I recently found an article that I had pulled out of a magazine a few years ago that explored the difference between “Super Families” and “Healthy Families.” It is short and to the point, and I love the distinction that it makes between healthy and “super” expectations that crop up in family life. The article was under “Tips from Parent Educator Allison Rees of LIFE Seminars,” and in this article she makes points like:
- Super children have to excel. Healthy children enjoy being themselves, learning by exploring, and using their abilities.
- Super children are “nice.” Healthy children are egocentric and have feelings and needs.
- Super children are obedient, and super parents are in control. Healthy parents permit their children to become independent, and healthy children develop independence through resisting control.
As I was reflecting on this article, I started thinking about how these same principles apply to individuals as well as to families. As individuals, it is not unusual to have unhealthy or unrealistic expectations of ourselves. These extremely high expectations generally lead to feeling inadequate, not good enough, unworthy and powerless. Who can live up to these unrealistic expectations? And what does it say about me when I always feel like I am a failure and a disappointment?
Feeling good about ourselves is a key foundation to being happy, healthy and productive members of our families, of our communities, and of our society. So I decided to put together my own list of what a “Healthy Individual” would believe and know about themselves and the people around them.
♦ enjoy being themselves, know that they have important abilities and strengths, and believe that they have resources to manage the things they face in their lives.
♦ are able to relax and have fun, and ride out the ups and downs of life.
♦ accept that they are human, and that they will make mistakes, get tired, have bad days, and not always be in top form.
♦ are able to pay attention to their own feelings and needs, and communicate these feelings and needs to others in appropriate ways.
♦ know that mistakes are opportunities to learn and to grow, and that mistakes are a healthy and necessary part of life. Some of the most wonderful breakthroughs happen when we are trying to figure out why something didn’t work.
♦ believe that other people are doing the best that they can under the circumstances, and don’t take other people’s actions personally.
♦ have healthy boundaries: they can say “yes” or “no” based on what is best for them rather than what they think other people expect.
♦ allow other people to have their reactions, and don’t need to fix other people in order be okay.
♦ while they don’t take other people’s actions personally, they also are ready to stand up for themselves and for what they believe in. They know when to forgive, and when to take a stand.
♦ know that it’s okay to ask for help and that they don’t need to figure everything out by themselves.
How do you feel about yourself as you read this list? Do you feel positive and proud of who you are? Do you see that you are on the right path, and that you are becoming more and more healthy with each new experience and challenge? Or do you feel even more inadequate, and more discouraged?
I hope that you are able to see this list as a source of inspiration and affirmation that the best you have to offer is already present in your life. You may need support and acknowledgment so you can let go of the expectations that imprison you and limit you. It is not a sign of weakness but of strength that you can reach out and get the support you need to so you can grow and trust yourself more and more.
Remember too that life is a journey. There is never a time that we “arrive” and have it all sorted out. This is something that I am constantly reminding myself: it is not a finish line we are aiming for, rather an adventure that is full of unexpected twists and turns, and just when we think we are nearing the goal, a whole new and unexplored vista opens up before our eyes! It might come in the form of a new relationship, an unexpected illness, a new child, a new stage in life, a loss, or a special event. Whatever it is, life is asking you to learn, to grow, and to believe that you have what you need to move forward in a meaningful and fulfilling way.
This paradox can be very freeing: instead of needing to be a SUPER person, when we allow ourselves to be human, vulnerable, and “in process,” our best and most true selves are able to emerge. Then we can relax and do our best, and know that we are enough, just the way we are.
“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.” ~African Proverb