Momisms: Wisdom To Live By, Then and Now

It's time for Living Compass' annual Mother's Day column where we reflect on "Momisms," the classic things moms and the other nurturing women in our lives often say, and how these "Momisms" often contain profound wellness principles. These wellness principles are as true for us today as they were when we were children. So here, in no particular order, are a few of classic "Momisms" with a brief reflection on how each these says still provide great wisdom for us years later. "I don't care what everybody else is doing, you are not everybody else!"

The wisdom embedded in this comment is as true for adults as it is for children. Comparing ourselves to others, wanting to be like others or wanting what others have can be a source of great anxiety and worry. The second half of this "Momism," "you are not everybody else" is a reminder that we are each an experiment of one, each traveling our own unique journey in life.

When I am coaching people regarding wellness habits and goals, it is common for them to say something like, "I know I should do such and such...." Most often this comes from a sense that they should be doing what they see others doing. If their friends are doing hot yoga or keeping a gratitude journal then they think they should do those things as well.

Trying to live a certain way or making a certain change because we think we should, or because everybody else is doing it, is rarely effective. What is effective is listening to our inner wisdom and discovering what our own inner longings are for enhancing our life and pursuing those longings, whether or not "everybody else" is doing it or thinks it is a good idea.

"I don't care who started it ..."

The wisdom here is that a lot of time and energy is often wasted in trying to figure out "who started it." Who amongst us hasn't spent more time arguing with someone about who started a problem than we have spent resolving the problem?

Focusing on "who started it" is one way of playing the "blame game" and when we are caught up in doing that, we are communicating that we believe that we have little or no responsibility for the problem at hand. This is rarely true as in every problem between people, each person plays some part in creating the tension. It is not as important to figure out who started a problem at work or at home as it is to be part of the solution, and that is surely a more productive way to spend our time and energy.

"Don't keep making that face, or one of these days it will freeze that way!"

This exaggeration contains some great wellness wisdom. The behaviors we choose over time become habits, and habits always create consequences. If I regularly am in a hurry, for instance, and don't have time for friends or family, I may become frozen in that habit. This will inevitably impact my relationships, I may even become seen as a person who is rude or unkind. No one wants a bad frozen face, so as Moms say, try not to make a bad face in the first place.

"Be sure to wash behind your ears, because when people are sitting behind you they will notice if there is dirt back there."

We are sometimes unaware of how others see us because it is hard for us to see "dirt behind our own ears." It is easy to have an idealized image of ourselves, forgetting that we all have a little "dirt" behind our ears. I have found that it is not uncommon for someone to seek help because someone else has a problem, not recognizing his or her own contribution to the problem. Others come because someone near them has asked them to do so, they have seen the "dirt" and the person now wants to clean things up. We are often the last ones to be aware of what others are seeing and how we are affecting others with our behaviors.

"Please call me when you get there so I know you arrived safely."

Although when we were children we probably rolled our eyes and thought our Mom's were annoying and/or controlling, this sweet request is an expression of love and concern. The wellness principle here is that it makes a positive difference when we look out for one another. Wellness is rooted in our connections with others. Stay connected and let others know where you are, literally and figuratively.

So in honor of Mother's Day may we all pause and give thanks for all the mothers and other nurturing women in our lives who have taught us these and other important lessons about wellness.