Saturday, May 30, 2009

Staying Mentally Strong: # 9 Make Peace With Yourself

What I have learned from years of counseling and mentoring is that most homeschooling mothers have an image of the ideal that they carry with them wherever they go. This ideal "teaching mother" is a summation of the many things they have read, religious classes they have attended, sermons they have heard, seminars they have enjoyed, books they have read, women they have watched, even Bible passages they have treasured. She is the summation of the best of everything and of their longings for a beautiful and meaningful life. Each person's ideal is a little different, but most of us have one.

We think the ideal inspires us to grow. But we are wrong. I know, because I labored under my ideal for years -- trying to be the person I thought I should be and lamenting how far I fell short. One thing I noticed after a while was that my fictional heroine was not like me. She had strengths where I had weaknesses. She had qualities I admired, but had never owned. I found that with each additional year, she grew more vivid, more lovely, and more unattainable.

Under it's constant demands, homeschooling has a way of making our shortcomings look gaudy and glaring. We look for ways to improve. We look for examples of people who do well what we do poorly. This isn't a bad impulse. The only problem with it is that the role models we select, because they are so different from us, are ones we will never successfully imitate. We end up chasing the person we can never be. This is what I discovered when I started helping other homeschooling families. Most moms, even the best ones, feel like they are failing. They don't measure up to their ideal, their sense of what ought to be.

Shouldn't we have something to aim for, so that we might improve? In a word, yes. But that's where things get tricky. Your personal best will be very different from mine, or anyone else's. Ultimately, to grow into your best version of yourself, you must make peace with what you are. You must embrace your quirks, your weaknesses, your strengths, the unique way in which you learn and function, the way you tick. You will not do everything well. You will do some things exceptionally well. Does it matter what you naturally do best? Not really. Your children are walking the same path, coming to grips with their own limitations and realizing their own unique potential. If there is a single gift that homeschooling brings us, it is the freedom to honor our unique design and to succeed in a way that is authentic to who we are.

It's hard to give up the ideal. But once you leave it behind, as something that isn't really all that helpful, you will find a new freedom, a breath of fresh air. Find some other way to accomplish the things you don't do well. Delegate those tasks to someone else, or work around them. Concentrate on your strengths and leverage those to the greatest advantage. That's how you will give something to your children that is beautiful, unique, and irreplaceable. Embrace all the aspects of your own personal design. Model for your children the self-acceptance and awareness you hope they will acquire. Make peace with your weaknesses and mistakes. Most of all, stop comparing yourself to anyone else.

You are a thing of beauty and a giver of joy. Just as you are.


  1. I have trouble categorizing strengths and weaknesses, coming up with a list of personal and applicable ones to homeschooling -- and then objectivity becomes an issue as well. How do I, one who has much practice at being hard upon herself, best go about making such a personal assessment? Any suggestions? ~ j

  2. Thanks for sharing,J. There are a lot of resources available to us that can help with assessment. Many of the books that we use to analyze personality types and learning styles for our children can help. We can use the books to identify our own patterns and then apply the suggestions for that style/pattern in our work environment and our expectations of ourselves. This works pretty well. Another resource lies in our relationships with people close to us. Asking your husband, children, pastor, and close friends can bring additional insight. Some times it's easier to ask people to identify areas where you could delegate more, instead of asking them to name weaknesses -- it just feels friendlier. Once you begin to put it all down on a list together, you will begin to see a "profile" of your working style, learning style,and relational style. Then you can begin to think creatively about how to spend as much time as possible in the settings and tasks where you function best.

  3. Thanks so much! This will put me on track to discovery ~ j


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