As my husband and I stood outside my son's classroom waiting for the start of a school affair, papers hanging on the wall caught my eye. On display was a class project where the kids had to come up with synonyms using the letters of their name. Immediately I searched for what my son came up with and though it's obviously not perfect as you can see below (e.g. spelling), I am intrigued and fascinated by the thought process behind it.
First of all, I completely agree with the adjectives he chose to characterize himself. But more importantly, I'm actually impressed by his choices and happy that he didn't choose Nasty, Nutty, Neurotic or Narcissistic. Or even Anxious, Absurd or Abused (by a recovering perfectionist mother).
What screamed out to me, and what I find most amusing, is that it's become obvious how he feels defined by being organized, or at least aspires to be. And look at that illustration he came up with! It's him sweating it out in the organization process. Papers, markers, toys, games and crayons all in their rightful spots...and contained in bins no less! What sense of accomplishment indeed!
There is one question I'm left wondering about after seeing my son's project. I'm now left thinking of how much of this is true for him, independent of what he knows I want him to be. In other words, are these qualities he truly believes he possesses or qualities he tries to possess because his parents approve of them? He could have written 'nervous', 'obedient', 'adorable' or 'affectionate' and 'happy' or 'helpful'—words I easily associate with him. But he chose what he chose and it makes me curious.
Consequently, isn't it also worth asking ourselves how much of who we are or have become as adults, truly and authentically represent us and not just qualities we think we have, simply because we still aspire to possess them for the sake of having our parents' (or any other significant other's) approval?
If you say you're 'ambitious', are you truly that or are you pushing yourself to be that because it's what you've been taught to aspire for?
If you say you're 'compassionate', is that who you are to the core even when no one is looking or judging you? And is this something you freely chose?
Are you really 'funny' or did your family assign that role to you and you never really wanted it in the first place?
Or maybe we all somehow turn into versions of what our parents wanted us to be and end up internalizing their ideals.
I understand that we are all products of our socialization, especially the socialization process we received through our families. I understand that we become who we are because of what we learn, what we see and that it's all these things layered on to us and eventually define us.
But I still wonder how much of ourselves are simply reflections of our parents' desires for us. How much of myself can I claim, with utter certainty, as completely devoid of my parents' fingerprints or echoes of their voices. If we were all to make a list of five qualities we believe define us, how many of these can we say are independent of our parents' aspirations for us? In addition, which trait do you wish to drop or disassociate from, if only you could, because it's really more just a reflection of what people expect from you rather than something that you feel is authentic to you? Are there any?
I don't have firm answers to these questions yet, and am still mulling over them.
What are your thoughts? I would love to read them.