Caution: eyeroll emoji overload (sorry not sorry) 🙄
You have been warned. 😛
At no time in my life have I ever felt more overly sensitive about every little thing than while raising teenagers.
Shocking, I know. 🙄
Look, I love my two teens to the moon and back a thousand times. I do. But I wonder, at times, if I am really acting like the parent I’m supposed to be, or if I’m just as teenager-ish in my behaviour as they are.
Problem is, they have an excuse; they are teens.
I, on the other hand, am an adult with life experience.
I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Every little thing the kids say or do I interpret either as criticism or judgement. It’s quite ridiculous, really.
So I have to find a way to learn how to let it roll off me. But how does one do this?
Well, I don’t know, that’s why I’m not doing it. 🙄 😀
Anyway, they invented Google for us GenXers who are raising teens right now. So off I went and typed in a bunch of stuff into the search engine.
First I asked the question:
Why do I take everything personally?
There were 590,000,000 results. (Blah)
Here are a few answers that stuck out to me I thought were noteworthy:
- It hit a nerve
- I’m projecting my own doubts or insecurities onto others
- I constantly look for approval or validation from others
- I expect people to dislike what I dislike about myself
- I expect people to doubt my ability to do things that intimidate me
The list goes on, but this is a good enough start.
So my next question is:
How to I stop this behaviour?
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received on this topic comes from my mom, who is in a unique position to actually observe me with my kids IRL. I mean, she’s here with us and she can see that I get defensive when a kid makes a statement or simply says a thing I end up taking it as being blamed, as a personal attack. Sometimes I even take it as rejection; as a person, a mom, a women. (I should seriously consider therapy…) 🙄
Mom reminded me that “It has nothing to do with you.”
Well, this is a true statement. But my problem is, I only seem to be able to reflect on this AFTER something happened, instead of DURING the conversation aka argument with a teenager.
Rule Number 1:
Stop assuming that people are accusing, judging or blaming me. It’s almost never about me.
I actually like this idea of it not being about me, in principle. I prefer things to not be about me. I’d rather slink into the background and observe unobserved the shenanigans people are involved in, than to be front and center of the shenanigans.
I continued my internet research and came across other points:
Know your own value and self-worth
This is a no-brainer, but not that easy to put into practice. (I’m working on it.)
Have some compassion for myself
This is hard when you’re an empath, but not impossible. The juxtaposition is, if I care too much about myself or have too much compassion for myself, will I appear selfish to others? (See? I did it again… I just projected my own judgement onto others and made the assumption they will see me as selfish. Huh.)
Face your fears and keep growing
I’m doing this daily but I’m nowhere near where I want to be.
Expand my perspective
This is actually crucial advice because I have to keep reminding myself that the perspectives of the teens is never going to be all-encompassing until they have earned some life experience. Also, their brains are not fully developed… chances are slim to none that they think about me in the way I think they think about me. Teenagers are notoriously self-absorbed with a relatively narrow perspective (and I say this as endearingly as I can because I was the same way and it’s natural to be this way).
One other prevailing piece of advice I saw was the idea to create space between myself and my reactions. I know I need to do this, especially if I’m already impatient or frustrated about something. I need to stop REacting immediately, or fly off the handle; instead, I should take a pause or step aside. Take a moment. (I don’t know if I can do this…)
I need to practice this. I need to keep my mouth shut and listen better, and, if necessary, let them figure it out. It is not my responsibility to provide constant education, assistance or even reassurance. They will learn better, or at worst, learn how to be without, if I give them a chance. And, if they need me, chances are they can find me and ask me for what they want or need. I don’t need to micromanage anyone. They are not toddlers.
Just typing this out makes me feel defensive again. 🙄
Here I’m thinking “but it’s my job to mother them, to guide them, to give them support” yada yada, but really, I’ve been doing this for so many years, the time has come to step away now.
As I typed out this whole sordid thing, I was reminded of a work situation that may have conceived my defensive or sensitive behaviour.
It’s been a while since I’ve been in the workforce, but I remember some of these traits when I was in corporate, after my stint as a flight attendant was over. Initially, I had a great manager and a great supervisor, but all that changed after a couple of years and I remember thinking even then that I had to be extra careful what was said to whom because the new management team could not be trusted to be loyal or protective of their employees.
I developed some strategies at the time to always back everything up everywhere in case I was blamed for something, and because of that, I was able to ward off one manager who had it out for me. I even used personal backup systems when they wouldn’t expand my access to extra storage (this was in the 90s, things were technologically different then.)
It ended up being that manager, the one who had it out for me, who lost some crucial material which affected my job. It was impossible for him to blame me, but I remembered thinking thank goodness I had the foresight to protect myself even when I didn’t have the support of the department. I can’t back something up that he didn’t pass on to me, right? My job was adversely affected by his mistake (as were others’) but it reinforced that I did the right thing, being extra careful and ‘thinking outside the box’ in terms of self-preservation.
It may have been during that time when I became defensive or overly sensitive. Shitty managers are at least partially to blame for the way I became, and it may have possibly trickled into my parenting style.
But I have this post now to hold me accountable. 😉
Wish me luck!
And, as usual, share your advice or insights or your own personal experience in the comments. I love to hear how people handle these dilemmas.