I couldn't figure it out. This life thing. I simply could not get it right. I tried, and tried. Then I gave up, but I always tried again. Sometimes right away, sometimes years later. Relationships, some broken, some destroyed, some never happened. Jobs, some done well, with no passion, some devotedly passionate about, but not completed so well. An overtly strong inner desire to flee when things didn't go my way. A false truth that if someone disagrees, I should shut them out, pack up and move on.
I was raised to fear failure. Actually, not failure itself, but to fear the disappointment that would be a direct result from failure.
But to reach a goal successfully, one must know exactly what that goal is. In a race, there is a set start and finish. If the finish line was constantly being moved during the race, the athlete would never finish, and therefore fail.
In parenting, a set goal should be determined so that all players know the rules. If the authority figures (parents) change the rules slightly to move the finish line, one can never really finish, which means that the participant can never receive the praise and encouragement and feel successful completion. In that way, the parents can maintain a sense of control on everything and everyone around them. And when confronted with any issue, they can simply change the rules to protect themselves, making sure that they are never wrong, and the other party is seldom right.
This is the environment I grew up in. I made the majority of my life's decisions based on what I thought would bring approval from the parents. I was able to "get away" with some things that I wanted to do, but I knew where the line was, and I did not dare cross it for fear of utterly disappointing.
It is quite normal for a parent to express disappointment in a child's behavior. But there is a limit to how that disappointment is used and should not be used to manipulate the child to make choices that the child might or might not want to make.
After 37 yrs of living like this, I finally realized that I needed to confront the issues. So I did, and things blew up in my face. I spent another 3 yrs of my life, digging, squirming, thinking, talking, sharing, listening, trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. At some point during the journey, I realized that I do not have to please my parents to be successful. In fact, that is the very goal that was holding me back. If I could rarely please them, I was chasing ghosts and wasting my time. (if you are a ghost chaser please don't be offended).
With some hope of a brighter future, I rebuilt a bridge. Not the former one way bridge, but a two way bridge, where dialog could be had, with no toll booth at one end. A free passage for anyone who wants to come and go in my life. And they came, but guess what? I still failed. I still disappointed. I'm 40 yrs old and still a disappointment.
And that encounter confirmed that it will always be that way. At that point, I decided to stop trying. Stop trying to please, stop making decisions based on hope of approval ( I actually started that process long ago, but this confirmed my decision). I have to be my own person, follow my (and the wife and kid's) goals. Parent based on what I know is right, not on what I think they would approve of.
I still have a lot of dreams and goals and ambitions, and anyone who holds me back will not be a part of the action. But if anyone wants to cheer me on, hand me a bottle, and ring life's cowbell, bring it on because I will be doing the same for you!!
Final note: I don't write this out of anger, bitterness or contempt. In fact, I don't remember ever feeling this peaceful in my entire life. I woke up just this morning, realizing that there is an emptiness where the angst used to be. I'm planning on filling that emptiness with joy, it should not take long. I don't write this to tear down or show disrespect to the parents in any way.
I do write this to share my story with the hopes that my experience will help you grow strong and believe in yourself. Stand up for yourself, live for yourself and experience the peace that I am experiencing.
Let's do this together!!