This post originally appears on healyoursoul.net on 10/23/16.
“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” – Peggy O’Mara
I saw this quote today and was struck with just how true and inspiring it is. For the longest time, I had made SO many excuses for my dad. He lost the love of his life. He was doing the best he could. We were not easy kids. The list goes on and on. And while all of these things may have been true, it does not change the fact that a very strong sense of perfectionism, fear of failure, and unworthiness was ingrained in me, from the time I was a teen.
I can exactly pinpoint the first time I realized that my dad had given up on me, had written me off. I was 17, and in the process of applying for colleges. Going to a small, fairly prestigious, private school, in a small, very wealthy town, put a lot of pressure on students to not only go to college (not going was not even an option at my school), but it also put pressure on us to go to GOOD schools. A large number of my classmates applied only to Ivy League schools, but my SAT scores and grades did not allow me that option, nor did my ambition steer me in that direction. But I digress. I was in the process of applying for colleges, and while I don’t remember the exact situation (perhaps we were arguing over the fact that I hadn’t finished a certain application?), I remember being in the computer lab, talking on the teacher’s phone to my dad after school, and I can remember him telling me he wasn’t even sure if I would get into college. I’m sure the comment was meant to incite fear and light a fire under my behind, but it actually had a much different effect on me. I was devastated. It shook me to the core. My own father did not have enough faith in me to believe that I could get into college. I had always been somewhat of a perfectionist, just like my mother, but from that day forward, I would develop such a different attitude toward life and toward myself. I thought, I’ll prove him wrong. And I did, because I got into every single school that I applied to, and was able to choose the school of my “dreams” (more on that huge disappointment another time).
But that fear of failure and perfectionism manifested itself in two very different ways. 1. It made me into the biggest procrastinator ever, because I couldn’t even begin the simplest of tasks for fear that it would not be perfect. 2. I would completely abandon my responsibilities, because my dad had no faith in me, and I wasn’t worthy of love anyways, so why bother trying. As you can imagine, this led to serious problems in several aspects of my life, including schooling, relationships, living conditions (why bother cleaning if no one cares enough to visit me, and my living space will never be perfect anyways), etc.
It has taken me YEARS to even begin to dig through these emotions and try to process and repair the damage done, but I am finally on the right path. I was recently connected to an AMAZING therapist, who recognized my super analytical mind and knew that I needed to know the how and why of what was going on in my head and heart before I could begin to heal from the experiences of my past. So, I’d like to leave you with two final thoughts. 1. Please, think about the way you speak to your children. You might just be trying to get desired results out of them, shape them into the people you think they are destined to be, but your words can have a huge, very negative effect on those sweet babies without you even knowing it. 2. If you are hurting, there is NOTHING wrong with seeking help. Some people can work through these issues on their own, but others (myself included) need help and guidance to even begin to touch the feelings they’ve buried so deep inside themselves.
If this post resonated with you, if you can relate, if you need a friend, please feel free to share it with others and let me know in the comments below.
Much love and hope,