Mattering

truthPerformance driven people have a burning need within themselves to achieve.   They don’t just have a Plan A and Plan B; they’ve got the whole darned alphabet on standby.   And while that may sound stressful to someone who likes to live on whim and happenstance, the truth is that it’s not stressful at all.   Living life without a plan is stressful to performance driven people; they want to know where they are going, how long it’s going to be before they get there, and what they can do TODAY to contribute to their goals.

There are many studies that reveal the differences between Type A personalities, and the rest of the world.  For instance, did you know that more than 90% of Type A people have had a significant physical or emotional trauma in their life?   Jennifer Aniston had abusive parents.  Drew Barrymore’s parents were addicts, and consistently disapproving of her talent while she grew up.   Type A people were not coddled, or nurtured, and so they learned to coddle themselves, on the down low.

Another aspect of Type A personalities is failure to acknowledge “good enough”.  Compliments from other people (when received, because people frequently think Type A people do not need or value them), do not get absorbed.   Another way to recognize a Type A personality, is to watch the way they deflect compliments.

Compliment: “You are such a talented writer, you blow my mind.”

Response: “Writing isn’t special, anyone can do it.  It’s not like I am a brain surgeon.”

I share this because I know that loving or being in relationships with Type A people is difficult.  They are so driven to succeed and accomplish, that they seek out that acknowledgement from bosses, siblings, friends and parents.   People who may, or may not be capable of providing it.  Kevin and I are both Type A personalities.

Truthfully, when you compliment a Type A personality, you are creating a dialogue with a powerful inner critic.  It is the voice inside them that flays with a sharp whip daily.   Another psychological aspect of this personality type is clinical anxiety, but it is rarely addressed, because they are high functioning.   For instance, I once knew someone who had mild anxiety, who used that as an excuse for doing (literally) nothing with her life.  She remained on welfare in Canada, refused to have children or be gainfully employed, because she was “disabled” with anxiety.   She scored on the lower part of the anxiety spectrum (I met her while working for a psychometric firm in Toronto). She was excellent at garnering sympathy for her condition, and after counseling it was revealed that she had no abusive trauma in her life, except that her parents got divorced, and then pressured her to go to University (which she declined to do).  [Insert blank stare and tiny violins].

We stopped talking because I stopped feeding into the victim dialogue, after more than a decade of coddling.  I just didn’t have it in me anymore, to play along with the act, and watch her suffer loneliness, job transience and other problems; ones that were a direct result of her NEED to portray the victim.    She argued with me, when I disagreed with her inherent “bad fortune” because I liked to point out the personal choices that were contributing to that “bad luck”.   There is no luck.  There is only what we make (in my world). But if your shit storm is a result of your irresponsibility, inaction, a pattern of consistently bad decisions (contrary to common sense and advice), I’m sorry.  I can’t muster the “pity party” for adults who make their own problems.  It’s lying.  But I am ready to help, if asked, always… for people I love.   I’m just not going to feed you a line of shit about the fuck up.

And when I screw up, I expect the same candor.  My closest friends and family know that, and they deliver, because I am far from perfect.

Grown Up and Stuff

Being an adult, I realize that my window for the supportive, nurturing and encouragement I sought from my parents is long gone.   My energy goes to being the supporting, nurturing step-mother to my twin son’s now, because I want them to be strong, well adjusted, responsible, hard working but PRAISED children.   I don’t withhold my fair criticism from my children when they screw up; to me, it’s important for them to have a clear sense of cause and effect.   Bad decision = bad outcome.   I want them to be empowered by choices, and I want my kids to know that if they want something, there is one way to get it; they have to work until it happens.  No one is going to make their path easier in life; and if they want to succeed, they had better be prepared to run hard and fast at any obstacle life throws them.

That’s why our kids are honest, hard working and make money decisions at the age of 10.   And when they overcome an obstacle, we are there cheering them on and pouring on the kind of acknowledgement that they crave; the real kind, that comes with making shit happen.   When they struggle, we discuss strategy, again so our boys are empowered to think critically about multiple approaches to a problem.  Our kids find obstacles FUN, because they know there are tremendous rewards waiting for their victory, and that we believe in them, and their abilities to overcome.

Sometimes the inner child within me aches a little, when I am structuring this engagement with our kids.  What I would have given to have this in my world as a child; but it wasn’t on the table.  That’s okay though, because I am a grown adult who turned out just fine, despite many opportunities for me to lay down in the dust, and admit defeat.   I was tempted sometimes, faced with huge obstacles and feeling like I mattered to no one.   But that voice that flays me from the inside, wasn’t going to let me, and it may be a mean inner voice, but it worked and continues to work for me today, every time I think “I can’t”.

I’ve been looking for that parental approval my whole life.  I know now, that I will never get it, from any source.   But if I am a better and stronger person, I shouldn’t be looking for it either, outside of these four walls, where we define our private, family life.  And that was the biggest shift in me this week I think.   I approve of my husband and my children, and they approve of me.   As a family, we see the struggles and obstacles we face, and we rarely (if ever) expect, anticipate or receive help from anyone.

As far as working hard, being strategic and trying to get ahead in life, you become your own cheerleader and praise, when you become an adult.  Even if you are slightly jealous of the other grown-up’s who have parents who dole it out, with gold stars, acceptance, and perhaps even parental pride.   The voice inside me this year has been yelling “No one gives a shit. Cheer for your own damned self, husband and kids.” It’s my job to nourish their hearts, and no one else. And so I will.

“This little house, with four big-hearted, peaceful,  generous and hard working Taurus’ that just want to love and be loved.”

Something my husband said yesterday about not “being seen”.  Something I need to work harder on (because it hurt my heart to hear), is making them feel that there is enough love and acceptance here, in this house, to sustain them, without feeling a gaping absence of it in other relationships.

But the people I love most are those that seek validation and praise by earning it, and provide it as an act of love, to those around them that need that acceptance too. No matter how “strong” or “not in need” they appear to be.   Because everyone needs a pat on the back, and to feel like they matter, even if their world (knock on wood) is in order, and it gets harder to love people who consistently make you feel like you don’t matter.