This quote by Idowu Koyenikan (Wealth for All: Living a Life of Success at the Edge of Your Ability) might seem obvious, but it took me many years of growth and shedding baggage to reach this point.
Everyone tells you what to be, how to be, what to do, what not to do. It starts with parents, who come with the notion that you are a mini version of them, and when you turn out different, they’re so disappointed. It continues with friends, colleagues, employers, etc., etc. And we crave acceptance, approval.
At some point, we need to stop listening, stop needing the acceptance and approval. That point for me was when I was trying to understand and cope with a hormonal, teenage son, who was also recovering from the violent death of his best friend. Other mothers advocated “tough love”. “He’s faking the trauma,” they said. “He’s using you,” they said. I was told to kick him out, show him who’s boss. As I struggled with this advice, it suddenly felt wrong in every pore in my being.
I had brought this soul into the world. Was it not my responsibility to be there for him during hard times? What message would it give him if I kicked him out? It was an epiphany when I realized others were wrong.
Because life is not a formula.
Every person’s life experience, which is what makes them who they are, is different. And not everything works for everybody.
I stuck by my son every agonizing step of the way, letting him know I disagreed and would not support the bad choices, setting boundaries. But I also let him know that I would always love him no matter what because he was a part of me and I couldn’t not. Even when I was furious with him, I told him I loved him. Others shook their heads, made judgmental comments, gave advice according to their formula.
My son made it through his trials. He now works hard, maintains a successful job, and is valued and respected by friends and colleagues. He is better adjusted at his age than I was, a child of parents whose love was conditional.
We are stronger than ever. I trust my own instincts. It feels amazing.