Connecting Coaches, Creatives, & Curious Folks through what's emerging in this moment

Misleading Previews

Imprisoned by my own thoughts and feelings

It’s time to change the movie trailer in my mind.  For far too long, some of the images that I’ve carried around just don’t support the truth of who I am and who I’m becoming.  The painting above is a great example of that.  This is a mixed-media piece I did back in about 1987.  For lack of a better title, and since it reflected how I felt when I painted it, I called it ‘Self Portrait’.  If this were an image in the previews to the movie of my life, imagine the film that would follow.

Though most previews intend to lure one in to want to watch a film, the movie trailer in my mind to the film of my parenting life is loaded with all of my most horrific parenting moments.  Every metaphorical explosion, chase scene, stinging word, monster mama bits – all those snippets run over and over again in my mind and remind me of a film I’d never want to see, let alone star in.

My Wise Mom

My mom told me the other day that I was a good mom.  Rather than thanking her, I pushed her words away.  I’d told her about a recent parenting moment, and she said, “See… that was good!”  She went on to tell me what a good mom I’d been when my kids were little:  how I got down on the floor and played with them, read to them, and was creative with them.  She knows I’ve often seen myself as being a ‘terrible mother’.  My brilliant mom continued to tell me that the only one who has ever seen me as a terrible mother is me — I have successfully created all of my own delusions of bad parenting in my own mind.  NO ONE ELSE PUT THEM IN MY HEAD BUT ME.

Not such 'terrible mother' after all

What the heck?  Why would I do that to myself?  …or to my kids?  It doesn’t serve anyone at all to have that script running.  It certainly doesn’t help me become the parent I want to be for my children.

This sent me on a quest for new images.  I found boxes filled with photos of happy children – MY happy children!  There were countless images from adventures we shared, cute things they did, ways they’ve been celebrated.  There wasn’t one photo that could be used as evidence to back up my ‘terrible mother’ belief.  Fancy that.  Of course, I have made mistakes (some real whoppers too), but it’s clear I won’t win the Oscar for worst mother of all time.

In 15 years of coaching, I’ve worked with people from so many different walks of life.  It seems they all have something… some area of their lives where they’ve made up a story about how inadequate they are.  For some, it’s about not being enough in some way. For others, it’s about not being able to create the life they envision is possible.  You can imagine all the different stories and limiting beliefs:  not pretty/handsome enough, not loving/open/capable enough, too emotional/beautiful/charming to be really seen, too wounded/damaged/broken to thrive.  When I work with them and see their beauty, magnificence, capacity, and brilliance, I see so clearly that the movie trailers they have in their minds don’t lead to the amazing beings I see shining brightly before me.

How do we get our trailer/preview to match the movie of our actual lives?  How do we represent our authentic selves to the world and, more importantly, to our selves?  How do we break the pattern of running a script that doesn’t empower us or develop us into the people we’re meant to become?  How do we make sure the failures in our lives aren’t the only thing we capture on our mind’s film?

That’s a lot of ‘How do we’ questions with no answers yet.  I know I could muster some up and give you ‘Helen’s top ten tips for changing your script’, but I’d much rather co-create it with you.  I have some blind spots here.  What do you do to shift this for yourself?   Or, if you’re a coach, how do you shift this with your clients?

With curiosity and hope,



Comments on: "Misleading Previews" (12)

  1. oh wow, Helen! I’ve been super-tuned to my proclivities toward knocking myself lately. How perfectly synchronous that you’re writing about it today.

    I’m noticing that I can shift my thoughts when I pay attention to how my mean self-descriptions sit with others who really see me. I allow them to reflect their view of me back for me to take in. I might even try saying the words that they use to describe me or some quality of me to try on their perspective. I’m finding that, although it feels a bit strange, it also feels really warm and solid, this perspective of theirs. I’m also noticing that when I witness self-knocking behavior in others, especially those closest to me whom I know to be nothing like the story that they’re telling, I shudder from the discordance I feel between who they are, what they mean to me and the story they’re telling. I’m noticing that it turns me off. Interesting, eh?
    This helps me to see that I’m potentially turning others off by my mean self-descriptions, too. I see that in the least, I’m sending mixed signals. Witnessing this in others helps me to not get caught in their drama, but simply reflect my own loving view of them right back over to them!
    I’ve also noticed that there may be something in what they’re saying that’s a testament to something greater. Like they’re feeling helpless in the grand scheme of things. Or is it me who sometimes feels helpless in the grand scheme of things? No matter — same, same. Hearing the mean words in context is helpful here. …and it’s useful to take time to continue the conversation to allow it time to turn around.
    I’m enjoying being at play rather than at odds with my mean self! I think she’s starting to learn that I actually get hurt a LOT less now that I’m no longer simply taking her word for it!

    • helenhouse said:

      Lydia, you always bring such lush contributions to the table! Not only do you generously share your insights, but you use such great language that reading them aloud is fun for the mouth – great alliteration! (Check out that first mini-paragraph…. very fun to speak :)!)

      What a great way to utilize others – noticing your impact on them, noticing how they respond to you, trying on their words and/or perspective. Maybe the biggest challenge is with the mean things we keep completely to ourselves. Then we need to be über-conscious about bringing them into the light so we can run some of your tests. My mean self related to parenting will look to my teenagers’ faces for evidence of my terrible parenting. This, by the way, is NOT a wise practice. Those teenage faces will often miss the grand scheme of things!

      You’re dead on about the turn-off thing. I remember a dear friend of mine telling me when I was having money issues years ago that it was ‘unbecoming’ for me to be struggling. What a help that was to hear!!

      Thanks for playing… there’s much more to find in your words. I’ll come back to this comment several more times 🙂 xo, HH

  2. How do we get our trailer/preview to match the movie of our actual lives?

    Lovely post, Helen….your honesty touches so many, plus, as always, you’re not alone. This question and those that follow in your post have two answers for me…..unconditional self-love and unconditional forgiveness. I’ve covered a lot of ground in learning and applying these gifts in my own life and of course, will never be done. It doesn’t matter what the subject may be… always applies.

    Naturally, I see where it can also benefit my clients. It is a challenge for most of us, yet it helps tremendously when there are a handful of people in our lives that can also love and forgive us without condition. My personal goal (and what I want for my clients as well as every stranger that crosses my path), is to become so adept at this art of being unconditionally loving and forgiving, even when those close to us are unable to meet us there, we will meet ourselves with open arms.

    • helenhouse said:

      Great reminder, Kate! This helped me make a distinction that I hadn’t seen so clearly before – ‘unconditional approval’ and ‘unconditional love’ are two very different things. There are things I may do (or ways I may be) that I don’t approve of, yet I can still love myself unconditionally and forgive myself. Same is true towards others. There are choices my kids make that I don’t approve of, yet it’s easy to still love and forgive them — unconditionally. The tricky part is not taking all those things I disapprove of and sticking them into that movie trailer! That’s where we the film and the previews get misaligned. I think I’ll go through the film reels and dig up some of the brilliant scenes where clean apologies and true forgiveness were the themes. There are lots of those!! Thank you, Kate! Hugs, Helen

  3. Vicki Cotter said:

    Once, when my son was a teenager, and we were battling about something, I made a comment about being a terrible mom. Kyle looked at me and asked if he was a terrible son. I reminded him that sometimes he did bad things, but he was definitely not a bad son. “so, if I am not a bad son, how can you be a bad mother?”. Talk about a perspective shift.

    I think changing scripts is hard. As a coach, and a friend, and a mother, I hold up for others how magnificent they are. And for me, sometimes I have to stop and soak in the incredible people around me. I try to look in the mirror they hold up for me (without flinching).

    Thank you, again, for putting all of yourself out here for us to share



    • helenhouse said:

      WOW – what a powerful instantaneous shifting of your viewpoint. Hard to get back on that limping horse once you’ve been knocked off so completely by your wise teen! If your son would have just nodded in agreement, you might have stayed up there for some time to come. Thank you, Kyle!

      What I see in your words is how vitally important the role we play in the lives of those close to us to help them see themselves as they are. And, how we must surround ourselves with people who will play that role for us. I have one brother and two friends who each tell me how great my kids are and I hear their words. (Others probably say it, I just don’t let it sink in.) When I hear their words, I know I’ve played a role in who my kids have become. Today, I’ll look for chances to acknowledge others as well as hear their words and let them in.

      Thank you, Vicki!!
      xo, HH

  4. Helen:

    Thanks for posting this. What I notice often is that there are few of us who have grown up with the type of unconditional love and acceptance that enables us to love ourselves in the way that we crave and often times easily offer to others. We all tend to repeat the negative patterns and cycles unless we are willing and courageous enough to look and “rewire our legacies”. If we can clear the “hard drive” of old data that no longer serves it leaves space for new ways, new data. We are at choice as to what we want to store and access.

    I find that is level of consciousness requires daily practice. Some days are better than others and that is why it becomes so essential to surround ourselves with people or community that can reflect back all the good that we often don’t see.

    Just a few thoughts…

    Take care,


  5. Helen,

    Please keep these posts coming. I cannot find the words to describe the nerves being touched by your candor and raw insight. With your recent posts I have a vision of being asked to enter the dance floor, but to leave my heavy bags on the sidelines. By choosing not to do so, it is painful to see others abandon themselves to joy and movement while I sit on my heavy bags that are not all that comfortable, yet there seem to be numerous reasons for not choosing to abandon them just yet. This post begs inquiry for me. What would it be like to leave the baggage? What might be waiting on the dance floor? What would my children see? More importantly, what if I dance really well, yet cannot repeat it in the second act? More disappointment and confusion for those with expectations? Hmm……………….Again, thank you.


  6. heavy stuff here 🙂
    The question you ask about how to make it all somehow better has me wondering if that is actually possible or if that is even desirable. Isn’t this Nobody Gets to Be Rong territory? Seems to me that we learn by trying and sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding and then choosing the success to build on. Am loving the idea of the examined life etc and want to resist collecting evidence (in my mind) about how much of a mess I am. We do that to ourselves. Your point about no coach could have surfaced the sabotage until you got ready is a good one. Loosening that jar lid is the perfect explanation
    Great topic Helen

  7. Helen,
    Thank-you for these “mindful Mom memories”. Mom relationships are the “meat of good stories,relationships” and good awareness exercises for me also! Even tho I’m a step-mom I find reasons to dig out shortcomings on this topic from my perspective until I see that mothering comes to the forefront on all levels. Beautiful topic to uncover ahas! Thanks muchas!
    Oh and You’re adorable too..;=)

  8. When I get into a less than empowering story I just remember everything I learned about perspectives from HELEN HOUSE! Truly you are a master at exploring and shifitng perspectives and the first time I saw you demonstrate that I was blown away. 2004?

    And oh yeah when it comes to parenting if you don’t acknowledge the unbelievable ways in which the role twists you around and conforts you into unrecognizable forms you just aren’t being honest. I think it is the most humbing way of finding our edges, learning how to embrace all that is and recovering again and again. I do remember you telling me once “there is no such thing as getting it “right”. Nice being in such good company -the sisterhood of coaching Moms! Looove that picture!!!!!!!!


  9. And every parent has this “monster” lurking inside, as they reflect upon parenting flaws and mistakes. This self-portrait could be a great series starter! Create a sequel Helen!


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