with them. Confront them, spend less time with them, or say goodbye to them. Life is short so surround yourself with people and experiences that lift you up, not bring you down. It’s important to remember that the environments you’re in and the people who fill them will determine most often whether you feel lousy or uplifted. Bye. 3. Turn it Upside Down
Alex Blackwell, founder of The BridgeMaker, writes:
“I can be an intelligent person and still do something stupid. I can love my wife and still be angry with her sometimes… The most important word in each sentence is ‘and.’ The word ‘and’ suggests a balance.”
I can be unmarried, young, and pregnant
still be a great mom. I can make a mistake and not let it define me for life. You too can fail monumentally and still overcome. and
But it’s easy to get discouraged isn’t it? Instead, try asking yourself, “
What’s the one positive thing about this situation?” Did your long-term dating relationship just end? It could have ended in divorce were you to stay with the person.
Thinking positively is about the language we use and the inner dialogue we repeat. “You failed” isn’t helpful. “You learned something” is. One amazing thing that came out of my pregnancy is that I learned a lot about sex education. I was severely ignorant and talking about sex was taboo in my family. Now I can impact my daughter by giving her the information needed to not repeat the same mistakes I made. Sure, it sucks I was ignorant, but my attitude is not to dwell of the shortcomings of the past, but instead look at how it will improve the future. Try to stop focusing on the problems and instead brainstorm solutions instead.
Had I not gone through hardships and difficulties I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I proved that I am a great mom — I made it out alive and continue to thrive every day. While I continue to fail, I do the best I can and that’s the most we can ask of anyone, especially ourselves. You too are doing the best you can — so be kind to yourself. Learning how to take the negative experiences in life and turn them into positive, learning experiences is an important life skill and will help you through those difficult times. We can’t protect ourselves from disappointment and occasional failure. But as the punk band,
Bad Brains, once said:
“I don’t care what you may say
We got that attitude!
Hey, we got that PMA! (Positive Mental Attitude)”
Or if you’re not into punk rock, then take President Lyndon B. Johnson’s advice:
”Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.”