Train your inner voice

My New Year’s resolutions have evolved since the 1980s when I vowed to take excellent care of my Christmas present: a new Cabbage Patch Kid, Ramona. I taped her birth certificate to my Strawberry Shortcake bedroom wall, and I pledged—aloud—to be “the best mother.” At seven years old, I diligently cared for her. I then promptly lost interest and began filling a gigantic book with puffy, glittery stickers. My aspirations for Ramona remain true for my present-day, real-life children. However, I have added a caveat in 2020: appreciate the mother and the person I am. I want to improve my inner voice, which is just as powerful as the one I use to speak aloud. And, I want that for you, too.


I think being kind to ourselves—and reframing negative thoughts—applies to several facets of our lives. For example, my son is six months old, and I have yet to lose my pregnancy weight. I feel discouraged about the extra pounds. When I look in the mirror, I make an effort to tell myself, “I’m not where I want to be, but I know I can get there.” And then I remind myself that my body worked hard to give me a gift. 


I also try to reframe negative self-talk in my professional life. One of my duties is to teach a university-level public speaking course. Last year, a bright student was performing exceptionally well, and then he missed a significant assignment. What was my immediate reaction? I thought: “Maybe my instructions were unclear.” If a colleague had described this same scenario to me, I would have told her the student was most likely preoccupied. But why didn’t I say that to myself? 

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You don’t always have to raise your hand

When I was raking leaves in our front yard at six years old, my grandfather rested his large, heavy hand on my shoulder and said, “I like that you’re a hard worker and that you never quit.” I adored him, so his comments warmed me while we were outside in what I’m sure was 55-degree weather. More than three decades later, that South Dakota memory remains vivid, which illustrates how much his philosophies continue to shape my life.


During my early 20s, I was the sole employee of a weekly newspaper in the Black Hills. I created story ideas (and assigned the stories to myself); photographed events; sold advertisements; tracked new subscriptions; designed the newspaper; and yes, delivered the newspaper to area businesses. The newspaper publishers, who lived in a nearby town, learned I was staying up all night to complete these tasks. One evening, they knocked on my apartment door and asked me to consider a reporter role at one of their other newspapers. I was horrified. I asked, “You want me to QUIT?!” They responded, “We don’t want you to quit; we want you to try an easier job. We think maybe you don’t have enough experience for this job. You’re young, and this is a big role.”

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Reframing the motherhood conversation

My husband and I are expecting a baby boy in early July. While my pregnancy is fairly obvious, I still mention it when relevant. During a salon appointment, I mentioned it so my stylist would know to use a pregnancy-safe product. Then, in making the small talk which is typical in salons, the stylist asked my age. When I revealed I was 40, the hairdresser responded, “Wow, you started having babies late, huh?”

Late. While looking forward to my new baby, “late,” is the last adjective I would ascribe to his upcoming birth. Despite my understanding that the stylist intended no malice, I immediately felt like I needed to defend my decision to have a baby at 40. Instead, I did not say much, and the topic faded. The topic shouldn’t fade, though. The burden was on me to reframe the conversation, and I didn’t.

I did not meet my husband Tim until my early 30s. We married after more than a year of dating, and I became pregnant the following year. We were both thrilled. It happened quickly, and I soon began planning the nursery theme. But at the six-week mark, I experienced complications and was admitted to the emergency room. The medical staff could not detect a heartbeat. The doctor spoke to me in a kind tone and said, “There’s a small chance the calculations are incorrect, and you aren’t as far along as you thought. But, more than likely, this is a miscarriage. I am sorry. My wife experienced six of these.” Tim, always hopeful, thought positively. But I instinctively knew the outcome.

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