In the book, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, highly acclaimed poet laureate Maya Angelou, expressively penned her life experiences, from her righteous social activism to her uninhibited prostitution, she unashamedly owns her life and her faults.
Despite this, Dr. Angelou is not considered beneath her great accomplishments. She protested, “I will not allow anybody to minimize my life, not anybody, not a living soul — nobody, no lover, no mother, no son, no boss, no President, nobody.”
Her words made me think of my hidden wounds and how I have at times minimalized myself. As a young adult, I was, at times, extremely embarrassed about many of the actions I took in my youth. I used to think of myself as undeserving of anything, much less a positive relationship and monetary success.
How critical we are of ourselves! How detrimental we are to our children!
Maya’s words were liberating. I had to find out for myself that I am not my past, I am not my circumstances and I have the ability to be greater, not in spite of my faults, but because of my faults. As humans we will often fail and that’s ok; failure is a natural part of success. But failure should not occur because we hold ourselves to an unrealistic standard of perfection. We need to OWN our faults, accept our past and say that because of it, we are better.
As parents, we encourage our children to be the best, and we believe we can honor this by keeping from them the worst of our faults. Perhaps you will never be so bold to tell your child of your life story, but sometimes children need to hear that you also made mistakes in your youth and that it’s ok. The greatest liberation comes from accepting your own limitations, faults and failures, and realizing that you succeeded nevertheless. When you do this, you can free yourself from the mental captivity of others judgments and expectations, and separate your life experiences from the characterization of who you are. More importantly, you can allow your children to be perfectly imperfect in who they are.