Love,  Self-Reflection

I’mPerfect: It is Time to Heal Thyself

I remember it like it was yesterday, I had just gotten 4.5 stars out of 5 on my fourth grade English assignment and as soon as I saw glowing remarks from my teacher, the first person I wanted to show my paper to was my dad. I rushed home as soon as school ended hoping against hope that my dad was home instead of working at the parking lot or manning the parking lot booth  for 14+ hours a day.

To my great surprise, my father was actually home so approached him with my assignment in my right hand while smiling ear to ear. I handed dad my paper thinking he would congratulate me on a job well done. Finally, I thought, I would earn my father’s approval. To the contrary, he looked at what I wrote and the 4.5 stars on the front page and said “next time get 5 out of 5 stars”. Even though we only arrived in America the prior year and I did not know a hint of English before immigrating here, where I initially saw success, he only recognized “areas of improvement”.

My father’s reaction was not borne out of malice but out of love, he did not want me to rest on my laurels and instead wanted to push me to push myself. His father died shortly after he was born and mom gave him away to another family for fear of losing her last son after living through the horror of burying every son she gave birth to before they were old enough to walk. Between the trauma of growing up without a father and being raised by a family who did not share his blood, he harbored a deep sense of abandonment and felt like he had no support system. He would frequently say how much he would have accomplished if only he had people who believed in him and motivated him to do better.

The pains of loneliness and neglect he internalized as a child he externalized by trying to prevent me from reliving his experiences. Unwittingly, by trying to protect me from walking in his footsteps he hobbled me with my own set of regrets. Where he did not have a father who was around to provide for him, he robbed me of a father because he was too busy working to provide for his children that he ended up being absent for most of my childhood. Where he felt like no one was around to drive him to do better, he ended up depressing my drive because I felt like nothing I did was good enough for him.

These pains from my childhood never went away, they festered in the back of my mind as I grew up thinking that I was not worthy. The more I sought my father’s approval, the more he withheld it thinking that he was inspiring me to accomplish more. He had a zero-sum outlook on life, either you are the best or you are mediocre like the rest. I once raved about how the Buffalo Bills went to the Super Bowl four years in a row and told him how amazing that feat was only for him to state that second means you are the first loser.

I took his outlook to heart. I felt like I was a loser unless I was the best. I’ve accomplished a lot over my life, I received a Bachelor of Arts from George Mason University, I attained a Masters of Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University, I scored a 161 on the LSA, I passed the PMP exam after studying on my own for three days, I gained a Six Sigma certification, yet the more I succeeded, the more I felt like a failure waiting to be found out—my imposter syndrome was no joke.

Many people never see this side of me because they only know the mask I put on to cover the insecurities that were planted deep in my heart. I created an alter ego of super confident Theo in order to cope with the hurting Teddy inside who desperately wanted his father’s approval. Unable to gain his confidence, I set about trying to acquire everyone else’s acceptance. Validation seeking became an inseparable part of my identity, with that came the rejection of people who supported me because I did not know how to process that emotion only to turn around and move mountains to prove my doubters wrong.

We can search the world over for love but we will never find it unless we first learn to love the one person we don't have to travel to look for—self:: #Guzo2Healing Click To Tweet

If you want me to succeed, just tell me it can’t be done and I will jump into action like a pump pouncing on an elk in order to make you eat your words. If you want me to fail, just tell me “good job”. This dichotomy made me embrace takers who sucked me dry and reject people who authentically wanted to give me love. Like a broken record, I kept inviting people into my circle whom I wanted to “save” because I wanted to do for them what was not done for me as a child.

Invariably, the people I turned into freeloaders would turn on me as they bit the hand that fed them only for me to get livid and go public with my indignation. Few understood over the years that my vitriol was only in reaction as people I trusted stabbed me with either their indifference or their malice. Like an NFL player who gets ejected for returning a sucker punch, I got shellacked each time I returned a tit with a tat. People who understand me deeply know that I am a loving and giving guy, many who know me superficially judge me harshly every time I return stones with boulders.

It’s only now, at the age of 47, that I realize that I am not a hurting child anymore. My father did the best he could with the information that he had, he did not mean to hurt me nor was his aim to withhold love from me. In truth, my father loved me, he saw how much potential I had and he did not want me to get sidetracked by my tendencies to take shortcuts. He knew how determined I could be when I had my mind set on something and how passive I could become when I become disinterested. His lack of approval was his way of instilling discipline in me.

Finally, I am at a point where I stopped caring what people think about me. What matters for me going forward is whether or not my actions are pleasing to Igzihabier, people’s opinions are like the wind, one second they love you and the next they can’t stand you, the only constant is my father God in heaven. No more seeking validation and looking for acceptance from my doubters, I now know that even in my brokenness, I’m perfect in my Father’s eyes::

“Our first and last love is self-love.” ~ Christian Nestell Bovee

Be With Me