Following a recent conversation I had with a friend, I realized the extent at which many of us would go, trying to please our parents. From achievements in education and career choices — some contrary to what one really wishes to make, to altering physical appearance, and even the selection of a lifelong spouse, the wish for approval is as strong as the most powerful drive for success.
We, humans – introverts, extroverts, rebels with and without a cause, all seem to have a deeply rooted need for being praised by our fathers and mothers. It goes hand in hand, though on a slightly different route, with the desire to be accepted. I trust that even most rebels, had a time in their lives when they sought appreciation, and, being deprived, turned onto a seemingly opposite path; only seemingly as ultimately it is still driven by craving attention. For some people, a different force may have been at play — they were pounded with so much attention, disguised as love, that they took a defiant stand. To borough from Chinese terminology: too much yang leads to yin.
That need for parental approval can be disastrous in multiple ways:
- Some parents, due to their own forbearers never loving and accepting them as they are, will never give that approval to their own children, thus continuing a vicious cycle of denial.
- For the children of such parents, they can spend a lifetime of frustration in an attempt to please, never being rewarded what is rightfully theirs.
- This would possibly become even worse, if and when the parent is deceased prior to imparting their loving appreciation. That leaves one with the impossible task of pleasing a ghost.
As an offspring I sort of got lucky. This may sound awful but with my father passing on while I was still a teenager, followed by my mother shutting down, losing interest in life for several years, I didn’t find myself needing to please anyone, let alone make them proud. Life serves us with a dish, mine included the loss of a parent earlier in life, but, as I mentioned in another post in this blog, every downside has an upside. For years I ached the loss of my dad, felt sad at missing not only really getting to know him, but also enjoying his guidance and wisdom. Yet, on the upside, I avoided the parental approval trap.
As a parent I strive to accept my kids as they are. I find it mostly easy as I really have great kids. Being that I have always been a nomad and a life explorer (still am,) whatever my children choose to be or do, I expect to support. Yet, I know that despite whatever I will say or do, they will still seek my approval, and that it is not up to me to rid them of that nasty habit. When I think of this, I remind myself that it is not my life; it is theirs. If they so choose to go on a wild goose chase, it’s a lesson they will need to learn. I will watch, likely frustrated, much like others may have watched me making my growing up misguided choices.
Learned from: conversation with a friend and personal observations.