A work of one’s own
Certain springs are tapped only when we are alone. — Anne Morrow Lindberg
A few weeks ago we had some good conversation in an open thread about stress and perfectionism in relation to journaling/documenting.
“takes me away from being engaged and produces an insane amount of guilt and perfectionism”
“the pressure these days to make everything we make a perfect thing of beauty and creativity”
“it might just be simple like starting something new is hard”
What I write about here and what I advocate for children is helping them find their own meaningful work — helping them to identify their interests and dig deeply into something that engages them totally.
As I say over and over, this is challenging work. Challenging for you. It means doing something new that might feel awkward and make you feel unsure. It means examining — deeply — your beliefs about children and learning. It means trying new things, experimenting, making mistakes, trying again — and sharing the process with your child so she can accept all those necessary stages of learning.
It is important for you to find your own meaningful work as well.
And even if “learning mentor” isn’t your destined meaningful work, I believe it can put you on the pathway to finding it. Or help you develop your strengths if you have already found it.
When you decide to really become a researcher, studying how your child learns and how you can support him to become an independent, self-directed learner, you are embarking on your own personal learning journey.
How do we begin to walk the path that we want for our children?
Perfectionism is your enemy when you are learning something new.
It can insidiously whisper in your ear that you have no natural talent for this, so why continue? But it’s the people who continue to chip away at it who will succeed in the end.
You need to apply the exact same expectations to yourself that you would apply to your child. If you don’t expect perfection from her, why would you expect it from yourself?
If you want her to dive into life with gusto, accept mistakes and bounce back with new ideas, rise up to challenges, and not be afraid to set high goals ... don’t you want those same things for yourself?
You are doing something new and challenging, exploring new ideas, trying new approaches.
Support yourself the way you would support your child:
• Be encouraging and positive.
• Provide a great working space and attractive materials.
• Urge ownership of the work. This isn’t something done to impress someone else, get a good grade, or get posted on the internet. This belongs to you and your opinion is what matters.
• Be supportive and follow through.
• Build reminders into your schedule and your workspace to help you fulfill your goals.
• Know that mistakes are a necessary and unavoidable part of learning. It’s how we react to the mistakes that matters.
Remember that when you judge yourself harshly, you are teaching your children without saying a word. And when you dig into something challenging and work hard at it until you’re flushed and happy with the results, you’ve taught them something else.
Everything you do doesn’t have to be worthy of sharing on the internet. Take time every day, even if it’s only a few minutes, to do something for yourself. Read, listen to music, walk, garden, whatever refills your well. You don’t have to be alone or child-free — make it a priority to do the thing that you enjoy most, whether you’re alone or not! Get in the habit of thinking of yourself as worthy of time and attention.
Privacy can be the richest luxury of all. You can have your own thoughts and ideas, you can pursue your own dreams, and you don’t have to tell anyone else about it or photograph it and put it on flickr.
Instead of defining yourself by your successes, define yourself by your traits — your humor, your passion for learning, your refusal to quit, your willingness to experiment, your creativity, your joy. When all is said and done, you may want to share what you’ve learned, mistakes and all. But you don’t have to. Sharing yourself is a choice.
We expose so much of ourselves online, but we know that's not the real us that we're showing. It’s a carefully curated slice of our lives, the part we want to show. Maybe it’s gotten to the point where we think things aren’t worth doing if they aren’t worth doing well ... well enough for being photographed and shared with the world.
But there are so many things worth doing that are worth doing badly ... worth mastering slowly and even painfully ... worth our time and attention and focus. We need to remember that we own our lives and we can close the door on the world and enjoy our simple pleasures and our complex dreams alone, just for ourselves. And let the world look at someone else for awhile.
Our doubts are traitors,
And make us lose the good we oft might win,
By fearing to attempt.
— Shakespeare, Measure for Measure