Growing up, I was concerned with being “the best.” Or at least “among the best.” Which was good in some ways – if I had a test, I studied. If I had a performance, I practiced. Constantly. If I had an interview, for a job or college scholarship, I looked up practice questions and practiced my answers in front of a mirror. (I haven’t had a job interview in a while….but I might still do that when the time comes. I have performance issues.)
It was good to want to do my best. But it did have an ugly side.
If I couldn’t be among the best at something, I didn’t do it. Period. Didn’t even make an attempt. I never played an organized sport. I never even considered cheerleading, even in early elementary school when all my friends were doing it. I never took a dance class. In High School I never took any advanced math or science courses that challenged me and might result in a grade less than an “A”. In doing so, I didn’t experience the growth that comes with failure, and I missed out on a lot of opportunities. There were careers that seemed interesting to me, but I wouldn’t even consider pursuing as a college major, given that I might have to take classes that were too challenging.
All that boring back story is to say that I see the same irrational fear of failure starting to sprout up in small ways in my kids. And I want them to be braver than I was! Much braver. And so…I take a deep breath and I let them see me attempting things that often result in “failure.”
When they ask, I try and draw a picture of an alligator fighting a monkey, even though I know it won’t resemble anything close.
I dance around during our family jam sessions, (with the blinds tightly closed) even though I look like an idiot have virtually no moves.
I play racing games on the Wii even though I have no chance of winning. That one stings a little.
I play kickball in the backyard even though my 6 year old is better at kicking than I am.
I tried to boogie-board at the beach and nearly broke my tailbone when the waves immediately pushed me off and under. I am not graceful flailing in the waves, but at least my kids saw me try!
I hope, in all my small attempts to do something hard for me, that they are getting a message that it’s okay to look like an idiot sometimes. It’s okay to be brave and try something that you might not ever be “the best” at doing. I want them to get out there and have adventures and fail and maybe a make a “C” in a class or two. If it’s hard-earned “C”in chemistry, I’ll be more proud than the “A” in English that comes so easy to them. (Okay, that’s me projecting my own regrets…but I’m sure they’ll have their own examples!)
So to my fellow moms with the same gotta-be-the-best-and-can’t-look-like-an-idiot-issues —– Be brave today. Let your kids see you flop around ungracefully and fail at something. Give them courage.