Mother knows best. At least that’s what she taught me right? I remember when I was growing up and wanting to be an adult, I always felt this overwhelming pressure to do right by my mom and dad. I’m sure many of you did. Not saying I always did what mom knows to be best, in fact, I almost never abided by the rules growing up. – I was far from the perfect child. But even when I made those “bad decisions,” I was always asking myself, “How would mom and dad feel about this?” Even if it was something as simple as sneaking an extra cookie before dinner time. Or not so simple – like the time I decided to pierce my ears a second time in my bedroom. No matter what I was always thinking about how my actions would be perceived by my parents: whether they would be proud or disappointed in my choices and if my choices would ultimately have some sort of consequences. Usually they were disappointed.. and usually there were consequences.
To my parents, I was the kid who grew up making all the wrong choices. And when I got older, I tried my best to break the habit and start adding more to my “Good daughter” Resume. But trying to fulfill my parents expectations as an adult was a way different experience than when I was a kid. There were times in the last few years that I made choices and decisions because I was so afraid of trusting my gut. And still afraid of disappointing my parents. Yes, even as an adult I was thinking these things. If it meant doing something that my parents wouldn’t do or didn’t approve of, did that mean that I still shouldn’t do it? Even if it felt right to me and for my own life?
The Big Adult-hood Ah-Ha Moment
I’ve been an adult for a few years now… I mean, I am 27 after all, and I have made some pretty adult decisions since I’ve passed through my teenage years. I do my taxes by myself. I built a substantial 401k in my time at CBS, and I make sure to pay all of my bills on time. I make my own decisions about what I do from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to bed and I do my chores regularly (not because someone is nagging me to, but because it makes me feel good to have a clean home.) There was no “ah-ha moment” when I became an adult. It wasn’t like suddenly I woke up one morning and the world awarded me some adult-hood certification or diploma or anything. It was something that just happened with time over time. And just like anything, you get good at it with practice and more experience.
But there was a lightbulb “ah-ha” moment for me that was more significant and life changing than actually becoming an adult. It was the moment I realized that what my parents had taught me about being an adult was totally and completely wrong. And it didn’t happen the moment I turned 21 or the year I reached 25. It happened this year, out of the blue, and in the most unexpected way.
Being a Kid and Having Perfect Parents
My parents did everything they could to teach me how to make the best decisions in life. Unfortunately, the way they taught me left me with this long term overwhelming feeling that their way of being a grown up was “the only way to be a grown up,” and if I wasn’t doing it their way, I was failing. I am sure many of you have felt like that in your life. There are moments where even as an adult we are left feeling like we are that little kid trying to make mom and dad proud. And sometimes that isn’t such a good thing: It keeps us from actually being ourselves and living our own life the way we truly want to. My parents are wonderful people, but for years they instilled this crazy perfectionism mindset in me that had me believing they were two perfect human beings… and because of that I lived much of my life trying to fill their shoes.
My parents never admitted to making mistakes when I was growing up. They never told me about the times they screwed up or the times they failed in life. Maybe that’s because they never wanted me to feel like their bad decisions were acceptable, or maybe that’s because they wanted to keep me sheltered from the idea that life can be hard or tough at times. But whatever the reason, it didn’t translate with me. All that translated was that my parents had terribly high expectations for me and I had to try to be the best I could be for them.
Letting Go of My Parent’s Expectations
This year was the year of my big ah-ha moment breakthrough. The details of this moment are still being kept private out of respect of my parents. But in that ah-ha moment, my mom and dad sat my sisters and me down to have a serious talk about something going on in their lives and how it would effect our family dynamic.
This has never in my life happened before. Never have we had a “family meeting” of sorts. It was a strange and totally out of the ordinary thing to take place in my house – partly because we all live away from home now, but mostly because my parents never opened up to us publicly about anything going on in their relationship as our parents. This was the moment where they got real honest with us for the first time. The moment that completely changed what it meant to be an adult for me. It was the moment I saw my parents as normal people and not two unattainably-perfect adults.
If your parents have never been vulnerable and open with you about the times they have failed or the times they have made bad decisions – it isn’t because they are being cold or closed off to you. It isn’t because they are perfect. And it isn’t because they don’t love you. It is just because they don’t know better. Seeing my parents let down their guard and share something difficult about their own “adult life” was one of the most loving experiences I have ever seen. And I wish it happened sooner. It showed me that all these years I was trying to make decisions to please two people who were probably trying just as hard to make good decisions in their own lives too.
My Parents and Perfection
In that moment, I suddenly realized that the decisions I make as an adult are my own. They are no one else’s, and I have no one to answer to. If someone doesn’t approve or support a choice I make for my life, it isn’t my problem. Being an adult doesn’t mean having it together every minute of every day. Being vulnerable is part of life, and it is an opportunity just to feel more love.
My parents are not perfect people. And knowing that, and seeing that, made it clear to me that I don’t ever have to try to be either. I no longer need to live my life pleasing others. I no longer need to seek out approval from adults who taught me how to be an adult. Thank you for teaching me as best you could, but I’ll take the reigns from here and continue to keep learning. Love and Approval are two totally different things, and when we get older, we need to learn how to separate the two, more so than when we are younger. Being so focused on getting our parents approval only means we are insecure with the love they have for us. Because the truth is no matter what, my parents will love me no matter what decisions I make in my life. And I don’t need their approval to feel that love.
So…. Being an Adult
Being an adult is hard. It is never perfect. It is certainly full of unexpected twists and turns and opportunities to push yourself to be better than you were yesterday. But it’s more than just about paying your taxes on time and washing your laundry properly. It’s about being free to uniquely design the life you love and the life that suits you best. Not the life that suits your mom or dad, the life that suits you.
What is Perfection is the Self Improvement blog for the imperfect girl everywhere. Learn to find happiness, feel beautiful, and be confident in who you are. We all deserve to be happy, and we all deserve to be the best version of us. And we all are truly capable of getting there. Because Perfection Is Impossible. Happiness isn’t. See The Self Improvement E-Guide Collection For Your Life Coaching Guides to Change Your Life Today!