Last Friday my daughter brought home her first end of year school report from senior school.
Now, if put in a corner and forced to honestly describe my daughter I would say "she's a nice kid, moderately bright; works hard." And, if her school report had basically said that I think we would have all been happy.
Obviously nice kids who work hard are at a bit of premium these days and so her report was full of superlatives that, while gratifying to us as parents was rather embarrassing and deeply distressing to my daughter.
Because she's a realist with unrealistic expectations of herself.
Let me explain: the majority of her friends are highly academic children who effortlessly achieve higher grades than she does. She knows this perfectly well, compares herself to them and so does not think the positive comments on her report deserved. She is also the kind of child who, if there are 100 marks available in a test, will only be satisfied if she scores all 100 with an extra ten bonus points for immaculate presentation. She thinks she could have done better this year; she should have done better and is uneasy with the fulsome acknowledgement of her actual achievements for the year.
Yes, you're quite right; that kind of thinking is not the ideal recipe for mental health.
So there I am, comforting my distressed child, explaining that it's absolutely OK to be happy and proud that her teachers think so highly of her; that her teachers are judging her on her own potential and not comparing her to her more academic friends and that, actually, we're pretty happy and proud ourselves to be her parents.
And a little voice inside my head is saying "And you know exactly where she gets this from don't you? Just listen to yourself and learn that lesson too."
Quite a number of us have far higher expectations of ourselves than others do. Quite a number of us denigrate our own (often substantial) achievements by comparing ourselves to others. Quite a number of us are profoundly uneasy receiving praise and compliments as our due.
So perhaps we could learn to listen to others and not just dismiss all the good stuff. Being a nice person who works hard and always does their best is a pretty good thing to be; no matter what our own opinion of that best is. And, maybe, just maybe, we might better than we think we are.
(Well, not me – obviously: I know I'm rubbish... Oops!)
A Moodscope member.