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I have something to tell you and I think it’s going to make you mad.”

My daughter’s voice was small as she stood in the kitchen doorway while I complained that I was tired and still had to make dinner. “What is it?” I wish I could say I was patient. “I promise I won’t be angry. I’m just in a bad mood.”

She glanced down at the floor, clearly ashamed and nervous about what she had to tell me. “I think I want to hurt myself. I don’t feel safe.” Those words changed the course of my day, my week, and probably my life.

That night I spent six harrowing hours in the emergency room with my 19-year-old daughter on suicide watch, going home only when she had been admitted to a local psychiatric hospital. I was worn out beyond belief. How does a mother sit next to one of her children and know that her child’s life had become such a dark place she was willing to end it?

I am grateful she reached out to me that afternoon with her fears of hurting herself. Not many young adults will do that. Why was I a lucky one? What was different that she’d felt safe enough to open up to me even as I groused about how bad my day had been and how tired I was?

Be a lifeguard, not a helicopter

In 2014, there were almost 43,000 deaths from suicide, making it the 10th leading cause of death, but it’s the second leading cause of death for young adults ages 15-24. Why is it that at their darkest hour our youth feel they have no one to turn to for help? What can we do differently to reach out to them and help them feel safe?

There’s a lot of talk about helicopter parents. I like to think of myself as a lifeguard parent instead. A helicopter parent hovers overhead and swoops in to save the day whereas a lifeguard parent stands by, encouraging their child to take risks and only jumps in when the child is in over her head and calling for help.

There are four key choices I made when I decided to be a lifeguard parent; these choices made a huge difference.

1 | Choosing to get in the water

A lifeguard allows us to choose whether we want to be in the water. As a parent, I always encouraged my children to think for themselves. I’d offer my advice if it was appropriate, but I never made the decision for them, even if I took criticism for this from others.

Of course, there were times when I simply had to step in and be the one in charge; we’re parents and that is what we do, but when I could I left it to them. When they were young, I’d coach them through this step, and I still do when they are making a big decision, but I have to do it less often because they are able to think critically about the decisions they are facing.

2 | Allowing them to stay in the water

The lifeguard never decides if the water is too cold for us, or if it is too deep for us. I’ve never witnessed a lifeguard advising people to stay out of the deep end simply because it was over their heads. A big caveat to letting children think for themselves is allowing them to face the consequences of their decisions. If they never experience the negative impact of a bad decision, they will never understand why it was a bad one.

I’ve rarely intervened when my children have made a bad choice and had to suffer for it. Of course, a lifeguard must judge when someone in the deep in is in distress, and as parents sometimes we have to make those same decisions and step in even when we’re not wanted.

3 | Trusting them to know what they can do

A lifeguard assumes you’re a swimmer until you prove otherwise. They may recognize that you are a lousy swimmer but they will never stop you from trying. Letting our children face the consequences, of course, means that you have to let them make mistakes. There may be many times that you are aware of them making a decision that you know will have a negative impact on them. It is respectful to allow them to do that!

4 | Pulling them out with dignity

A lifeguard pulls a distressed swimmer out of the water without judgement. A key aspect of being a lifeguard parent is never saying I told you so. I have never seen a lifeguard pull a drowning person out of the water and berate them for getting in over their heads. As a parent we can’t either. If we don’t give our children a chance to fail, they will never learn that they can succeed. When we say, “I told you so,” the only thing we teach them is that our decisions are better than theirs, insinuating that they will always need our help to make sound decisions.

Lifeguards are safety nets

As a non-swimmer, I know I’m always a little bolder when swimming under a lifeguard’s watchful eye than I am when I’m swimming on my own, even with other strong swimmers. I know the lifeguard’s got my back and that if I get a little further out than I can handle they’ll jump in and pull me to safety. As a lifeguard parent that’s what I want to be: the one who stands beside my children as they interact with the world, willing to pull them in when they get over their heads.

When I was a teen my swimming friends competed for the lifeguard jobs. It had perks, like getting to be at the pool or beach and out in the sun all day. Being a lifeguard parent has its advantages as well. It opens the possibility of being a parent and a friend to your children, and that leaves you free to admit when you need help or have made a mistake.

As a lifeguard parent, I don’t have all the answers. In fact, sometimes I need other lifeguards to help me do my job. I have often admitted to my children, just as I would to my friends, that I’ve made a mistake, misjudged something, or needed to update my way of thinking about something. Letting our children know we make mistakes strengthens the relationship between us by showing them that none of us are perfect and that we all make poor choices sometimes.

The water is really deep sometimes

I have something to tell you and I think it’s going to make you mad.” I may never have heard those words if I hadn’t chosen to be a lifeguard parent. I might have woken up to a daughter who had overdosed and was maybe fighting for her life, or worse. 

Further information about suicide and suicide prevention for young adults can be found at PsychCentral and The Yellow Brick Program.

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As if new mamas don't have a steep enough learning curve already, one event takes most of us off-guard: that first postpartum period. After what was probably a hiatus of a year or longer, the return of your menstrual cycle isn't just back to business as usual. In most cases, it's initially less predictable and stronger than when Aunt Flo used to come calling.

The good news? By preparing yourself for what is to come, they don't have to be so intimidating — especially if you also stock your drawer with THINX underwear, made specifically to absorb menstrual flow. Every pair of THINX undies is created with their signature 4-layer technology that is super-absorbent, moisture-wicking, odor-fighting, and leak-resistant. Translation? You never have to worry about leaks or stains, even when your period is a surprise.

Here's the DL on those first postpartum periods:

1. When your period will return varies from woman to woman

The biggest factor that affects your period's return is whether or not you are breastfeeding. "If a woman is not breastfeeding, then the first menses usually returns at six weeks postpartum to three months postpartum," says Elizabeth Sauter, MD, Fellow of The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Among exclusively breastfeeding mamas, Sauter says it can be harder to predict when menstruation will return in full force: It's rare for your period to return until at least six months postpartum (at which point you've probably introduced some solid food to baby's diet), but it may not return at all until you are done breastfeeding a year or more postpartum.

Before you get back to it, whenever that is, it can help to add some new undies from THINX, to your dresser drawer. We especially love the chic and practical Hi-Waist undies for postpartum—or any—bodies.

2. Your first postpartum period will probably be heavier than ever

Whenever your period does return, it will likely be in full force as it's not only the shedding of your uterine lining, but also the shedding of any clots or blood from the delivery process. (And you thought you got past that during the initial round of postpartum bleeding!)

While this can be a less-than-pleasant experience, Sauter says that many women eventually enjoy less painful and intense periods as they get farther away from baby's birth.

Because you are probably already getting up enough during the night, waking up to change a pad or tampon probably isn't high on your list of things you want to do. We love (like, love) that the most absorbent THINX undies can hold up to two tampons' worth of blood.

3. Your menstrual cycle may not be as easy to track

Again, whether or not you are exclusively breastfeeding has an impact on how reliable your period will likely be for the first year or so. As Sauter explains, mothers who had regular periods before pregnancy and do no breastfeed often fall back into that rhythm within a few months of baby's arrival.

For breastfeeding mamas, even once your period returns, it may not come back in exactly 28 days (or whatever frequency you were used to). However, for some women, this is a silver-lining.

"Many mothers who had irregular menses prepregnancy in fact start more regular menses postpartum," says Sauter, adding the disclaimer this isn't always the case, especially for women with polycystic ovarian syndrome.


Like everything motherhood, soon enough you will be right in the normal routine of life with a period again — only now, with period-proof underwear by THINX, you'll find it's easier than ever to take on your period with confidence.

This article was sponsored by THINX. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Deciding to start a family is a huge, life-altering decision, and for couples who need to use in vitro fertilization, that decision all too often comes with a huge, life-altering price tag.

As a same-sex couple, Texans Ashleigh and Bliss Coulter knew they would need to turn to IVF to start a family, and thanks to some new developments in reproductive technology, they were not only able to both carry their baby at different stages of pregnancy, but also save money and time in the IVF process.

The Coulters made international headlines this fall when news broke that they had both carried their son, Stetson (now 4 months old) thanks to a procedure called effortless IVF, and the INVOcell device, a small medical device that basically uses a woman's vagina as an incubator.

"I wanted to have a child that was biologically mine, but I didn't want to carry the child," Bliss tells Motherly. Her wife, Ashleigh (seen above holding Stetson), did want to be pregnant.

It's common for same-sex couples to turn to reciprocal IVF (also called "shared motherhood") when one woman wants a biological child but her partner wants to be the one to be pregnant. Reciprocal IVF sees one partner's eggs fertilized and then implanted in her spouse's body.

It doesn't come cheap (costs per IVF cycle range between $16,000 and $30,000, according to WinFertility), but for some couples, it is the perfect way to start a family.

The Coulters knew that's what they wanted, but when they heard about the work Drs. Kathy and Kevin Doody of the Center for Assisted Reproduction (CARE Fertility) were doing, they wondered if the method the Doodys pioneered, effortless IVF, could allow them to add a layer to their reciprocal IVF plan—and remove the need for a laboratory incubator by using Bliss' own body.

When the couple met with Dr. Kathy Doody to inquire about whether effortless IVF with the INVOcell device could be used in reciprocal IVF, they were thrilled to hear the doctor say she couldn't see why not. "We've done close to 200 effortless IVF cycles with heterosexual couples," Dr. Doody tells Motherly. "But this is a special opportunity that same-sex couples can share in."

Dr. Doody and her husband are passionate about helping more couples (both same-sex and heterosexual) access IVF by reducing the costs associated with the procedure. The effortless IVF method makes things more affordable by reducing sonogram and monitoring appointments and by using the patient's health, age, and weight to determine the dosage of medication (which reduces the costs of the medication and eliminates the need for appointments for medication adjustments).

"I think the onus rests on us as physicians, it is our obligation to figure out ways to help as many patients as we can rather than just stick to a very confined model of what we think IVF should be," Dr. Doody says.

"The way the cost is less is just not with the device. There are fewer visits, there's no blood work during their IVF cycle, [and] they have a fixed dosing protocol," she explains.

For the Coulters, having fewer costly appointments than are required with traditional IVF was a great bonus, but the fact that Bliss got to carry the embryo that would be implanted in Ashleigh was even better, and actually easier than they expected.

Regarding the INVOcell device, Bliss tells Motherly "there was no side effects, it didn't hurt at all. I continued to ride my horses like I do, and so that was pretty cool. That kind of took me by surprise in a good way."

After the embryo that would become Stetson was done incubating in Bliss and moved to Ashleigh, another welcome surprise came along. Although Dr. Doody seemed super confident about the likelihood of success, somewhere in the back of her mind Ashleigh has worried that it wouldn't work. "It was something that had never been done, honestly," she tells Motherly. "I was so shocked that it happened on the first try. I think that was the biggest thing for me."

The first time she felt Stetson kick, it all became more real. Finally, she and Bliss were going to be parents. A shared conception experience followed by an uncomplicated pregnancy and the birth of a healthy baby boy. It was an absolute dream come true.

Both the Coulters and Dr. Doody tell Motherly they hope the story of Stetson's conception not only helps same-sex couples share in the IVF experience, but that it also makes IVF more accessible to all couples who are working within a budget or live far from an IVF clinic.

As Dr. Doody points out, there are places in America where there isn't an IVF clinic in the entire state, and Bliss says that with the minimal appointments she and Ashleigh experienced, she could see effortless IVF being a good option for people who live far from a clinic and need to keep out-of-state appointments to a minimum.

"The concept of effortless IVF is to make IVF more accessible to more patients," says Dr. Doody. Whether that means making reciprocal IVF a more shared experience for two mamas or reducing the burden of the investment on couples in general, she's keen to help more families experience the life-altering results of IVF with a less life-altering price tag.

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A couple of weeks ago, I woke up sick with the double whammy of a really intense migraine and mastitis. My husband had an important meeting at work he couldn't miss. My sister had work, and my other sister could (and did) help a little, but also had to do a million pick-up and drop-offs for her three children so couldn't dedicate her day to us. So my husband texted his parents at 6 am to ask them if they could come down to help with the kids. They live three hours away and they were at our house by 9:45.

Incredible, right?

They didn't just care for our three children (which would have been more than enough in our eyes)—they also cleaned, did mounds and mounds of laundry, and cooked for us. I was able to rest all day and I felt a heck of a lot better that night then I did when I woke up that morning.

Extremely incredible, right?

The day before this, I had asked my sister to come to the doctor with me to see if it was, in fact, mastitis that I was dealing with. The day my in-laws came to our house I asked my other sister to drive my daughter to school. And my mom, five hours away, (along with her prayer pals) were on the job praying for my speedy recovery. Both my head and my breast were in SO MUCH pain—I had absolutely no other choice than to rely on help from my village.

But when my husband texted his parents that morning I immediately said, "Colin I really wish you wouldn't have done that. I don't want to interrupt their whole week." I felt so guilty and anxious because of it. I wanted the help, but I didn't want to take them away from the things they needed to get done or wanted to get done.

And what I am realizing more and more is—they want to help us. They don't want to see us drowning. They don't want to see us suffering. What they want to do is whatever is in their power to help us stay afloat. They don't want to see us barely survive—they are hoping and praying and helping us to see us thrive.

Because when someone loves you and cares for you, they are invested in you, your well-being and your future. They are rooting you on. So they help. That's called being kind. That's the good stuff. (Take the good stuff.)

Now… why is it so hard for us to accept that as a fact, and not feel guilt or shame because A: we need the help and B: because we ask someone else for help, taking them away from their life and to-do list and priorities?

When I talk to my friends about asking for (or actually more like, not asking for) help, I hear things like:

"I feel guilty for putting others out."

"I feel like an inconvenience."

"It's hard to allow people to see me vulnerable."

"There's a lot of pressure to have it all together."

"I feel like I should be able to handle it, so maybe they will think that too."

I have felt these so hard. It's not easy being totally comfortable with other people doing things for me. But I know I need to have people in my life who I am able to be that vulnerable with. Being able to be the most honest version of yourself with someone—letting your guard down completely—that is a true gift. That's worth holding on to and worth utilizing.

Being vulnerable is honorable. It requires strength, grace and grit. You've got that inside you, so let yourself use it. Let yourself be helped. You are worthy of a whole village, mama.

I mean, realistically, we all need help at times. That's life. My sisters will need my help one day, so will my in-laws, so will my parents. Just like your neighbor will too, and that helpful mom at your kiddo's preschool. You will help them because you'll remember how amazing it feels to have been thrown a lifeline when you needed it most. That will make you feel good.

There will be stages of life where we will need more help than others. They're called seasons. Lean on your people in the busy seasons of your life.

Because—what if we all admitted that motherhood can be so, so hard sometimes? What if, after we did that, then we asked for help from the people we love? Or what if we just took it when it was offered to us? Without fear or guilt or inadequacy or feeling like we owe them or beating ourselves up over it?

That would be called support.

That would be called teamwork.

That, my friends, would be called love.

Love for one another, love for ourselves, and love for our village. ❤️

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I welcome a new couple to my therapy office. They are in their late 20s. He gives a smile, seeming apprehensive. She reaches for his hand and appears anxious to begin.

"So, what I know about relationships is that we all have our own experiences," I start. "Because of this, it is important that I hear from both of you today about what is going on. Who would like to start?"

They look at each other.

After a pause, she says, "We are here to find out how we can help our relationship before we get married. We want to know more about ourselves, and our relationship so we will be better equipped to deal with conflict in the future." She continues, "And, we hope to develop a relationship with you so that when we struggle in our marriage, we can come back to work through it."

Here's what we know about relationships. It is not IF you will struggle in your relationship. It is WHEN you will struggle with the one you love—and that's completely normal.

When we enter romantic relationships, we open ourselves up. We share our innermost longings and secrets with the person sitting across from us, becoming more vulnerable. We take risks and we hope they will "catch us" in our times of need.

But here's the catch.

The moment your partner means something to you is the very moment they have the ability to hurt you. This is an important point. Your partner will hurt you—it's inevitable. When we hold out our hearts to the ones we love, who we so long to be accepted and valued by, we open ourselves up to being hurt.

No one individual can meet all your needs—our partners are not perfect. They will make mistakes and this is okay. It is not about having a perfect relationship without difficult moments. Rather, it is about repairing the hurts and mistakes that happen so we do not keep repeating them.

Repair is important. And sometimes we need help to repair really tough moments. This is why my mind silently cheered for this couple in my office—they were preparing for their tough moments, becoming more informed and ready to face adversity—together. As a couples therapist, this was music to my ears.

When we hit tough moments in life or in our relationship, we want to know:

  • (A)re you there for me?
  • Will you (R) respond to me?
  • Are you (E) engaged with me?

Dr. Sue Johnson, the creator of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy and author of best-selling couple books Hold Me Tight and Love Sense, calls this the A.R.E conversation that helps create security and connection between couples. It is what we look for in our partner during times of stress.

But when couples are distressed, they have difficulties responding to each other in this manner. Dr. John Gottman, couples therapist and author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, has studied over 3000 couples and describes four toxic patterns of communication:

  1. Criticism
  2. Contempt
  3. Defensiveness
  4. Stonewalling

When couples are distressed, they fall into these negative communication patterns that consist of negative displays of emotions, blame and hostility and withdrawal. These cycles become entrenched into a repeating, cyclical pattern that continues to be reinforced over time. And often, while a couple is having an argument about different issues, the pattern of communication is the same.

For some, this may look like "I blame because you withdraw" or "I withdraw because you blame." In these patterns of communication, couples experience emotional disconnection, increased negative affect and unmet needs and longings. This further perpetuates insecurity and feelings of rejection and abandonment.

Couples who are unable to resolve problems stay stuck in their conflict. According to Dr. Gottman, these negative communication patterns are linked to higher rates of divorce.

Couple’s Therapy: What is it and how can it help us?

Couple's therapy, and therapy in general, is becoming more widespread and accepted. We see this in the general discourse of famous couples – Kristen Bell's recent "Love Ballad" to her therapist, and her and Dax Shepard's openness about seeking couple's therapy to enhance their marriage—just one example of public figures opening up about seeking relationship support.

Despite more and more couples willing to attend therapy together, I often hear misconceptions from others about what couple therapists do, and this stops them from seeking help.

“Why would I want to talk to a stranger about our private issues?” “They will just give advice that I already know.” “They will take your side.”

Couple's therapy is not an advice-giving, blaming experience. Instead, therapists work to develop a safe and collaborative relationship with both partners. It is key that both individuals feel heard and validated. Their experience of the relationship is real and in order to help change, it must be understood.

Therapists also act as process consultants, slowing down interactions and observing patterns that the couple may not be able to see. Couples often think they can get out of these patterns themselves; however, these patterns are entrenched and have been reinforced over the lifetime of the relationship. It becomes hard for both partners to change.

As an objective third person, therapists provide insight into what is keeping them stuck, communication errors, and aspects about each individual that is contributing to the distress. Tools are also provided to couples.

When did you take a course titled "Relationships 101?" Yet, we know that our relationships are one of the most important parts of our lives. This is why we fight for them—we fight to matter, to feel heard and validated. But we never learn how to do this.

In addition to getting out of sticky patterns, couple's therapy can help build increased emotional closeness and physical and sexual contact. It can address complex feelings between you and your partner, or perhaps from past relationships that are impacting your relationship today.

Therapy can also help restore trust between partners, perhaps from a difficult emotional event, or from an emotional or sexual affair. It can also help improve communication, problem-solving and negotiation skills. These skills can also be used to help couple partners improve their parenting ability.

Finally, sexual intimacy is key in our relationships but so often partners do not know how to communicate about and resolve sexual difficulties. Therapists can help resolve some of these issues, perhaps related to desire and orgasm, or sexual pain, or to enhance sexual practices.

“Therapy is too expensive and time-consuming.”

Yes, it is. I do not challenge others when they say this. What I do ask, however, is that they consider how important their relationship is to them and if a meaningful life includes a connected companionship.

Our relationships do not come easily to us—it is okay to struggle in them, but it also means we must work at them. We are not born "good communicators." We need to learn how to do this. Like any skill, we need to put time, practice and effort into it.

While therapy is expensive, so is a vacation. What if one year you postpone the vacation and invest in your relationship? Perhaps then you will have a lifetime of connected vacations.

Many of the couples I see in therapy have date nights after our sessions to continue to connect and discuss key issues. Perhaps the babysitter stays for an hour longer. Or, other wants are put on hold to prioritize the relationship. You make this choice to engage and invest in your relationship.

“We’re not that bad. Why would we go now?”

Dr. Gottman's research shows that the average couple will wait six years before seeking help. Waiting this long further entrenches your negative patterns and can have significant consequences for you and your relationship.

Research shows that relationship distress can cause adverse effects on both physiological (i.e., cardiovascular, endocrine and immune functioning) and emotional health (i.e., mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders).

When couples attend therapy prior to years of significant distress, they can learn to communicate and discuss difficult issues before they become unresolved arguments. This is a prevention model, rather than a treatment model.

In addition to helping to improve the relationship, couple's therapy has also been shown to help individual emotional and behavioral problems, as well as mental and physical health disorders. Think of couple's therapy as prevention, regardless of where you are in your relationship, we can all benefit from learning how to better connect with our loved ones.

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The other night, my husband was away on business, our newly renovated (and by no means finished) house was a disastrous mess, my kids were melting down over what felt like every little thing—I had a moment where I felt my whole body fill with anxiety, and... I cracked.

I admit it. I big-time, no-holds-barred, fully and completely, cracked.

I sat on the floor, looked around, and with noise and chaos enveloping my body, I placed my cloudy head in my hands and I just cried. It was bigger than a cry, really... more like a sob.

I look back at this scene and I see my kids—they are shocked into stillness. Their meltdowns immediately evaporate. The look on their little faces as they see me at my lowest point.

Jaden comes over first (Farrah soon to follow). He wraps his little arms around me and with so much empathetic sweetness, he says, "It's okay mommy. I love you. This is just how you're feeling now, but it won't last. It's okay."

WOW. He got it. He GETS IT! He said to me the words I say to him in the moments when HE needs to hear it the most. It felt serendipitous, yet completely logical, and I immediately started to feel better. The clouds began to lift. And I realized that he has been listening (whether it be subconsciously or consciously or BOTH), the whole time.

His display of pure, sweet, empathy, brought me back to reality, and with a deep love for these little beings, and a sprinkle of self-compassion, I wrapped my arms around my two favorite petite humans. It was going to be okay.

Life is a messy, complicated game. One where we are on a never-ending journey of learning how to balance all of our emotions, while figuring out how to deal with our successes, failures, highs, lows, dynamic array of relationships, our position within those relationships, transitions.

Life is perfectly imperfect, yet it seems we (our society) are always striving for an unrealistic attainment of consistent joy and happiness. It's not going to happen.

There is nothing wrong with striving for joy—this is a very innate part of our human experience. Wanting happiness is normal, but understanding that our emotions are not static, and letting go of expectations of perfection and constant bliss, gives us the freedom to be. Just as we are, in each and every moment, to just be. And with this, comes a natural ability to show ourselves the compassion we would show to a friend, a child or a spouse.

And I realized that, just as my children are learning how to empathize and show compassion toward others by watching me and how I display these acts of kindness, they are surely also learning the art of self-compassion simply by being exposed to how I use it in situations like this.

Dr. Kristin Neff, Associate Professor Human Development and Culture, Educational Psychology Department, University of Texas at Austin, and founder of SelfCompassion.org, says, "having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others. Think about what the experience of compassion feels like. First, to have compassion for others you must notice that they are suffering. If you ignore that homeless person on the street, you can't feel compassion for how difficult his or her experience is. Second, compassion involves feeling moved by others' suffering so that your heart responds to their pain (the word compassion literally means to 'suffer with'). When this occurs, you feel warmth, caring and the desire to help the suffering person in some way."

She goes on to say, "instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings—after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?"

So back to the scene of us huddled together, tears drying up, I was mindful of my words, as I spoke to my children:

"Thank you for this. Your compassion and empathy makes me feel so good. And I know that this is just a moment in time. Sometimes we feel happy and sometimes we feel sad, and this is all a normal part of life. I honor and accept my feelings, just as they are... and you know what? I feel better already. Thank you, and I love you."

I started to learn the power of self-compassion when I began my personal development journey years ago. In allowing ourselves to just be, and not labeling our emotions, successes or failures as 'good' or 'bad', and honoring all of our feelings, is the most empowering life hack I have ever realized. And in being true to myself and showering myself with self-compassion when I need it, I hope for my children to learn from my example and have this skill at their fingertips early in life.

Originally posted on Love Powered Co.

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