How many expectations of us are set by others?
When are we going to say our first word?
When are we going to start walking?
Will we be better at being a kid than other kids in the kindergarten?
Are we the best reader in our class?
Did we get an A on the exam?
Do we have 7 extracurricular activities?
Are we enrolling in a profession that makes others happy and proud?
Our entire life, we’re being imprinted expectations of others on ourselves. And when those expectations don’t meet our own - boom 💥 - resistance.
I was the first engineer in my family full of economists. My choice didn’t make sense to them because “everyone studied economy” and it was going to be “easier for me” if I were to study it too.
As kids, we want to feel validated and accepted. But, when our ideas and vision of the future don’t correspond to those of our closest, we may feel like we’re failing them. Or ourselves. Or both.
Going your own way is certainly rewarding, albeit hard. But it takes a lot of years until we’re able to reach that point—at first, we are constantly compared to our peers, siblings or other family members.
Often, I was on both sides of the “comparison” mirror. "Why couldn’t you be like _______ (the kid across the street; your sister; your aunt; *insert your own here*” was a question directed to me; and sometimes, I was the X. I was a quiet kid who spent her time inside the house—primarily reading & playing video games, but the other parents communicated it as “studying” to their kids when comparing them to me.
Being subjected to comparison from a young age doesn’t help much when we start becoming perfectionistic adults. Why? I have a feeling that this is clear already, but here’s the gist of it—just in case.
As adults, we pick up the best possible things from many different people to whom we compare ourselves - and construct all of those perfect things into one person. Almost like a Frankenstein of perfectionism. We literally set out on the impossible task of being the impossibly perfect person—which, in reality, doesn’t exist. But we still beat ourselves up because we’re not it (well, I hope not literally).
This further exacerbates the feelings of never enough, of not being good enough & consequently, feeling worthless. All because, generations ago, someone thought it’d be a good parenting idea to stimulate the motivation of their own kid by comparing them with an idealized version of another child. I genuinely wonder who might be the first person that had his thought. Did they realize it’ll stick and go this far?
I’m pretty positive there’s a shit ton of stuff we carry from our childhood that have lead to or encouraged the development of perfectionism, of the constant feeling of never being good enough because there’s always someone better so we cram our days with work, trying to find that ‘enough’. Trying to become that enough. But it’s not there. It’s never there.
Could it be that, we alone, are indeed, enough?
All our lives, we’re running towards being anyone but us—having perfect grades like Anna, being great at sports like Jane, excelling at music like Jo,… All this time we’ve been busy with finding the perfect pieces of others, that we forgot to find some in ourselves.
Can you relate?