I can see beyond the words now which is more important than not letting go.
‘Your best is not good enough,’ my father used to say and I once believed him.
I used to rail against him and decry this awful way of being – this scarcity culture – but after years of coming to terms with it and him, I have stopped railing and have let go.
In the letting go, I now see that he was making his own way in a context that was, for him, an over-correction for the upbringing he had where he was told by his mother that she would always provide him with a home, even if he failed.
This over-compensation was simply his allergy to his mother’s protectiveness. In his inadequate and limited way he was trying to make us resilient and robust, ready to face all the challenges – but the ‘not good enough’ approach has meant that some of his offspring have struggled with self-esteem.
I remember the scathing way in which he recounted his mother’s mantra, much like the way I used to be scathing about his.
Uncovering the context and working out why he would have said this sort of thing is a liberating experience. He was trying to inoculate us so we would not fail and he took the tough line. I wish that he had, instead, talked about failing and being vulnerable in a completely different way.
But he didn’t.
He made us afraid that we were never good enough and the damage was that we could never work out what ‘our best’ was. Learning our own limits and learning when we were at the top of our game might have been a better way to impart wisdom.
But he didn’t have a clue.
Although he is long gone, I now feel some sadness that he saw the world and success in such stark terms.
But that’s okay. I can see beyond the words now which is more important than not letting go.