“We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.”~ Carl Jung.
To those of us who grew up trying to please others, the opinion of others matters far too much. Children whose parents have a particular standing in the community (here I am thinking of parsons and teachers) grow up being constantly judged by others. Especially in small communities. You are aware all the time that others may misbehave, but you are not supposed to. After all, you are ‘Parson daughter’. And not just your behavior, even your clothes were evaluated and possibly condemned. In the 70’s in Jamaica, shorts and sleeveless tank tops were not supposed to be worn ‘on the street’. The rebellious and free-spirited nature of the teenager had to be tamped down.
Of course there are those who dare to be different, who decide that they are not going to abide by the norms. Hence the myth that the children of teachers and preachers are particularly ‘bad’. It is interesting how many of our adult traits can be tracked right back to childhood, to our upbringing. And many of our unhealthy reactions can also be traced to learned behavior, to ways of coping with dysfunction or trauma.
I recently found myself counselling a couple of students who had not done well on an important dosage calculation test. They were both good students, this was their first time failing and since they only have 2 chances to pass it (at 90%, failure on the second attempt means you fail the course) there was a lot riding on their performance. But as I have often seen before with math, anxiety feeds anxiety, and capable people can turn into soggy spaghetti, unable to make sense of simple problems. The key then becomes how to calm the anxiety, how to restrain the panic, how to marshal your resources and function competently. But I often wonder what stories do my students have? What have they experienced in life that makes them react to stress the way they do?
I admire those who seem not to be bothered by the small stuff. They appear to shrug off the opinions of others, have a ‘take me or leave me’ attitude, and walk through life oblivious of the consequences of their actions. I often tell myself that I will do that more, but old habits are hard to break.
This morning I am struggling to find something to write about that does not include the words Irma, hurricane or weather. Trying to remain calm while the weather channel reporters repeatedly point out the potential for catastrophe is not easy! Especially when they seem to be operating on energy drinks that make them talk as fast as the winds in a Category 5 storm! We can but hope that our house and preparations will hold before the wrath of this scorned woman. Grace under pressure must be practiced. It is not a gift you are born with!
My intention had been to write about how paralyzing it can be when you are too aware, too conscious about the opinions of others. Thanks to Facebook, we can now ‘put ourselves out there’ and then duck as the feedback pours in. Do we post too many pictures? Do we appear to be too confident? Do we celebrate too many special moments? Don’t worry, your ‘friends’ will soon let you know. Yet life is to be lived! It is a gift that we are only given once (as far as we know) and we should revel in every moment, good and bad, terrifying or joyful. If we feel like dancing we should dance! And if what we are doing is trying to help others, we should definitely refuse to be inhibited by the tendency of others to ‘helpfully’ tell us what we are doing wrong, or who misinterpret our intentions. Those ‘others’ may even be internal voices that constantly critique and admonish, somehow reminding you that you could have done better.
One of my favorite quotes was brought to my attention by the author Brene Brown, in her book whose title came from a 1910 speech by Teddy Roosevelt: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
This weekend, even as we face down an angry woman, a powerful, no-holds barred, take-no-prisoners kind of a gal who fears no one, I am reminded of another quote, one that has been ascribed to Stokely Carmichael: “The secret of life is to have no fear”. Fear paralyzes, whether it is the fear of the opinions of others; the fear of what may happen; the fear of taking chances; the fear of loving and being hurt; the fear of living and daring greatly. I hope that whatever challenges you face, you stare down your fears and come through the other side impressed with your own strength, discovering new forces and sources of renewed vigor. You never know what you are capable of if you don’t try.
Wherever you are, may you be safe, dry and supported. May you accept the reality that we are not in control. And may you learn valuable lessons without having too many scars to show! Have a wonderful weekend, Family!