It is a cold reality to face that I deeply care what peoples’ opinions of me are. I’ve cultivated this concern since childhood, when severe judgment was a regular occurrence. Not from my parents–in fact, I grew up in an extremely supportive household; one that taught tolerance, equality and love. It was the world outside that was rampant with judgement and those who were not shy in vocalizing their thoughts about me. When my high school girlfriend became pregnant, the judgement intensified tenfold. A few of my friends were even told not to hang out with me because I might get them pregnant. Through osmosis, we presumed. I couldn’t wait to get out of that cesspool of judgment.
My depressed mind is masterful at building scenarios that push irrational thoughts along, which in turn makes me shrink back and second guess myself. This keeps me from speaking my mind and worse, cramming myself into a box of perceived acceptance in an attempt to feel like I am doing the right thing. The more fixated on this I become, the more rigid my thinking becomes, turning me into a dictator determined to force the boys into acting in ways I believe society feels is the right way to act.
When I step back and allow my rational mind to take the lead, I am ashamed and frustrated, because, with all this worry about being judged by others, I am disregarding all the love and encouragement my parents showed me as a child. They understood that I would stumble and I would make mistakes but as long as I gave it my all, respected others, was aware of the needs around me and lived each day with kindness everything would work out. In trying so hard to win approval from others, whose approval does not matter I’ve, lost sight of this. I have also come to realize that since my father died, I have been trying to be him. Yet, in doing so I’ve been working off only a few select memories, so afraid of being judged for my parenting I’ve never taken into account the full man my father was. A man of sound moral character and good manners; a man who literally had a “bad jokes” folder. I am not my father, and that is ok. He would tell me as much if he were still alive. He would tell me I am doing a great job raising the boys. He would tell me to be me and to let the boys do the same.