Do you have a scar? I do. It slices through my left eyebrow – a leftover of a time I bulldozed my poor brother into playing a game that was downright dumb. I got my payback: a concussion and 36 stitches to mend skin and muscle. It’s subtle now, but if I lift my bangs, it’s still there.
What about a scar you can’t see? Where is yours? We all have them… something we did, something done to us or something passed down by people who were once as innocent as we were when we were kids.
I’m one of too many kids to count. Both of my parents worked hard to provide for the family, especially Dad. He is a doctor, and pulled a lot of overnighters. It was pretty common for us not to see him at all from Monday through Friday, with weekends being our special time. Now, kids compete for attention from their parents as it is. When time is limited though, that competition gets especially fierce. Everyone picks a “role,” digs in and tries to out-do everyone else.
For me, I was going to be the “perfect” child. I was going to get excellent grades, be a massive overachiever, win every award and never get in trouble. That’s a lot to aspire to when you are 10 years old. Plus, my dad is a genius, so you’re trying to live up to that as well. I worked hard and did pretty well, but it came with consequences. Since I was always striving for perfection, which is frankly unachievable, nothing I did was ever quite good enough. So I took on more and more, and lived in that constant cycle of fear that I was letting someone down. I was not good enough. Now, you can’t see this scar, but it’s long, deep and self-inflicted.
When I first started my career, I packed those bags and took them along with me. In the arts, there was always a better singer, a better dancer, a better anything. And as I transitioned into business and began to rise through the ranks, I continued to take on more and more… making myself “indispensable” because it was just easier for me to handle something. That way, it would be “right” the first time. It would be as close to “perfect” as I could get it.
That’s a recipe for unhappiness though. You become completely overloaded, overwhelmed and stressed out. Nothing is ever good enough, and you can’t truly move on in life because you haven’t fully invested in someone. You haven’t trusted someone enough to learn to let go.
While the quest to create something truly great is admirable, perfectionism comes down to issues of trust and control. You have to learn how to trust someone enough to let go of the reins and release control, providing guidance so they too have the opportunity to learn and evolve. It’s a basic tenet of leadership, and probably the hardest lesson I continue to learn every day. I’m getting a lot better, but there’s always another mountain to climb.
I’m a parent now, and my kids are great. But here’s where the genetics kick in. While my oldest son looks like my husband, his personality is all me. He is quirky, inquisitive and wants to try everything. He also has a major perfectionistic streak… one that already causes him undue stress at the age of 5. While there are many things I want to pass down to him, this is not one of them. I want to set him free as I work to do every day in my professional life. I want him to know that our imperfections are what makes each of us so special… So perfect. He may have a scar on the outside, on his chin, but I don’t want him to carry the scars inside that so many of us already have today.
What scars are your carrying around inside? What will you do today to help them fade away?
For the cool weekly writing challenge, check this out: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/30/writing-challenge-dna/