Saturday, July 4, 2015

Shooting for Parental Imperfection

I finally got around to reading "The Gift of Imperfection" by Brene Brown.
You know when it starts to feel like someone is "reading your mail"?.... Here's one of those moments:

"Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance. 
Most perfectionists were raised being praised for achievement and performance (grades, manners, rule-following, people pleasing, appearance, sports). 

Somewhere along the way, we adopt this dangerous and debilitating belief system: I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it. 
Please. Perform. Perfect. 
Healthy striving is self-focused---How can I improve? 
Perfectionism is other-focused---What will they think?

Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. 

Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. 
In fact, it's often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life-paralysis. 

Life-paralysis refers to all of the opportunities we miss because we're too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect. It's also all of the dreams that we don't follow because of our deep fear of failing, making mistakes, and disappointing others. It's terrifying to risk when you're a perfectionist; your self-worth is on the line."

This was honestly an "Oh Sh*t" moment for me. 

I mean, I know this about myself... but no one has ever said 
WHAT I am, 
WHERE it comes from, 
WHAT IT'S DOING to my life... 
and WHAT I HAVE TO DO to deal deeply with it... all in one place.

But there was an additional layer of "Ah Ha!" that hit me like a ton of bricks... I don't want to feed this nature in my son by raising him as a praise dependent being.

I see the signs of perfectionism in him. 
He won't wear his shoes if they have dirt on them. 
If something is hard, he gets angry and overwhelmed. He will say, "No I can't. It's too hard." 
He get's really agitated if the cookies inside the box are broken or have fallen over from a nice neat row. He looses it when the trains fall off the tracks (literally and proverbially).
If he can't control the whole situation, he is an absolute terror... which means large groups either freak him out (if the attention is on him) or mellow him out (if there is no attention focused on him, because the pressure is off and he can chill.)

I swear I didn't create this monster! It was born. 
There is a way in which perfectionism (the continuum of perfectionism) is who we are. We're born with an innate tolerance or intolerance for irregularity, struggle, disorder, failure, and success. 

But I can feed the monster or leash it by my parenting choices.

Praise for actions feeds perfectionism.

If we're throwing the ball and I'm saying "Good throw! Nice job! Oops, missed." I'm teaching my child that my joy is found in a running commentary on his performance. If I shut up and just enjoy the time and let the good and the bad roll on by (no pun intended), then I teach him that my joy is found in his presence with me, not his performance for me.

If he is struggling and I don't respond until he asks for help, then I teach him that it's ok to struggle... ok to fail. That I'll be there to assist if he wants, but I don't mind if he gets it wrong.

I know he is a perfectionist.
I know he will be motivated and excellent in his life.
I don't need to push him... I need to give him the tools to be gracious with himself, to live without fear of others, to channel his powers for good... for others and himself.

I sounds simple, but it's harder to practice than you'd think.

But... That's the goal.

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