When I was in nursery school, I was given an award for “Distinction in Deportment”. I was six at that time and didn’t know what the words “distinction” and deportment” meant, obviously. I just thought it meant I was very well-behaved in school, that I was very good, and it was enough for me. I was content and happy.
When I entered “real school”, it was a different story. Grade 4 was when I first felt that I wasn’t enough and that I needed to be excellent, not just very good. To be excellent, I had to compete with the smart girls and secure my already tenuous spot in the Top 10. Academic life became a constant struggle and anxiety trigger for me from that point on. I wanted to excel and remain in the “smart girls category” because I wanted people to be proud of me, to like me. Thinking of it now, my drive to excel boiled down to a desire to be loved. A lot of our hang-ups in life can be traced back to the all-too-common (though we always deny it) desire to be loved. If you’re someone who already feels secure that you’re loved regardless of what you do, hang-ups and all, then you wouldn’t feel the need to pursue excellence in a mad frenzy just to get the attention you want.
Imagine if I had learned this and took it to heart back in Grade 4, Grade 6, high school, college, or even the confusing years right after it, what a huge difference it would’ve made in my life.
It’s fine to acknowledge realizations like this one, and I do. But it’s also important not to get too hung up on it because if you do, then you’ll be setting yourself up for more disappointment by opening a can of “what ifs” and “I should’ves”. Skip that can opening! It’s way beyond its expiration date so toss it straight to the trash. Don’t leave any opening, even just a tiny crack for regret to leak through because regrets can pile up even without your permission and stunt your growth. Regret puts a damper on living in the moment and accepting yourself.
To be happy and at peace with my life and my choices, I realized that I need to re-connect with that 6-year-old kid again who felt so alive with being “very good” and not excellent, who never thought she had to do something extraordinary just to be loved. Because, I am enough. And very good is enough.