We just got back from visiting both sets of parents in another province.
My dad was telling me about the Awards Night performances from the Music Festival. He then looked at me sadly and said, “You never did win any awards, did you?”
My first emotion was shame. I had failed my daddy. But, instead of apologizing like usual, I pointed out that I did come in first and second in many of the categories (especially those with only one or two people in them :).
Most of my life, I have been trying to make my daddy proud. Like his father, he would talk about other people’s achievements, but never his own and never those of the person he was talking with. It gave me the impression that he wanted me to be more like those other people and that what I did was never enough.
For our town’s art festival, my brothers and I never won the adjudicator’s awards, but we almost always won the People’s Choice. But I wasn’t happy because I thought I had failed.
The only place that I didn’t have that fear was sports. My parents were always at drama, art, and music festivals, but they didn’t come to basketball, badminton or baseball games. I didn’t have to make anyone proud, so I just played for the fun of it!
I realize how much I’ve let my fear of disappointing my dad influence my decisions. Neither of my parents realized their full potential. My dad would have made a great professor and though he does enjoy his business, I think he sabotaged himself.
My mom believed that she was stupid and has worked at manual labour jobs for less than minimum wage most of her life. She has had opportunities to do something she used to dream about, but didn’t have the confidence to fight for it.
Part of me wants to succeed for my dad. To make him proud. To make his sacrifices worthwhile.
Part of me is terrified that I’ll fail. That if I’m not the best, I’m not good enough. I’d be a disappointment. It is easier not to try.
But my relationship with my mom is opposite. I feel bad when I do well. Instead of making her proud, I’m afraid I’ll make her feel inadequate. Like I”ve insulted her by doing better than she allowed herself to do. When I fail, she is very supportive.
While studying premed, my dad was always happy to hear about whatever scholarship I won. The only comment my mom made was that I should study hairdressing instead.
I feel guilt. Why should I have opportunities that she didn’t? Could she be proud of me? Or am I competition? Does my success reflect as her success or does it magnify any perceived failures?
Of course, my choices are my own. And while I want to make my dad proud and I don’t want my mom to feel inadequate, that isn’t something I have control over.
Also, I wonder if my brothers ever felt like they didn’t measure up to me the way I felt like I wasn’t as good as whatever friend I was being compared to. Do they feel like they have to fail or succeed to make my parents feel a certain way? I’ve never asked.