How Polly got in the way of her own happiness.

Polly was humming when she opened the letterbox. Xmas had been great, everybody was back into the swing of work and school and the new year looked all fresh and promising. Amongst the mail was a letter from her daughter’s school and she opened it first. After all, her daughter was the most important thing in her life. It happened to be a school report with some comments from the teachers, which made her fume.

‘Could do better!’

How dare they? How could they put her daughter down with such a negative remark? Didn’t they know that encouraging and positive remarks worked much better? This was so dismissive of her hard work. And it would put her off to do her best, Polly just knew.

She was telling me this with and I could still hear her anger. But I smiled. After she finished renting, she looked at me. A bit apprehensive. ‘Why are you smiling?’ ‘I don’t understand what the difference is between how you talk to your daughter and their remark.’ She didn’t get it, so I explained.

‘Polly, you always tell your daughter she could do better. Not in those words, but when she had a B, you told her she was on her way to an A and when she didn’t do well, you told her she should have worked harder. Isn’t that the same message?’ Polly was a bit taken aback, but I didn’t stop there.

‘On another note, you are here to talk about you, not about your daughter or her teachers. However, I think you are talking about yourself. Or better said, the way you talk to yourself. Don’t you always say ‘Could do better’? When you cooked that dinner, which everybody enjoyed, you said: ‘I should have taken it out of the oven earlier’. And when you wrote that report, you told me you should have made the lay-out more appealing. I can give you more examples, but do I need to?’

Polly stayed silence for a while, taking in the information.

As Polly was a perfectionist, she was always looking to do things better and unknowingly she had put that upon her daughter as well. Making remarks to drive her to higher standards and the ultimate perfection. It was only when an outsider (the teachers) said a similar thing, she felt is as harmful and negative. But until I pointed it out to her, she hadn’t realized she was continuous saying the same thing to her daughter and………… to herself.

  • How many of you are telling yourself you ‘could do better’?
  • How often do you rate what you did as ‘not good enough’?
  • Do you compliment yourself regularly?
  • What is wrong with good enough?

Quite simply, everyone could do almost everything ‘better’ by spending more time and energy on it. But really, is it worth it? Try to be aware of your self-talk and if the ‘could do better’ in any variation pops up, just let that go.

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