“You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it courageously.”
From the time we’re wee little tots we’re taught to accept people as they are. As a mom I have said these very words, “it doesn’t matter how someone looks or where they come from, people are people,” to my own child time and time again. By no means am I arguing these statements, as I wholeheartedly believe them to be universal truths.
My question cuts far deeper.
When, if ever, do we truly learn to accept ourselves?
Whether man or woman, young or old, or mom or dad, people notoriously place unrealistic pressure on themselves to reach nearly superhuman levels of perfection. This naturally leads to self-doubt. Both my husband and I are perfect examples of this. My husband, Mike, is a critically acclaimed chef at a fine dining restaurant. He manages a kitchen and staff. Additionally, Mike bears the responsibility of the restaurants’ financials, inventory, and, all too frequent, (my opinion, not his), menu changes. While juggling all of his work responsibilities he never misses a beat at home. He’s the first one up in the morning, greeting both our son, Jack, and myself with his infectious smile and the warmest “good morning” one could ask for. Doing his best to squeeze Jack's soccer, lacrosse, and little league games into his demanding schedule, all while balancing his work responsibilities, I know Mike is exhausted. Still, he refuses to give in and take a break. His need to be the perfect husband, dad, provider, and chef is stronger than anything else. From himself, Mike refuses to accept anything less than perfection.
I, too, am guilty of pushing myself to the brink all in the vain attempt to be the perfect mom and wife. I spent many years criticizing each and every mistake I dared to make. With each mistake, I beat myself up and allowed myself to be consumed with self-doubt. “What’s wrong with you?” “why aren’t you better?” and “why can’t you just get yourself together?” were all common thoughts that endlessly tormented me. I worried myself sick.
My self-critical behavior didn't start to change for me until I attended a parent teacher conference with my son’s kindergarten teacher shortly after my thirtieth birthday. Our meeting was a typical one until, sensing my anxiety, she looked me directly in the eye and said, “He’s a wonderful boy. You’re far too hard on yourself. You need to accept the fact that you’re doing a wonderful job raising him.” It was that very moment, choking back tears, I learned to accept myself. Flaws and all.