Hello! This blog is about my daughter Hailey (currently 12 years old) and her experiences living with auditory processing disorder. Auditory Processing Disorder is Hailey's primary issue, however she has also been given the labels Sensory Processing Disorder, Dyslexia, Visual Processing Disorder, Mixed Expressive Receptive Language Disorder and Phonology Disorder at various points in her life.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How I Freed Myself from Perfectionism (This is my philosophy with my own children - to be freely themselves without comparison.)

"I let go of perfectionism in college and it was the best thing I ever did for myself."

I wrote the above sentence today in response to an article I read, and I realized just how powerful this statement is. You see, I grew up being a straight A, top of the class, "gifted" student who was expected to always be the best, do the best, etc.  When the other kids were learning math in class, the teacher would give me a math textbook and say "Go to town and do whatever you want."  So, I would teach myself math for as long as I wanted and then when I was bored of that, she'd hand me a stack of my peers' work to grade.  When the other kids were reading one novel, I was often given another chosen by her (never chosen by me) to read on my own in order to keep me busy.  I didn't even have my after school time to myself as my father felt sports was an important aspect of every person and so I had to do gymnastics four times a week for four plus hours each day.  Not only that, but when I got to high school, I had to do volunteer work and I had to join clubs like the National Honors Society and French Club, because that was expected of "the brightest of the bright".

And so this went on until I went away to college and I didn't even questions where I would go; why I would go to what was considered the most elite, most difficult to get into, where the "brightest of the bright" in my state go to.  I applied early, got into early admissions, signed up for the classes that went along with the plan I had been going on established by someone else: each year take another English class, another math class, another history class, another science class, another foreign language class, and one elective.  I NEVER EVEN QUESTIONED WHAT I WANTED TO DO!

My first year of college, I was blessed in many ways.  I took a math class that was a weed-out course for the engineering program.  For this reason, it was intended to be very difficult so that only the most talented in math would continue on to the engineering program.  I was getting about a C average and that was something I had never done before.  I went to my professor's office to speak to him about it, and he told me not to worry, that I was doing extremely well for that course and that if I was getting a C then I would probably end up getting a B by the end, which was better than the majority of the students.  Hmmm.... this made no sense to me; why would it be done this way?

So I continued on for a few weeks more in this math class when I started speaking to my college peers and realized that not everyone was even taking a math class.  I realized that in college, people have a lot more flexibility to take classes that interest them and I was asked what I was interested in. Seriously, nobody had ever asked that before of me!  I was always expected to take the hardest classes in every subject and to get straight As; what was this what I am interested in thing?  I had no idea that was the purpose of education.  Who forgot to tell me that!

So I dropped the math class and the next semester I took an introduction to poetry writing class.  My instructor was a generous left-over beatnik from days gone by and he encouraged me to write from my heart and from my passion.  He told me some of the best kept secrets I needed to hear:  if you want to do something great, you have to allow yourself to make mistakes; if you want to learn something new, you have to allow yourself to be a beginner; life is meant to be lived with passion and happiness - do what you want and don't worry about where you compare to others, because it is YOUR LIFE.

So I continued to take poetry writing classes with this wonderful old beatnik and I learned about myself.  I learned what I liked, what I didn't like, who I wanted to be, to try new things if they interested me without care of whether or not I would be "the best".  Yes, my parents wondered what the heck I would ever do with all these poetry classes and wondered why I wasn't pursuing something that would "meet my potential" such as being a lawyer or doctor or corporate executive. I just learned to smile and say it was my life and I would do what spoke to my heart and my soul.

So that is how I learned to let go of the very limiting world of perfectionism.  I learned to be happy just to be happy, not related to being "the best" at anything.  I learned to be myself. And one of the most fantastic after effects is that I can not only be happy being me, but I can also be happy for others being them.   I don't need to be "the best" which meant comparing myself to others or comparing myself to some standard set by someone else. It truly is a wonderful world when you are free to be yourself.

And that is why I encourage my children to be themselves; to not compare themselves to others because we are all wonderfully our own unique selves with our own passions, interests, talents, and areas that we just don't seem to be very good at; and to honor everyone else for being themselves without jealousy or the need to compete.  Life is not a competition to excel at; Life is YOUR LIFE. Find what brings you enjoyment and be yourself for all that you wonderfully are.

Thank you for letting me ramble here with a little about myself in order to showcase a belief I have in raising my children.  I hope it brings some comfort and hope to others.

No comments:

Post a Comment