I am probably harder on myself than anyone else. (I know I’m harder on myself than anyone else is to my face.) I set a very high standard in just about everything that I do and then, if I don’t measure up in my own eyes, I’m very self critical. This perfectionism got me great results when it came to grades and test scores in high school and college, when I was competing in horseback riding or in ballroom dancing, and it’s part of what brings me back to the computer to write my blog every single day. It has some very positive, practical applications.
But it can also be very hard to live with. It can be very hard for me to give myself a break when things aren’t going well. It also means I have almost no perspective on my own performance — I am so self critical that I tend to mentally erase my accomplishments and magnify my failings. This, of course, is very discouraging, and typically does nothing to buoy my mood or esteem.
I’m working on it. I’m working on it really, really hard. In part, because life is more pleasant when I’m not mentally beating myself up all the time, but mostly because that isn’t who I want to be, and it isn’t how I want my kids to see me. I don’t want them to feel like I’m always down on myself, and, even worse, I don’t want them to learn to adopt my own unneccessarily high standards for themeselves.
Ironically, one of the things I have the hardest time with is feeling like I’m not a good enough mom. (And feeling like I’m not a good enough mom reminds me of the fact that I don’t want to set standards that are unreasonable and then beat myself up for not meeting them, and then I feel worse, because that’s exactly what I’m doing . . . you see how this can create a nasty spiral.) I generally feel like I do ok. I love my kids, I spend time with them, I talk with them, I try to teach them things. But I also get overwehlmed, frustrated and angry sometimes. But I think I do well more often than not. Most of the time, I’d say I’m about average as a mom.
Dan disagrees. Dan thinks I’m great. It’s nice to have him as my cheerleader, but it’s hard for me (in my own self critical mind) to believe the things that he says. But I’m trying. I’m really working on incorporating some of the way that he sees me (which seems to be closer to how my kids see me, too) into my own mental picture.
If I’m really honest, I feel like I have an overabundance of love, kindness and caring towards my kids, but absolutely no idea of what I’m doing, and a really low threshold of being overwhelmed. So, I’ve decided to give myself the title of “wholeheartedly overfaced”. I actually really like it. “Overfaced” is a horse term (I don’t know if it’s used elsewhere) that describes a situation when you ask a horse to do something (usually jump over something) beyond its physical or mental ability. Yep, that sounds about right. I’m wholeheartedly in this parenting thing — I love doing it, I do it full time, there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing with my time. But I regularly find myself in over my head. So, that’s me: wholeheartedly overfaced.
Dan is reluctantly enthusiastic. Dan also loves being a parent, but he has a lazy streak. Left to his own devices (and without my wholehearted example) he’d spend a lot more of his time parenting from the couch and breaking up disagreements between checking his email and updating Facebook. But once I get him off the couch, he’s great. Stuff doesn’t get to him like it gets to me. Once he’s in, he’s in. So, he’s reluctantly enthusiastic (because if I get a new title, so does he).
Both of these new descriptions make me giggle. They help me remember that my goal isn’t (or shouldn’t be) perfection. It helps me to see myself as a good mom that gets freaked out sometimes, in the same way that I see Dan as a great dad that gets stuck on the couch sometimes. Here we are, wholeheartedly overfaced and reluctantly enthusiastic, trying to make things go as well as possible. We’re doing ok. Our kids are happy (much of the time) and they’re pretty great (all of the time). I think we’re doing pretty well, actually.