I have worked so hard at being kind to myself, its ridiculous and I still fail at it sometimes. First off, let me be vulnerable right now and tell you my deepest fear.
I have a fear of being ordinary, of not being great, not living to my true potential, whatever that may be. I have a major fear of failure, and disappointment to my parents and most importantly, myself.
What does this have to do with anything, you may ask?
You see, this fear consumed me, controlled me like a puppet master performing a show to a very tough audience, aka myself. I always believed with absolute conviction that in order to maintain this standard of brilliance, I had to be tough on myself. That if I ever praised myself for an accomplishment, I would let my guard down, believe that what I accomplished was enough.
It was as if my spirit was split into two, one of the tough father who never cracked a smile or showed praise and that young girl who was always trying to get his approval.
The father believed in tough parenting. “She is perfect and destined for greatness. She is capable of studying at Harvard, playing on the LPGA & maintain a model physique.”
He is stoic, stiff and very stern. He is a 6’5 large man with a bald head and big beard. He’s the type of man that people naturally make way for when walking down the street. He loves his daughter though, surely she must know it. He can’t show it though because underneath all the toughness, beneath all the layers of ego, he is insecure, he lacks self-worth. She is his prodigy, she is a product of him and if she does not fulfill her potential, what does that make him?
So every time she comes home from school to show him her A on her Geometry quiz, even though he’s beaming inside because he always struggled in Math during school, he simply nods at her. “Go on. You’re on your way to Harvard.”
Every time she places for her junior golf tournaments and brings home a metal, he tells her “2nd place is the 1st loser.” and hangs up the metal in his man cave when she’s not looking.
She continues to seek for his approval so she begins to model part-time to maintain her long slender physique. He makes no statement when seeing her photos but secretly puts them in his wallet because she’s just the most beautiful girl he’s ever seen.
He can’t tell her he’s proud of her, because then she’ll think she’s got his approval, relax and fall short of her true potential.
One day, the little girl grows up, having graduated from Harvard, competed on the LPGA and obtained a successful modeling career. However, she’s unfulfilled and unhappy.
She decides to have a conversation with her dad.
“Dad, do you love me?”
He is completely stunned and shocked. “Of course Sweetie… Why would you ask such a silly question?”
“Would you love me if I hadn’t gone to Harvard, played on the LPGA and won Miss Universe?”
“Yes, Sweetheart, I have and will always love you unconditionally, regardless of your accomplishments.”
Her eyes well up with tears, for these 12 words were all that she had wanted to hear for the last 30 years. She had lived by another 12 word non-verbal phrase, which were “I will love you when you live up to your full potential.”
This conversation changed the entire dynamic of their relationship and fast forward 30 years, she exceeded his wildest imaginations of her capabilities. She become the youngest self-made billionare, went on to marry the love of her life and provided him two of the most gorgeous grandchildren he’s ever laid eyes on.
And this all happened, because he realized he had used his love for her as a whip instead of a carrot. So from that conversation on, his love was a carrot, used as a foundation for his daughter to live up to her true potential, without limitations to the capped potential he had created for her.