Throughout my life I have been somewhat of a perfectionist. Growing up I learned rather early to be a people pleaser. I learned that I would receive a great deal of positive attention for all the things that I would do right. Getting good grades, looking pretty, being good at sports all lent themselves to my feeling a sense of being loved and accepted. I wanted to be liked and I wanted to do things correctly. I can remember being scared of getting into trouble and making mistakes. I would feel embarrassed and ashamed that I had done something wrong or failed.
As I grew into my young adult and early adult life, this trait continued to present itself for me. I found that I rather easily put myself aside for the benefit of others, struggled with standing up for myself and my own likes and needs, and was afraid to put myself out there to take risks. Overall, I would play my life “safe,” missing out on opportunities and boxing off my world to the unknown.
I write this now for a couple reasons. I initially set out to write this because I find myself now in a space where I have learned to make my own happiness a priority, I take opportunities as they arise without knowing where they will lead, and I make mistakes on a daily basis and realize that they are great gifts to me and not anything to be ashamed or embarrassed over. I feel proud of this, as it to me has been a great accomplishment in my life. As I began writing this piece though, it quickly became more. It became a piece about my son and parenting.
As we all know, our children will often display the same or similar behaviors, traits, and personalities as our own. I have always noticed my son, since as early as I can remember, be very sensitive to getting into trouble or any sort of reprimand to his actions. He does not like to do things wrong and does not like to make mistakes. He would be embarrassed about it, and it was obvious that it would hurt his heart. As he has gotten older and is able to communicate his feelings and concerns more openly, he has shared with me that he has a fear of getting into trouble. I watch him turn inward if he gets reprimanded at school or by another parent. It makes me sad, as I can feel his pain and the way he sees this as a reflection of him, rather than simply a statement about his behavior.
In writing this I have become conscious of the possible link between my son and I and the importance of my awareness and presence here. I have an opportunity to work through this with him and help avoid a repeating of a pattern of behavior from mother to son. He may not be on the same path as me at all, as he is very much so able to stand up for himself and his likes and dislikes and is very willing and able to take risks. I still must acknowledge the possibility here and find ways to reinforce the goodness with him. Teaching him that mistakes and reprimands are not a reflection of him and his heart, but simply essential pieces to growing up and learning about the person that he is.
Our children are mirrors into who we are and who we have been throughout our lives. If we can find the courage and willingness to be present and look at ourselves honestly, we can provide our children with gifts of wisdom and love to guide them along the way.