It seems everywhere we turn we’re inundated with notions of acceptance and expectations of politically correct behavior. From the time we’re wee little tots we’re taught to accept “people as people.” As a mom I have said these very words to my own child, “it doesn’t matter how someone looks, or where they come from, people are people.” 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, mom or dad, people notoriously place unrealistic pressure on themselves to reach nearly superhuman levels of perfection, which naturally leads to self doubt. Both my husband and myself are perfect examples of this. My husband, Mike, is a critically acclaimed chef at a fine dining restaurant. He manages a kitchen and staff and bears the responsibility of the restaurants’ financials 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. Never missing a soccer, lacrosse, or little league game, I know Mike is exhausted. Yet he refuses to give in and take a break. His need to be the perfect husband, dad, and provider is stronger than anything else. He refuses to accept anything less.
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,” “why can’t you just get yourself together,” were all common thoughts that tormented me endlessly. I worried myself sick.
It wasn’t until I turned thirty and attended a parent teacher conference with my son’s kindergarten teacher. Our meeting was a typical one until 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.