Wednesday, September 13, 2006

My Inferiority Gene

Being a parent allows us a much greater understanding into our relationship with our own parents. For instance, I've always had a problem with lack of confidence and low self-esteem. For years, I blamed my parents. They weren't supportive enough when I was younger. They favored my sister over me. They didn't approve of me. Anything I did wasn't good enough. This is what I told myself. But even though there are always things that could have been done differently, I'm starting to see my parents in a new light now that I'm raising my own teenagers. Because I've always felt that my feelings of inferiority held me back in life, I vowed when I became a parent that I'd be perfectly supportive and never make my children feel less than confident. But I found out, number one, that it's impossible to do. There will always be times when we don't approve of our children's actions, and it's our responsibility to speak up! We just can't support everything--and we shouldn't! And second, I've found that even when I lay the "love" on thick, my sons insist I don't know what I'm talking about. "Mom," they say, "I'm not as smart as you think I am." They just don't see in themselves what I see in them. Perhaps it's a genetic flaw--some sort of inferiority gene that we're born with. Perhaps it's the influence of their peers. Who knows? But it's caused me to revisit some of my attitudes toward my parents. Could it be that I just refused to see when they supported and encouraged me? Might I possibly have closed my ears because I just didn't respect their opinion at the time? As a teenager, I almost certainly gave more weight to the opinions of my schoolmates, which were discouraging to me. I was the class valedictorian at a very small, cliquey Catholic high school. I yearned to be accepted, but causing test-score curves to disappear didn't exactly make me popular. And I was too shy to make any impact with my personality. The more I think about it, the more I realize that my poor self-esteem was of my own making. I let other people's opinions (or my perception of their opinions) make me feel inferior. So, to Mom and Dad, I'm sorry. I know you did your best. Now I realize that you were proud of me. And to my sons, I'm not going to stop being your biggest cheerleaders. But at the same time, I know you have to find your own way to feeling good about yourself. I just hope you figure it out sooner than I did.

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