So. this week I have a question. How many of us continuously go after some “seal of approval” from others? You are so smart? So pretty? Helpful? Nice? A great cook? Well, this week, I for one am waving the white flag, it is time to give up the fight. No, not turn into mean, selfish, “I don’t care what anyone thinks”, kind of women (although of course, we support all choices at Blooming Betty ). But it is time to stop looking to others and simply give these seals of approvals to ourselves. End the search.
Reading our national paper this week, The Globe and Mail, a column that I read regularly, The Essay, really got me. It was by written by Laura Kraemer, a mom of 3 in Calgary. The title, “I quit my master’s program”. In the essay, Laura speaks candidly of her constant need to be told that she was smart. It drove her from an early age where she admits to loving the smiley faces and sticker from her teachers (didn't we all?), to praises of her “high caliber writing” in grade 6, through university and finally to a master’s degree in Library Science, post-kids. In the master’s program, she not only dazzled the professors and but it also allowed her to hold her head higher in the school playground… she shares that after being lost in the day to day of a bleak day job and the exhaustion of 3 young children:
… I could feel my ego filling out and growing smooth again, losing that shriveled look. All those alpha moms in the schoolyard will have nothing on me, I thought. I’m going to be a master’s student. I will assume my rightful position in the world once more after years spent as a virtual non-entity. This was my destiny, the little voice in my head said. Go for it…I was fully immersed in the world of libraries and basking in the glow of high academic achievement. I was home.
But not home free. After the semester ended, she quit. Why? Because her other home was a disaster. She was never there, was beyond burdening her husband, whom she adores, with unfair responsibility for their children and household. Not being the mother she felt proud of, as she was forgetting gymnastics, school forms, volunteer responsibilities and many other things that she cared about.
Now this itself is not a new scenario, we have all been there and know lots of women (and men) who have made these types of choices. Just last week I profiled Sandra Diaz, who left a position she dreamed about to be there for her family. But what struck me in the essay is more than her choice to quit but the revelation that got her there. Laura Kraemer realized that she enrolled in the Master’s Program simply because she had this endless need not only to FEEL SMART, but BE TOLD she was smart. She desperately needed the recognition of her "smartness" from others. Only after wrestling with this need, looking it straight in the face, did she realize that proving her worth by impressing others wasn’t satisfying. It was also exhausting, disappointing and driving her away from other things that were equally if not more important to her. She had to figure out what made her proud – and for her, at this age and stage, it was making the decisions she needed keep her in touch – with herself, her husband and her family.
It began to occur to me that if I didn’t need to be told all the time that I was smart, I could enjoy a far more pleasant existence. Further, I asked myself, what the heck was the point of being smart if it didn’t help me have a happier life? Where was the gift in being gifted?
Now that is an "a-ha" moment id I have ever seen one. What an amazing lesson … for all of us. If we could all try and fill in that statement with our own lesson, wouldn't that be great? And so, I began to question some of my own “drivers”. For many of us these drivers are also motivators, and a framework by which we try and live our lives. For me, to be challenged, to be kind, live a healthy life, even my continual search for the perfect vanilla cupcake keep me going, in a good direction. Worked long and hard to identify them. But which of my “drivers” tend to run me off the road?
Any one who knows me probably could have answered this quickly but I admit, it took me a while. It was hard to get to the root but I did. I need to be liked. There, I said it out loud. For as long as I can remember this has been true. For most of my life I have been working overtime simply to get people to like me. Done a pretty good job at it too. Lots of friends, a good thing, strong relationships, another good thing, but also flippin” exhausting! How much energy has gone in to that! Can you imagine? The time? And at the expense of what? Giving that same time, love and energy to those in my life that I do like (not the ones that I am trying to get to like me) and to myself.
So I thank you Laura Kraemer of Calgary, for making me think about how the need to prove and please was robbing me of energy for my own life. How about you ladies? What is "driving" you off the road?