When BG had just turned one, we managed to teach her to hold up one finger. When we would ask her either "How old are you?" or "Are you one?" She would hold up one finger and say "DA!" with a huge smile on her face.
I remember telling one of my friends, "I'm almost certain she doesn't know what it means, but she knows that when she does it we cheer, so she does it. It's like I'm teaching her to do tricks, i.e., this is the secrete to education."
He laughed and said, "Well, isn't that the way it is all through life? You work hard for the grades, and then for the girl, and then for the job and the raise?"
I smiled and said, "Well yeah, so how do you know you've done a good job if no one claps?" And I thought about it for a second. "Actually. That's the secret to education."
The secret to education, and I suppose to parenting, is to eventually make yourself irrelevant. To teach them how to learn, to self-monitor, to evaluate. To make it so they don't need the clapping to know when they've done the right thing.
I win at teaching. Maybe I even win at parenting. But I don't so much win at life.
I still need the clapping. Actually, I need it a lot.
But I always got the A's. The awards. I never interviewed for a job I didn't get. I won teacher of the year. I have thank you letters from students that take my breath away.
When I was in high school, my friends threw me a party to thank me for taking care of them and helping them with their problems. That doesn't even sound real.
It's normal to need to feel appreciated and respected. It's human. It's healthy. And maybe I'm not getting enough of that these days. But, at some point, I need to learn to do it without the clapping.
I take criticism way too hard, and I take rejections way too personally. I don't know that I'm doing a good job unless someone is handing me a prize. I measure my worth as a human being on things like my blog stats and my twitter mentions. I beg for approval and stroking.
I hate that about myself.
(Yes. I hate my own low self esteem. No, that's probably not even the most counter-productive thought I've had today.)
I want to be the kind of person who can separate her own worth from other people's opinions of her. I want to care about and try to address other people's needs, but not be owned by them. I want to take pride in things I do, even when no one notices them. I want to believe that I am good and smart and have value, that I matter.
I don't know how to do that.