Several years ago psychologist Karol McBride wrote a book about narcissistic mothers titled Will I Ever Be Good Enough? That says it all for any child who grew up with inadequate parenting. The paths we take to deal with this vary based on birth order, brain chemistry, culture, intelligence, and a myriad of other factors. Some will act out their rage through anger targeted at innocent people and a life of crime. Others will check out through a haze of alcohol, drugs, depression, and suicide. Finally there is a group who believes they can earn their parents’ love, approval, and attention by being the best.
These parents have an unconscious or conscious belief that says, “Unless you are perfect you are worthless.” Since, at some level, they know that they are not perfect and thus they must be worthless, they look to their children to prop up their low self-esteem. The blue ribbons, trophies, and scholarships allow them to bask in the reflected glory of what their sons and daughters have accomplished. However since their sense of worthlessness is always just under the surface the children must constantly “medicate” them with gold stars or its equivalent. Anything that is less than stellar is greeted with disappointment that is filled with drama. There is the successful and workaholic adult son who will never forget the shameful things that Dad predicted about his future because he brought home a “B” in math; the only “B” he received in high school. I know of a set of parents who were embarrassed that their son attended a less than prestigious medical school. Never mind that he endured the grueling training, graduated, and has been a successful surgeon for many years. He didn’t make the Ivy League.
We are programmed repeatedly from childhood to drive ourselves to exhaustion to make the grade, and the grade is always to be the best. The truth is we can’t be the best at everything. We are all gifted with talents that lead to success if those talents are nurtured. However someone who is destined to be a great writer or artist will probably not make a very good electrical engineer or plumber. We need to learn to accept our limits and not beat ourselves up every time we don’t reach the top of Mount Everest. Years ago I read the following quote, “Dare to be mediocre.” I am not advocating laziness. However high achievers need to learn to relax and slow down as part of healthy living. We might find great pleasure in things that we are not as good at as others but still gives us satisfaction. We have to learn that we are human beings, not human doings. Our worth and our identity are more than our achievements. We need to stop and smell the roses, sit on the beach and do nothing, write poetry or a book that my never be published but is pure joy to create and share with friends and loved ones. It is a major part of our identity that has gone unrecognized and uncultivated since birth. Setting aside time for this kind of self-discovery is part of the healing process and makes life more vivid and worth living. Here is a Web site of support groups within driving distance of the Dayton area that focus on boosting confidence and self-esteem: http://confidence-and-self-esteem.meetup.com/cities/us/oh/dayton/http://confidence-and-self-esteem.meetup.com/cities/us/oh/dayton/