What is it about wanting to win father’s approval that never leaves us?
I have been dwelling on this thought this week. Primarily because I gave a speech at Toastmasters, and the no-nonsense evaluation set me back on my heels for a minute – taking me straight back to childhood and getting criticism from dad.
My fellow Toastmaster gave a fair critique, a good critique aimed at pushing me to the next level of speaking. He spoke the truth even though it was difficult. I admire him for that.
Yet, what no one knew was that inside I crumbled out of all proportion. I knew I was being pathetic, so I hid it well until after I got home that day, until after I’d put the kids to bed. Then, I sat and ate chocolate and moped like a proper baby. I felt so sorry for myself. It felt like wounding, pain inside.
I felt devastated over a single evaluation? I took a minute and examined my reaction. I asked myself questions, why do you feel this way? Why?
Finally, it came down to this; I realized that I’d internalized my father’s demands for perfection in my work. In an earlier post, The Influence of Fathers, I related how my childhood strivings to get approval from my father had shaped in me the exact traits I needed as a writer:
‘The last project I did at junior school, before I moved on, and past the need to show my father everything I produced, was a book review. I produced, ‘A Commune on the Pearl River Delta,’ in a round format, with tissue paper glued in between each page. There were in all a dozen round pages with words and images, carefully nestled between tissue paper, crafted in dense colour pencil and pen. The review begins with the “tour guide,” Mr. John Know-it-all, introducing himself to the reader, and then, John leads the way through the book and the region it depicts.
It was a work of art. A triumph. The first time I ever got A++ What did my father say when I presented it to him? “China is spelt with a capital C.”
It makes sense to think that by utilising what we’ve been given in each of our unique circumstances, we’re uniquely prepared to move forward to better things. My ability for perseverance came from my childhood strivings. Stick-ability, patience and focus are the very assets a writer needs.’
At the same time, there is a legacy to this situation I still have to deal with. A little bit of emotional fall-out.
I realized, through this somewhat discomfiting experience, this week, that yes, I had internalized my father’s demands for perfection in my work. When I write a speech, it is like presenting my project to father all over again, will he give me a thumbs-up this time, or will he point out the date is wrong?
When my friend at Toastmasters gave me the somewhat harsh evaluation, I reverted to that kid who showed her prized work to her father, only to have her mistakes pointed out. I didn’t care whether he was right or not, I just wanted a pat on the head.
The great thing was, as soon as I saw that this was the case, and I was repeating that old childhood pattern, it felt different. I was already one step removed from it. I think I read about this technique of asking yourself ‘why?’ in a magazine somewhere, and for some reason, the idea stuck. I’ve used it ever since, and it’s an effective way for figuring the motivations behind why we do things.
It is a good thing to build one’s repertoire of understanding oneself. As was said in times of old, ‘Know thyself.’
Where the need for father’s approval is concerned, I forgive myself for repeating a pattern from childhood. Okay, maybe I’ve used my father’s drive for perfection, and the need to prove myself to him, to overdo things a bit, thus far. I forgive myself. It’s okay. I’m human. I can do better tomorrow, and the next day. That, too, is human.
I find myself intrigued by the depth of this question all over again, What is it about wanting to win father’s approval that never leaves us? Is your father a powerful figure in your life?
Talk to you later.
Keep on Creating!
Yvette K. Carol
I believe now from my own experience, that motherhood and fatherhood and birth and children are actually as valid a path to enlightenment as any other, and in my opinion at least, far superior to most. ~ Hellena Post
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