Growing up, I didn’t always get a lot of positive reinforcement. When I was young, I longed to be acknowledged; to be praised and told that I was great or smart or funny. Despite this lack of affirmation, I still somehow managed to develop confidence and a strong sense of self. I learned to become my own cheerleader and to find validation from within. I’m not exactly sure where this self-assurance came from, but I realized that being strong and fearless were my survival skills.
Then I met my husband. He’s always been very demonstrative and complimentary, which was initially quite foreign and sometimes even uncomfortable. His tendency to shower me with compliments felt awkward and unfamiliar and I sometimes had trouble processing his kindness. Despite my instinct to dismiss his attention, he persevered, never missing an opportunity to tell me something positive. It took time for me to be comfortable accepting his affection.
I’d learned, from childhood, to fend for myself, hide my vulnerability and stifle my need for affirmation.
When I became a mother, I made a conscious effort to constantly highlight my children’s strengths and accomplishments. I wanted to ensure that they never experienced the void that I felt as a child. I wanted them to know what real pride felt like; both the pride that I had for them as their mother as well as pride I’d help them cultivate within themselves. I was determined to make them feel valued by nurturing their self-worth and teaching them to express their feelings. It’s been my mission as a mother, and I think I’ve been successful.
In August, I was offered a teaching position at McGill University in the School of Social Work. Teaching has always been on my bucket list and I was ridiculously excited to take on this challenge. At the same time, I was super nervous.
My instinct was to deal with any nervousness on my own; positive self-talk and self-affirming thoughts have always been my go-to coping mechanisms.
Growing up, vulnerability was, to me, a weakness I couldn’t afford. I’d learned not to burden others with my stresses when I could simply fix things on my own.
But a few weeks ago, I decided to go out of my comfort zone. One night at supper, I decided to take off the strong, self-sufficient mask I’ve grown accustomed to wearing and I expressed my apprehension to my family. Their response was amazing. My kids and husband immediately jumped into action; they rallied around me and encouraged me with words that I desperately needed hear. They validated how I felt. They supported me. They reminded me of my excitement at accomplishing new tasks, my passion for teaching and my true love of social work.
I felt safe, loved and authentic.
This little experience really put things into perspective for me. I realized that being vulnerable around my kids is okay and normalizes even a complex situation.
I love that I have great pride in myself and my accomplishments. But it feels wonderful to receive praise, support and love from those around you too.
I am eternally grateful to my family. Thank you for telling me you’re proud of me, for supporting me, and for letting me be vulnerable.
You’re truly my committed cheerleaders.