Monica: Welcome to the show Carolyn and Jennifer.
I’ve never had sister, sister on the show before, and it’s an honor to have this sister pairing here. So we’ve introduced you already, but you know, Jennifer way back when we did, you were doing me a big favor. When I think I was maybe 10 episodes in, and we did an episode on perfectionism that we didn’t intend to be so well-received, but for a little tiny podcast, it sure hit a chord for a lot of people. And there was something that you mentioned there, and it connects to Carolyn being here today. You mentioned in that episode, how your daughter is a musician and that as a musician, she could not improve while she was standing within this perfectionistic position.
So that’s what we’re here to talk about today because you are both, achievers and you both help women and children be achievers too. And to strive for excellence, to reach for more in their lives. But you also do this from this place of allowing them to also, well, not even allowing them, they have to allow this ability to be human; which is so complicated.
That’s why I’m so eager to have both of you on. So as teachers and parents, let’s do the reverse of this: how have you seen perfectionism prove to be destructive in the growth of your students or your clients or your children? And why do you think that is? And actually let’s start with Carolyn on this one. Since you primarily work with children musicians.
Carolyn Fife Bever: I remember that podcast very well. And I remember Jennifer talking about that and of course it struck a chord because, you know, artistic expression is subjective and, you know, musical phrases can’t be played perfectly. And thank goodness, you know, we want to bring ourselves and our own creativity to a written piece of music . So while we can really strive for precision and being better every time we play with whatever goal we set for ourselves, it is a wonderful metaphor for the rest of life.
Monica: [00:02:01] I was a musician, but not like you or, not like the kids you work with, but the little bit of work that I did in the Suzuki method, it was hard for me because I was a perfectionist, like, “Give me the notes, tell me how to play. Don’t have me make up music or try to create a song based off of something you just hummed for me. So that is interesting. Yeah. Tell us more,
Carolyn Fife Bever: [00:02:26] The other great thing about my job is that I really see somebody from the age of three and they don’t leave until they’re 18. So I just get to know every little facet of their personality and so I see this wonderful tapestry of personality types and strengths, and I always see from a young age, what type of learner they are. And it’s really fun for me to be able to push the weak spots. Kind of like Jennifer, you know, my job is to see the bigger picture and then know that it’s in their best interest for me to really push the parts where they’re weakest.
And then that way I can be their friend in supporting that and understanding that it’s a good thing to push our weak spots; it’s not a bad thing. You know, it’s my job. I would be a horrible teacher if I said “You were great, I’ll see you next week. “You know, my job is to say, “What can we do with this thing?”
Monica: [00:03:21] There needs to be an awareness of weakness. And that’s what I think, Jennifer, you and I talked about in that first episode, the perfectionists like to avoid seeing the weakness or to only hyper-dwell on it. There’s this balance of that.
How have you seen perfectionism show up even with your children or your clients and how it’s destructive to their growth and their achievement? .
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: [00:03:43] Well maybe I’ll start this with my clients. When people are coming in to talk to me or I’m teaching a class, I’m giving people an awareness of what they’re not doing right---Or what they’re doing that’s getting in their way, as well as a vision of where they can go.
And for a lot of people, it can be overwhelming because of that (very human) perfectionistic demand; “I should be here. I’m here, but I should be there.” And that can be really overwhelming as an experience because so much of living life well is tolerating our fundamentally flawed, limited nature. And not letting that disorient us so much, that we’re not able to deal with the present and to move forward in the present. I’m often helping people within these conversations to both see what is real, where they may be limited, but also where their strengths are.
Sometimes when people are feeling overwhelmed, I take them back to all the things they’ve already mastered and overcome, despite the odds, despite the pressures on them. So they understand and see their capacity. But it’s also about helping them point in a direction, which is like, “Hey, this is where I want to get in my relationship. This is where I want to get in my relationship with myself.” But then dealing with the present, dealing with today. Dealing with what in the New Testament, Christ talks about the idea of “take no thought for the morrow”, in the Sermon on the Mount. And some people say, “Wow, that seems so irresponsible. Like don’t you want to make sure you can pay the rent?”
I don’t think it means to be irresponsible, but once you know what direction you’re hoping to go, you can deal with the evil in that day; that is, deal with yourself today because it’s the only piece you have control over. The only part that you can actually do anything about is who you are now, and the more you’re focused on the future or the past, the more you give that strength away. So I see that with my clients, for sure.
And then, you know, with my own parenting, I’ve had to see in myself more of my own perfectionism and how I’ve pushed that onto my kids. Seeing as they get older, some of those exposures of myself through them and how this perfectionism is so linked to self-rejection and self-worth in me, and how we can play that out in our relationships in ways that aren’t helpful. But the antidote in relating to my kids has been very much about a deeper acceptance of my own humanity and a deeper acceptance of theirs, that’s the freeing source.
Monica: [00:06:43] Hmm. And when people first hear that, and I know that I was this way when I first heard that, I thought, “Well, that just means you just give yourself permission to be a terrible human or to not work on yourself.” And the opposite, because I’ve learned from you, really is true. And I’d like to know how do you both see that playing out? How does this shift to leaning into the process, the present, you know, even from learning notes and, you know, scales, I know I’m probably botching all of how you train people, but leaning into the process more than the outcome, how does that somehow enable you to have a higher outcome, a more fulfilling outcome?
Carolyn Fife Bever: [00:07:22] I think one of the things that Jennifer was saying that is very relatable in a music realm is again with Suzuki, we go back and we review. And I think that reminding of ourselves and our kids of how the process really does work, even if it seems like it’s a new challenge, but the day to day steps of trying our very best with whatever happens and being creative about solutions and honoring what we have done. So when we go back and we’ve reviewed music that we have played and mastered, and, you know, remember when twinkles were really hard and now they’re not hard anymore. Of course I can’t run a marathon tomorrow. It would be silly to go out and try to run 26 miles, but you know, what are the goals that I can do right now that will get me to where I want to be. I never really was an athlete, ever. I was always like the class musician and I married this awesome person who loved mountain biking. And so I really wanted to be that, but I just thought that it’s just not me. And I remember thinking, well, what if I just try to run a block?
And I literally ran a block and then the next day I read like two blocks and then I ran-walk and it was just shifting the paradigm of “who am I?” I mean it’s silly, but it was figuring out I really liked running. Am I the fastest runner?
Well, no; but I really love it. And then I actually really did start to become fast because I decided to do it. And then I qualified for Boston. Then I became a marathoner, but it really started with walking a block.
Monica: [00:09:08] And leaning into the process!
Carolyn Fife Bever: [00:09:10] And leaning into the process. It is just being okay with wonderfully talented people all around me and that didn’t take away from all that I was and all that I wasn’t. Just really loving the talent that you see around you. I think that’s one of the things as a musician, I am surrounded by talent, and just extraordinary talent. I think, you know, when you think about what it takes to become a professional musician and the hours and it’s like a perfect storm. It really is an Olympic athlete. Right? You have to have gifts and talents, but you have to just dedicate so much of your life and your time to it. If I was always comparing myself, it just wouldn’t be work. If I can just really love my colleagues and be blessed with the way that their talent blesses my life. And see that it is a true gift what they give everyone; we’re all so much better for it.
Monica: [00:10:12] There’s that identity piece to it again that you brought up, you know, just you, because you are allowed to lean into a process, you are allowed to shift in how you viewed yourself and what your capacities could be, which meant that you got to a place that you didn’t imagine you’d be able to do in the beginning.
I love that. And Jennifer, for you, you talked about this with parenting and I would actually love to know a bad Jennifer story. I would love to know a time where you didn’t do it right, because that will, and I’m sure all my listeners will be like, yes, she’s human. Please tell us.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: [00:10:44] Okay, well, this is a good one! I talked to my son this morning and asked, “would you mind if I tell this story?” And he said, “no, that’s fine.” So my second child is a pretty gifted child. (He said, “Make sure you emphasize that point!” . . .(laugh).
When he was a little guy. ... So let me give a little more context first. I grew up in a wonderful family of eight. My father was a professor, but my father had his own insecurities about his intelligence. He grew up in a family of high achievers, and I think he felt by comparison, he hadn’t done as well, or wasn’t as capable.
I don’t know if that’s true, but I think he carried that sense about himself. And so I think in a lot of ways, the way he related to us was in a sense that, like him, we weren’t very capable either. I mean, that’s just the feeling I had from my father on a lot of things, at least academically. And maybe in part, because I was female. I’m making my dad sound like a horrible person. He was not, but he was a product of his generation and experiences, and you know, the goal in life for me was to get married and not necessarily be academically oriented.
I wasn’t a particularly gifted student. I had to work hard academically. I think I had capacities and intelligence that were there, but didn’t necessarily show up readily in the academic realm.
So I had to work harder than some of my peers to demonstrate it. But my bigger point is I had in me a kind of insecurity that I wasn’t really an equal with talented, intellectually-gifted people. And whether or not that matters or is a fair self-assessment, it was a real feeling of insufficiency.
And then I married into a family of all Ivy league educated people. And I just felt sometimes crushingly insecure. I mean, I feel some compassion for my younger self around that now, but I genuinely felt that way. I would think, I don’t know how to be involved in his family conversation because they’re talking about things I don’t know about.”
And so when my son was born and he was so clearly an able learner, he was sort of like going to redeem me. And this is so unfair to do to a little guy, but on some level, he was going to make me okay. Now, that’s obviously not his job and I never articulated this to myself because that would have been too abhorrent to admit to myself, that this was the job I was placing on him.
But on some level I was. And I would express to him about how gifted and capable he was. And I would talk to him about how talented he was. And he was---But the problem was I was giving him an expectation, a perfectionistic demand about what he was supposed to be, what he was supposed to evidence (about me) through every effort that he made.
And, so it’s that fixed mindset versus a growth mindset that I was producing, single-handedly, I am ashamed to say. And so as he got into higher levels of academic demand, his motivation started going down because he says, “I felt like if I couldn’t definitively produce the A, if it was starting to now really challenge me and I couldn’t demonstrate that I was what I’m supposed to be, then it was deeply unmotivating, because it was going to be an exposure.” I would try to counter his statements in those moments and just say, for example, “just write anything, … “, you know, “vomit onto the page and then you can deal with what’s there”.
Right? “Don’t worry about being perfect.” But there was this underlying.. he said “That wasn’t a helpful idea because it was an admission of failure. It was an admission that I’m not what I’m supposed to be. And so I don’t want to do it imperfectly because then I have to deal with the view of myself that I’m not prepared to deal with in myself”.
And so, for me it was hard to start waking up to the fact that I was a part of this. I think I was starting to confront this in myself, maybe seven years ago that this was going on, and I was changing it, but he still had internalized a lot of it already.
And so, you know, I would say to him, “I don’t care what you do, where you go to school. I can live with any of that. Just strive in a way that’s meaningful to you.” But he said, the reason why he couldn’t take that in, is he had his own confrontation with perfectionism, that he had to deal with it himself now, and who he was really going to be. Could he be at peace with who he was.
But the thing that he said has been the most helpful for him in moving forward in his life is in some ways to not think about the future, to not think about some perfectionistic ideal. He said, this might not be true for some people, some people have a hard time mobilizing themselves without a future vision. They may need to think about the future ideal to get them to deal with today.
But he said he needed to learn to let go of that and just deal with his responsibilities in any given day. And he realized, when I deal with my responsibilities right now, that’s when I feel my happiest. It’s the happiness in today, of engaging in my life and not retreating from the challenge in it----Not when I get to some future success, then I’ll be happy---Then I’ll prove I’m the right kind of person.
That’s deeply de-motivating. But when I do what I need to do today, I feel good. And he said, you know, I’d much rather get a B+ in a class that I’ve worked my hardest on because I know that I’ve come to understand the material. And I know that I gave it my best, and I feel happy.
Rather than I was able to, or smart enough, to map what the teacher wanted and put the right answers on the exam, because I knew the answers, but I hadn’t really mastered the material. It’s not as gratifying. That’s important for him, thinking in some sense about what makes me happy today is what I need to deal with today.
Not some fantasy of, when I arrive at some future goal---that will make me happy. And so, I think for me to be a good parent, I have had to really confront my own perfectionism and my own need to let that go to be able to really be a meaningful resource for him in that, in his own life.
Monica: [00:17:23] So much of what I’ve learned from you over the years and all just also just my own work in this area I’ve had to work really intensely in, is realizing that perfectionism really is just a misplacement of identity. And that really is placing on the outcome, like we talked about. And with both of your examples, I can see that we’re released to do more when we’re not focusing so much on what the outcome will be.
And instead when we’re focusing on the daily small actions. And even performing Carolyn, I’m sure if you are sitting up on stage and you are only thinking about. How was this going to end? What kind of review could I get, what will the audience say? Then it destructs the process, right?
Carolyn Fife Bever: [00:18:03] It literally kills creativity.
Right? So there’s no way for me to actually be in the moment if I’m always again, worried about external validation, how can I bring my heart into the piece?
The wonderful thing about music is we get to really stream ourselves and stream our own creativity. So it’s wow. It’s a great way to show that.
Monica: [00:18:28] And our own uniqueness, which means you can’t be perfect. So I want to move this to women who this is a whole new concept for them.
Maybe they actually see Jennifer that you’re like your son when their motivation is way low, because they’ve been for so long trying to achieve this impossible task of doing things perfectly right away, and then not doing that. And so their motivation is low, but they know it’s time for more, they’re ready to strive for greater things in their lives.
So how can they lean more into the process? How can they, you know, reach for excellence while also accepting themselves? Carolyn, do you have any tips for them to start with?
Carolyn Fife Bever: [00:19:03] Well, again, I think you have to trust the process and you have to really, I think trust the goals and your passions.
Jennifer’s brought up a couple of things in different podcasts But one thing that was, you know, fun to think about, there’s so much evidence to show that it works, but that you have to really think about what you’re passionate about. What is my gift, and how can I bring it forth? And even think about it in a way of “how can I bless the lives of others?”, and think about “what is it that I was gifted with, that I can bring forward?” And then what are some small things I can do today to be brave and to step into the unknown and to be kind to myself and to be brave enough, to bite off a new challenge with being realistic about the goals.
Monica: [00:19:56] So vision still matters. I didn’t for years make goals because beforehand I was too stringent on what the goals would be and how I have to reach them.
But there still needs to be a vision, right. There still needs to be “this is where I want to head.” Right?
Carolyn Fife Bever: [00:20:12] I would say, with integrity, what do you want in your life? What is the kind of person that you imagine you want to be? What are the things that you will respect about yourself? What are the things that you want to be in the world?
What would you, again, Jessica says this all the time, but what, what, what will you respect? And that will show you what your passions are, and that will show you what you will need to work on to, to have peace and happiness.
Monica: [00:20:44] Yeah. And I think once you do that, I see a level of healthy detachment from the weakness too. It’s just something to work on. It’s something that you’re aware of, but it’s not something you’re constantly berating yourself over that. And Jennifer, I was wondering if you have any tips on that or other tips for these women who are in this place of, “okay. I’m ready for more”.
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: [00:21:04] I think one thing that’s really helpful is just understanding that this struggle with perfectionism is a very human struggle. It’s not like something’s broken in you. Part of growing into maturity is to have enough compassion for what it means to be human and for yourself in that imperfect process to stop beating yourself up for what we all are, which is flawed and worthy.
So that, in and of itself, takes courage. I mean, it’s stepping into a new way of thinking. And if you are a product of a system that’s highly perfectionistic, or you still have parents that call you up and tell you how you’re doing things wrongly or whatever, to have some compassion for what you’re trying to gravitate towards will facilitate it. It allows you to feel less like I’m broken rather than I’m reaching for something better that is new to me, that’s a new way of thinking about what it is to be who I am. So I just think it’s a helpful thing because we can be perfectionistic about not being perfectionist, kind of giving ourselves a little more compassion. I wish I could do it differently. I’m wiser now than I was 20 years ago. I wish I could go back and do some of these things better for the sake of those that I love. But part of being human is we don’t get that. We have to tolerate the terms in which we exist, and nothing really prepares you to be a parent other than being a parent.
You know, you have to be in there and start seeing things and learning as you go. Learning some compassion, in and of itself, is a valuable thing, because you can be kind to yourself when you strive and you try and you fail, because that’s just inherent to the process.
That’s another thing my son said to me. I asked, “What are things that have helped you?” And he says, “Imperfect is the only way”. It is the only way. So you just have to keep reminding yourself of that, but as you do things and you strive, it does expand what’s possible. If you push yourself today in a direction, any direction, any direction that has any merit whatsoever, you have more capacity in you tomorrow---to now choose a different direction, because you learn something from that one, or to keep going in that direction. And so while I do agree, a hundred percent with the vision idea, I talked to women about this a lot, who, as Carolyn was saying, who do you respect being? Who do you want to become?
It’s important. Tapping into your uniqueness rather than what everyone maybe says you should be. And so that’s an important source. But I’ve also worked with women who are too caught up in the question of who am I supposed to be? What is God’s plan for me? And I think they’re actually looking for a safe or certain path rather than just rolling up your sleeves and doing things.
And you start learning as you go. Carolyn is really quite entrepreneurial. She’s started lots of things that would take a lot of courage. I see her as somebody who can tolerate and even anticipate that it won’t necessarily go well, that there are going to be mistakes.
There are going to be things that she does wrong, but that that’s part of the process of refining it and making it better. And so I think the more you can accept that as inherent to the process, not as an aberration, the more courage you’ll have. You have to expand your capacity in any direction. And maybe I just have one more thought, which is the world just needs capacity, and there’s a million ways you can become more able to make a difference.
The other idea that there’s not just one way for me to be who I am in the world. There are many ways to make a difference. The happiest people find a way to make a difference and it can be one of many ways.
Monica: [00:25:32] I think often we look at that it has to be these grandiose ways. And I’m sure in both of your fields and the work that you do, you see that too.
And I think this might be the last question we end on and it’s just, how can we as a society, both within our communities and also within our families help change the culture that “Success looks like someone who will never settle for any weakness or only certain levels of achievements or outcomes.”
Carolyn Fife Bever: [00:26:01] You’re a part of the solution, but I think what a disservice it is for us to be quiet and private about our insecurities and about our failures, about putting up a front of being perfect when that does tremendous harm to ourselves, but also to our culture and our kids. That when we fail as parents, when we fail as educators, as we fail throughout the day, how can we say we’re sorry.
And forgive ourselves for what we are imperfect with today. What a wonderful opportunity it is to do better as we learn. Like what a horrible notion to think that “I only have, you know, finite capacity and I have no room for growth.”
Real peace has set in with me when I realize I will fail. You know, but that it is exciting to try something new, knowing that there are many people out there with wonderful resources that I can ask and get, you know, ideas from and learn from. I freely tried very hard to say to them, thank you for your gifts and your talents.
So I think having that culture of being gracious to the talents that come into our lives. And, and then being honest about what our human experiences have been.
Monica: [00:27:36] That was so beautiful, Carolyn . Anything to add to that, Jennifer?
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: [00:27:42] Can you remind me of the prompt question?
Monica: [00:27:45] If not, that’s that’s fine.
But the question was, how can we do a better job of changing our culture about how we view achievement and what it requires to be successful? I don’t think I worded it that well the first time. So maybe
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: [00:27:59] Every time you do something, you get better!
I fully agree with Carolyn about the idea of being more honest with one another, allowing ourselves to be more knowable. It’s a great relief. I mean, if you’ve ever been with somebody that makes you feel good about yourself often it’s because they are not pretending that they’ve got life figured out.
Do you know what I mean? Like they’re interested in you and they make fun of themselves or they make the fact of humanity normal and accessible for all. And being around those kinds of people is wonderful. Being around somebody who pretends to be perfect, it’s hard to be in that energy.
So to live honestly, to live open-heartedly is a real kindness to do to other people . In some ways the external demands have a purpose in the immediate term, in the early developmental term, you know, I need to go to school.
I don’t want to learn an instrument, but my mom says I have to, you know, that there’s an expectation that allows you to develop out of someone else’s expectations. Allows you to grow into some greater capacities, but as, as a parent, as a person that's not the end point, those are the beginning points.
Then how do I bring who I am to this? How do I bring who I am to the skills that I’ve learned up until now, and then which skills do I want to develop further to more deeply express myself? Right. See this in watching great musicians is that they have put in hours and hours of rote practice. You have to develop a capacity in something that’s meaningful to them.
But then the fact, the thing that makes them an amazing musician is on some level, they bring all of their creativity and their heart, and they communicate a beauty to you by them being so uniquely themselves. Honestly. Right. There’s an honesty in it. There’s an open-heartedness in it that speaks to your heart.
And it’s just such a tremendous gift when somebody gives you that in any form. You want to give your kids some skills, but the more you help them value bringing who they are to the world in whatever form speaks to their heart.
And there are many ways you can do it. But bringing the gift of who you are and making a difference in this world. That’s, that’s the successful person. I’ve had so many people walk through my office. They have resumes that are ridiculous. You know, they’re so impressive in that external sense, but they’re completely hijacked internally.
They don’t feel at ease. They don’t feel free in their lives. They don’t feel that they have started to bring themselves to their lives and really express who they are. And that’s where the freedom is. That’s where success is. If we’re going to use that word because they’re bringing their gifts freely and they are at peace themselves.
Carolyn Fife Bever: [00:31:02] And modeling that to their kids. And giving them that freedom to figure out what it is that they want to passionately bring forward to the world.
Monica: [00:31:16] Well, you two, we are so honored to have you here. Your voices are similar, so I’m pretty sure the audience is going to be like who’s talking? But you’re both equally so articulate and wise.
And I love this. I love this relationship. You two have, have you always been close?
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: [00:31:35] Yeah, I think so. I mean, we’ve probably had some of the ebb and flow of normal sibling relationships, but yes, it’s a really ...
Carolyn Fife Bever: [00:31:46] All of our siblings are annoyingly close, much to our spouses’ chagrin at times but it’s been really fun, especially since COVID, it’s been really fun to have Jennifer here, so good.
Monica: [00:31:59] It’s nice to have that compound you have going on, but yeah, so. So we like to end the podcast now just hearing from our guests, what they’re working on personal development wise, since we are a personal development show. So if you could just briefly tell us what is something that you are working on yourself right now?
Carolyn Fife Bever: [00:32:16] So my awesome daughter who graduated from college about five years ago was working in a design firm and decided that she wanted to start her own business and wanted me to do it with her. And so it has been something that I have not really, I didn’t fully choose it, which is a problem.
Cause I didn’t really have time for it. But it really has pushed something, that’s very, first of all, it’s just time management is challenging, but I think I was just talking to Jennifer about this yesterday. You know, with teaching and my own practice, lessons come, and we work and then I have my own, time to practice or handle my life.
And that’s great. I think with this new venture, there’s a lot of unknowns. And it’s me settling myself down in that process of unknowns. And again, I’m literally really practicing what I preach here today. I am writing small things that I can do right now that I know will get me to where we are going and we have really blown up, which has been great, but I really have to figure out processes to make this work, and not have, high, high standards, without that perfection mindset. And know that every day we’re just going to get a little bit better at what we’re doing. And and of course, you know, from teaching and growing, you know, just my studio, I remember feeling guilty about the lessons that I first started teaching, you know, like, Oh my gosh, I ruined them!
So I have to keep reminding myself that, you know, these clients, like I might not do this perfectly, but like, I will be genuine and I will work my hardest for them and it will all be good.
And in the process, I am pushing myself.
Monica: [00:34:12] I adore that. And I always like to see the backdrop of wherever Jennifer is. And anyone in your family now, I mean, looking at the background here, I’m always looking at wow, what is that? And what’s that color. And, Ooh, I love that lamp.
Well, if you have a public feed, you’ll have to share that with us and we’ll make sure, okay. Yeah, we’ll do that. Jennifer. What about you?
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: [00:34:37] Let’s see, there’s, there’s personal things I’m working on and professional things. I mean just professionally that’s maybe funner and easier, but still sometimes uncomfortable because it just needs changing some patterns and systems and how we’re doing things.
But we’re going to start doing more group coaching experiences so people have more ability to learn from each other, and there’s not so much pressure on the one-on-one work that I do. And there’s a little more ability for people to get in and get a little more input, in a slightly more personal way than just the classes.
So we’re going to go in that direction and. And I’m also going to start working with the courses more and adding more to them. But in the personal realm, I think, you know, it’s just getting better at---you know, my son, same son I was talking about, he said, “mom, you’re not that good of a listener”.
Monica: [00:35:36] This is hilarious. I have the same problem as a podcaster, ironically. So I totally relate to this.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: [00:35:46] Exactly. And the reason is ... I was doing a role play with somebody. Last night. And I was saying, you know what you might say to the spouse. And they were like, “Oh my gosh, that’s just so articulate and helpful, it’s amazing you can do that.”
And I said, “well, because it’s not my spouse”, you know, “it’s not the relationship that matters to me”. So there were times where my son would be saying, “I just don’t feel like doing this. I just don’t want to be bothered…” “Okay, listen! Let's not talk about that! Here’s the answer that I’m giving you for free!” And the problem of course was that I was dysregulated by his struggle because it was too linked to me. You know, it was too linked to my sense of success and my sense of self. It mattered a lot more to me what he did with himself, then what the client does with themselves.
And so the ability to self-regulate and manage my own perfectionism, and my own fears, and my own intolerance of what I couldn’t control was front and center in these conversations. So when he said that to me, I was like, “Oh, you are absolutely right.”
“I suck as a listener with you because I don’t want to hear what you’re saying!” So I have been really working on that just with my children and my relationship with them of being more present, of really making this differentiation within myself and confronting my own perfectionism and my own anxieties in those moments to calm myself down and to be more of a genuine resource.
Because I’ve in some sense, I’ve disconnected their process from my sense of self. And then when I’m in that place, I can really be a friend in the best sense of a parent child dynamic and be a resource in the best sense. And let them have their own struggle, and so that’s just been valuable and I’ve seen it have a meaningful impact on them where in some ways I’m getting out of the way. I can actually say, sorry, that’s your job. And it’s actually doing them a favor. So ..
Monica: [00:38:03] This has been incredible. Both of you, Carolyn and Jennifer, I would love to have you both on again together.
That was just great. We should start the Carolyn Jennifer show. I think that next on your list.
Well, thank you. Both of you very much for taking the time to be on the show.
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife: [00:38:17] Thank you, Monica.