Your parents are judging you. And there is nothing like spending time with your family over the holidays to remind you that you have not yet achieved perfection. Whether it is said out loud or completely unspoken, we know what our parents want and expect from us. “What do you mean you aren’t going to church?” “How can you even think about leaving your job in this economy?” “How did you pay for this new car?” “What happened to that weight management plan you were on?” “Don’t you think my grandchild should be wearing a jacket, eating healthier, playing fewer video games, respecting others?” “Shouldn’t you just ……”
The problem isn’t that parents judge, the problem is that when they do, what we are hearing is “I’m not good enough”.
No matter how old we get, we still want our parents to be proud of us. We want our Moms and Dads and in-laws to believe we walk on water. Because if they believe we are awesome, amazing beings of perfection, maybe we can believe it, too.
But when the holidays roll around and we are reminded that we’ve gained weight, grown wrinkles, have unflattering hairdo’s, mismanaged our money, careers, marriages, and children, it’s pretty hard to believe we have achieved perfection.
But we have. Because life isn’t about doing everything right. It’s about making mistakes. It’s about using those mistakes to move closer to being your most authentic self. It’s about realizing you were perfect all along.
My children, right now, are specimens of perfection. Gorgeous little angels. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. In fact, I can tell you exactly what they should wear, eat, and play. I know who they should play with, how they should study, how to treat their friends, other adults, and each other. I know which shoes go with which outfit, how to shave 10 seconds off a mile time, and how to point your toes in a cartwheel. I am an expert on what my children can do to achieve “perfection”, and yet they already are.
So how do we untangle these ideas? How can we be both perfect and flawed at the same time?
1- Accept the fact that your parents will judge you, but recognize that it’s your parent’s way of wanting the best for you. When they see you happy and enjoying your life, it will help them let go of their little instruction book of how to achieve happiness. Unless……..
2- Your Mom or Dad is the kind of parent who isn’t happy unless everyone around them is suffering. In this case, living well will only annoy them. Realize their inability to accept you and your choices, is about them and their need to be needed and need to be right. Choose happiness for your own benefit and thank your parents for catalyzing your personal growth.
3- Imagine how you would react if your parent told you: “I really think you should become a puppet master. I saw this great show about it and it sounds like such an amazing career choice and would be so perfect for you.” Can you notice how little energy you have around it? Notice how it doesn’t bug you AT ALL that they think this? Now imagine they are telling you: “You really aren’t making wise choices with your money.” Or, “I really think you are screwing up your kids by treating them this way.” Why does this piss you off more than the other? When parents tap into a fear that is already there, we get angry and defensive. Defensiveness is your clue that something is misaligned. Set the intention to feel good about yourself by this time next year. Hire a coach, create a vision board, fight through the resistance and get it done. There is no substitute for the ease and satisfaction that comes from living aligned with your best self.
4- Perhaps you believe you aren’t good enough because you haven’t yet decided for yourself what it means to live a successful life. Define it for yourself. How will I know when I’m happy? What does success look like to me? Who determines whether I’m perfect or imperfect? If your answer to these questions is, “I will be happy and successful as soon as everyone else tells me I am”, it’s time to do some soul searching. I consider myself successful if I am using the gifts God gave me to make the world a better place. Spend some time thinking about how you determine successful living, and let your parents do the same for themselves.
I am hoping some of you more enlightened parents will help me tear up the little instruction book I’ve been writing for my own children. I’ll give a few tips but I’m gonna need advice from those of you who are relaxed in the areas I am not.
My first suggestion is to repeat these phrases often, out loud and to yourself. “I have no idea what is right for my kids.” “I could be totally wrong here.” “I love you and trust that you kids will make the right decision for you.” “I’m sure you will figure it out.” “When left on their own, my kids make good decisions.” “I have no way of knowing where their journey is leading them.”
When you think and talk this way, your brain will look for evidence to prove that it is true and your kids will rise to this expectation.
Second, look around at other parents who are relaxed and letting their kids make their own choices. I watched my nieces prance around in tank tops and shorts in while I was in agony trying to force my daughter to wear ‘weather appropriate’ clothing. My sister was relaxed, her daughters were happy, perhaps I can let this one go? I know parents who could care less about their kid’s grades and test scores. They don’t make their grades mean they are a success or a failure, in fact one Mom told me “The A students will work for the B/C students.” If you find yourself stressing you and your kids out, trying to achieve perfect report cards, maybe this is an area to relax around and let your kids experience life their way?
Just noticing that these little instruction books for perfect living exist, is a big first step. When I chose to major in family life education and accepted a job with Planned Parenthood, I ignored a pretty big chapter in my parent’s book. What chapter in your parent’s book have you decided not to abide by? I’d love to know what page in your book is your child not reading? I’ve got a whole chapter on social graces I’m still hoping my kids will read some day. Thirty years from now you might hear me say “Honey, did you hear Mrs. So & So ask you how work is going? What do you say? Look her in the eyes when you answer.” HELP PLEASE!