Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I'm fantastic...

... just not good enough.

It's what I've heard all my life.

"You're such an upstanding young man... do better."

I think that's why I'm having troubles with my self confidence. I mean, I have a rather healthy self-esteem. I frankly know I'm a pretty dern good catch.

Last Friday, after practicing Rumba with my ballroom partner, I thought, "You would make one fantastic husband, Andrew Pankratz!" We chilled, we danced, we joked, we laughed, we talked a little seriously. We had a great time. Well, I at least had a great time, and she at least seemed to. (Side note: I'm not implying any sort of crush, in the least bit here; I'm implying my skills in the platonic-side of a relationship.)

The other night, as I started to get ready to take a bath and noticed myself in the mirror, I thought, "... you know what, you're kind of sexy... imagine how you'd look with a tan... nice..." (Side note: no, I don't 'turn myself on' -- honestly."

I have been complemented myriads of times on my eyes. My lips have been described as "gorgeous" and "sexy" and "pout-y." I have been compared to greco-roman sculptures (by one who isn't wanting to get into my pants -- unless I'm completely oblivious). I have been called "cute" and "hot" and "adorable." (I actually prefer the first and last, by far.)

Hopefully I'm honest in saying that I've never let any of this go to my head, and I remain down to earth -- which, ironically I suppose, I really love about myself.

Yet I have zero confidence when it comes to thinking that someone would want me.

Now, don't take this as me saying, "Confirm that I'm as fantastic as I am" or "Tell me someone would want me" or anything like that.

I'm just saying I have a glitch in my thinking here. And I blame the LDS Church. Not in a bitter or "I demand retribution" way, but in a frank, bluntly honest, "It's the Church that screwed me up a little bit" way -- and only because, in understanding the source, I can perhaps have a better chance of fixing it.

And it's not just the gay issue. I've noticed this in a lot of Mormons (of all orientations). I mean, Mormons are always hearing, "You are doing such a good job... now improve!"

That last imperative completely breaks down what was built up with the complement.

Don't get me wrong, though, I think criticism is necessary. We need to know and understand where we need to improve.

The damage is in the implication. With the LDS Church, there is the implication that, even though God is pleased with you, He could be more pleased.

This creates this mindset of, "I'm still not good enough."

You know what, if our hearts are pure, then God is completely pleased with us, nothing lacking, no matter where we are in life -- no matter where we need to improve.

My high school drama teacher did a decent job with this. She critiqued like crazy, but I often felt that, no matter how many things I needed to fix, she was proud of me and grateful to have me on stage or competing for her.

Of course, if we do something blatantly wrong, there is going to be some displeasure. But that's if you're doing it on purpose.

For a hypothetical example: Say I'm babysitting two of my nieces. They are rough-housing near their parents' porcelain figurines. I tell them that they need to calm down because they might end up breaking the figurines while offering a few alternatives to their rough housing*. Instead of listening and choosing an alternative, they continue to rough house. Before I can intervene to protect the figurines, my nieces bump into the them, and they fall and break.

I would not be very pleased.

On the other hand, if they weren't rough housing but accidentally bumped into the figurines, then there would be absolutely no disappointment from me.

Anyway, I just got sidetracked by writing the post-script, "Chedner's parenting tip of the day" of this post. So I'll bring it back to my original thought: I think I would make one damn fine parent.

Anyone would be über lucky to have me as a husband and co-parent! I sincerely believe that... and yet there's that stinkin' glitch that says, "but you're still not über enough."

Damn glitch.

How do I fix it?

Actually, I think the only way to fix it is to ignore it and put myself out there, start fishing.

I enjoy alliteration, even if it is slight.

*Chedner's parenting tip of the dayƗ.

To effectively circumvent undesired behavior, calmly, lovingly, and without judgment:
  1. get their attention, making and sustaining eye contact with them and being sure they are listening;
  2. define the undesired behavior;
  3. explicitly explain why such is undesirable;
    1. Such explanations must be of natural, known/proven consequences of the undesirable behavior. If there are no actual, reference-able examples of the consequence, then there is no strong reason to actually believe the consequence will truly be levied.
    2. The consequences must be strictly in line with the behavior. That is to say, for example, saying, "If you drink too much Dr. Pepper, you could get kidney stones. Uncle Henry got kidney stones from drinking too much Pepsi." Has room for doubt -- 'I'm not drinking Pepsi; I'm drinking Dr. Pepper.'
    3. If the child has stronger examples of desirable consequences than the undesirable consequences you provide, there is also a great room for doubt.
    4. If you cannot come up with a natural, known/proven consequence, then maybe you need to re-evaluate whether or not the behavior is actually undesirable.
    5. The more explicit, the more effective -- the more vague, the more doubt there will be in the probability of the natural consequence. For example, "If you turn around in circles, you will get dizzy. If you're too dizzy around the fireplace, you may not be able to keep your balance, and you could fall and hit your head on the bricks. If you fall hard enough, it will cut your head open and can even crack your skull. It will hurt -- a lot. I don't want you to get hurt." is much more effective than "You could get hurt." It's easy to think, "Pssh, I won't get hurt" but almost impossible to think, "I won't get dizzy" (after all, the whole point is to get dizzy).
  4. provide several desirable alternatives to the undesirable behavior;
    1. Having a desirable alternative makes deserting the undesirable behavior easier (and desirable).
    2. These alternatives must be desirable to everyone involved. If there is no desirable alternative for the "offender," then there's no reason to stop the undesirable behavior (because the undesirable behavior is actually desirable to them... and they're going to choose the most desirable option).
    3. The desirable options must be more desirable to the "offender" than the undesirable behavior. Again, they will most likely (if not always) choose the most desirable option.
    4. If the undesirable behavior is undesirable due to the setting, then an alternative may be the same behavior but in a different place if available. For example, turning around in circles isn't necessarily0 undesirable, it's the turning around in circles in places where falling is dangerous that's undesirable; therefore, you could offer turning around in circles in the big back yard as an alternative. For another example, playing noisily isn't necessarily undesirable, it's playing noisily where noise is inappropriate that's undesirable; therefore, you could offer playing noisily in the empty playroom as an alternative.
  5. if the undesirable behavior continues, despite all the above, you may intervene with an unnatural consequence to prevent the natural consequence;
    1. Never threaten with the unnatural consequence. The child should stop the undesirable behavior to avoid the natural consequence, not out of fear for the unnatural consequence. If the child is stopping to avoid the unnatural, then they have no reason to avoid the undesirable behavior when you are not around to apply the unnatural consequence. However, if the child is stopping to avoid the natural consequence, then they have every reason to avoid the undesirable behavior when nobody is around to apply the unnatural consequence.
    2. Always explain that the unnatural punishment is being imposed to prevent the natural consequence. This reemphasizes the danger of the natural consequence, putting the focus on it instead of the unnatural consequence.
    3. Always remain calm and loving. Any negative feelings emitted from you (your voice, body language, words, etc.) should be concern and worry for your child's well-being -- not anger et al. Sorrow and disappointment may be appropriate; however, such should always infer a concern for their well-being. This will establish and sustain an image of a loving, non-threatening parent instead of a vengeful and cold parent.
  6. if the undesirable behavior continues, despite all the above (save 5), and the natural consequence is minor, you may want to allow the natural consequence;
    1. The more your children see that you are being honest with them, the more reason they have to trust you. (Always be honest with your children.)
    2. Always be there to make things better. This will establish and sustain a relationship where the child can go to you even after making a mistake. This will only be the case if you avoid judgment or a strict "I told you so" attitude. A smiling, lighthearted "I told you... now come here, and let's get you fixed up" may be appropriate (depending on the personality of the child).
  7. if the undesirable behavior is stopped, thank and praise;
    1. It is VITAL that your thank and praise your children often and not just when they stop undesirable behavior. If they only receive praise when they fix problem behavior, then they will associate praise with fixing problem behavior (which can only be done when problem behavior is initiated).
    2. Referring to 4: It is VITAL that you offer desirable things to do at times when there is no problem behavior. If they know the only way you're going to offer to make cookies with them is to, themselves, initiate problem behavior... I think you can fill in the rest.
While there are some similarities, there are significant differences in the approach to effectively encourage your child to do something that is undesirable to him/her but desirable to you.

Ɨand frankly what the LDS Church is completely missing (save items 1&2) in their "don't be gay" stance.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, long post Andrew. Hard to comment on it all! So I will just say that I understand and agree, the Church does create an atmosphere of relentless pushing and guilt. It's actually an ironic confirmation for those who say the Church is more a corporation than a church, since anybody who's ever been a big corporate employee knows the "thanks great job now what have you done for me in the last 5 minutes" atmosphere.

    I think escaping that takes a personal decision to just not buy into it anymore and to shrug off anyone's efforts to impose it. My dad and I talked about this same thing a while back. He told me that my mom had lived her whole life in fear of never measuring up and not being good enough and was always scared she wouldn't get where she wanted to go. And she was one of the kindest, gentlest, most truly Christ-like people I ever knew. If she doesn't qualify for celestial glory then nobody does. I HATE that the LDS culture made such an angelic person as her still feel irredeemably guilty and insufficient.

    By contrast, my dad has a much healthier attitude. He said "I believe in and trust the Savior and the atonement. I do my best to follow the Savior. And that's all I can do. If that's not good enough, then too bad, I'll end up where I end up."

    I have tried to follow his example. It's the only way for me to maintain my sanity. If I went the way my mom did, it'd be like trying to feed the government "enough" money. There never will be "enough." So stop chasing a shadow you will never catch.