[BONUS EPISODE] Mom On Purpose Book Club: Never Enough by Jennifer Breheny Wallace
Welcome to the Mom On Purpose Book Club and in today’s episode we’re are going to unpack Jennifer Breheny Wallace’s book “Never Enough”. This book talks about the pressures that can be unexpectedly harmful to the mental health of not only our youth but also adults.
This is a great self-help book to help us confront the critical issue of success pressure and its detrimental effects on the mental and emotional health of our kids, spotlighting the urgent need for change in how we define and pursue achievement.
What you’ll learn:
How achievement culture affects children and parents
The concept of “mattering” in counteracting achievement pressure
Why emotional intelligence is important for authentic success
How to apply purpose and play as essentials for children’s well-being
Click HERE to watch this video to learn The 3 Things to Avoid When Reading Self-Help Books
Listen to the Full Episode:
Welcome to the Mom on Purpose podcast. I’m Lara Johonson and I’m here to teach you how to get out of your funk, be in a better mood, play more with your kids, manage your home better, get your to-do list done, and live your life on purpose. With my proven method, this is possible for you and I’ll show you how you’re not alone anymore. We’re in this together.
Hello and welcome to the Mom on Purpose Book Club, previously the Busy Moms Book club. And what I always love, and this about me, is I love books. And the book club kind of came from that because I was reading these books anyway and decided, well, why not? Why don’t I just turn the recording on and tell you about the things I learned and how you can apply it so you don’t have to read the whole book if you don’t want to.
This book, Never Enough, I thought was really interesting because when I had picked it, I actually thought it was talking about achievement culture for adults and it’s actually talking about the achievement culture in our youth and how that stems from us as adults. But what I found with all of it is that so much of this achievement culture and how toxic it is, I actually see that in a lot of my clients.
So I think being able to see it in this setting where we’re thinking about our kids sometimes helps us to have a self-reflection where we’re not so strong in the spotlight and it allows us to kind of take a moment to step back and explore it for ourselves. So the author Jennifer Breheny Wallace, I don’t know, JBW, she is a journalist and she reports for I think the Washington Post and was it, and Wall Street, that’s what it was.
And so she began her journalism career on 60 Minutes and she has three teenagers. So she is living this real time seeing the achievement culture that’s happening among our youth. So it was interesting because as she’s interviewing people, as she’s presenting all the research, she’s also sharing her take on things and where she’s seeing her own self fall into this, even though she’s in the middle of researching it.
So I did appreciate that she really brought some of that personal aspect on like, yeah, this is something that we can all struggle with at times and being able to learn more about it can help us help our youth and to help ourselves. So as we’re talking about it, I think that’s the biggest thing to just check in with yourself, is it’s really easy to feel guilt or shame or anything when we’re talking about struggles that our youth have, especially because it can show up in our own homes even, and things that we’re doing.
So always just check in with that. If your body’s having a response to it, just allow yourself to just be with that emotion without making it mean that you’re a bad parent or that you have all these things you have to fix. It’s just your body signal that there’s some things on your heart that you want to shift.
And I say that because as I’m reading this, I don’t feel like I necessarily fall into this mindset probably as much as my husband does. I grew up in, neither of my parents graduated from college. They were very blue collar in a lot of ways. My dad is an electrician, my mom’s a nurse, but we grew up in a very white collar neighborhood with all the doctors in the lawyers.
And so I felt like there was a lot of pressure from the community around me, but I never really felt like that pressure came from within my home. And as I was reading this and we were talking right before I turned the recording on, it was funny that as I started reading and she’s presenting these problems, I started noticing my own body having a reaction on like, oh my gosh, I shouldn’t be doing all this.
As I’m reading about the information and the statistics about how all the other parents are doing this and I’m not doing this, all of a sudden my brain was like, well, even though this research is showing that this is toxic now, you should go and do it. It’s very important. So our brain can really play tricks on us anytime we are talking about how we’re raising our kids. So it’s really important to just listen to your body and allow a lot of emotions to settle in because they can kind of guide us forward.
So with that, we are going to start with the very beginning where she is presenting the, I don’t know, like the intro where she talks about the research shows. Well, I would say the first thing is when she presented this survey, she was hoping to gather a small number, but within days she gathered over 6,000 parents across the country that filled out this parenting survey talking about the pressure that our kids feel.
And she said that kind of just brought to her mind on this is a problem coast to coast. This isn’t just in certain areas. She then goes on to talk about how the biggest problem that our youth are seeing is that they matter when they’re successful. And she said that right there is what is causing so much of the mental health epidemic that’s happening among our youth because this is the mindset that they have. And as she presents a lot of this research, it’s easy to see how they are picking up on this unintentionally by us as adults in their lives.
So I think that the thing that stood out, so it’s her very first chapter she talks about who is at risk, and she said that she kind of presents a story of a girl who was a track star. She was juggling it all.
She was doing a lot, and she constantly started feeling like this is what she said. She said it was a very subtle within her house if she brought home a C or a B on any assignment, she said there was almost a little bit of a coldness from her parents, and it was very subtle, like you’re not living up to your full potential. And she said it was always this very, without being said, this under theme that we know you can do better.
And I think she said she grew up in a community where grades, looks, weights, weight, where you traveled the way your house looked. Everything has to be the best. It has to be perfect and it has to look effortless. And she said that she was able to still live up to this in a lot of ways, but she started finding that she was depressed.
Well, she didn’t realize she was depressed, but the depression started coming on. She started struggling with an eating disorder where she would eat, quote unquote, forbidden foods and then shame herself about how she failed to measure up, but she still on the outside was the high achieving straight A student getting into good colleges. So then that’s where she continued on in college.
She was still that high achiever, which then once she was in college, she really embraced that work hard, play hard, but the play hard then led her to a lot of drinking, drugs, and eventually ended her in rehab after she got a DUI. So she said that at this point she had been sober for two years and she’s starting to unwind, just this phrase stood out to me two decades worth of expectations. Now, we as parents are significantly older than that. So thinking about how many decades do we have of expectations either from the parent or the adults in our lives, whether that’s parents, teachers, coaches, but also our own self expectations and how detrimental that can be that we are carrying decades of those expectations around.
So she then presents the groups that are most at risk. So this was a study that was in 1990. This was from Sonia Luther. She was a researcher at Yale, and she started really understanding what were the at-risk youth that were happening and how we can address that. Now, when I think of at risk, I think of the alternative high school of the at risk youth where they maybe were pregnant at a very young age. They came from poverty, so they were working during the day.
We all knew them as the at risk. They came after we were out of school and did evening classes in order to graduate high school. And it fell very much in with what we traditionally think, which is still heartbreaking. I don’t mean to diminish this by any means, but it’s poverty, trauma and discrimination. But because, well, so when Sonya Luther was doing this, these were the ones that she expected to be in the at-risk group, but much to her surprise, she found that the upper middle class suburban youth were doing worse than some of these groups.
And she said it seemed so counterintuitive that the kids that have the most at their fingertips are the ones that are higher levels of clinical depression and are struggling so much more. And so she really wanted to start diving into how are these kids that have everything so at risk in their lives for severe mental health disabilities, like severe mental health stuff going on.
So later on in 2018, there was a report that was done and it said that among this is the first time it really called it out that among these three groups there is now emerging a fourth group, and this is the group that is most at risk is those with the excessive pressure to excel. Isn’t that crazy to think about? That hit me really hard to think about for our kids. And now when the kids that fall into this category, their families fall within the top 20 to 25% of the income for the United States.
And he said to remember, well in this report they said it is, remember, it’s important to remember it’s not because they’re affluent that makes them at risk. It’s because there is such extreme pressure to outdo everyone else that is causing these high levels of stress to rise, which is causing mental health stuff, is causing drug use and dependence. There’s all these problems that are emerging from it, and this is continually being studied over and over. Now I’m probably preaching to the choir because I think we all kind of know this, but I think sometimes we kind of brush it to the side on like, oh, everybody has depression and anxiety, or at least I’ve had that thought.
Everybody has it now, but what if everybody doesn’t have to have it? What if it’s actually coming from this excessive pressure to excel and we are not doing right by our kids by really examining where is this coming from?
So they go on to say that there’s a lot of critics of this generation that say these kids are being coddled and overprotected, but Luther, they’re the one that was doing the main study. She said, I actually think it’s quite the opposite. They’re being crushed by expectations to accomplish more and more, even activities that are supposed to be fun and stress reducing are only a means to an end.
They’re padding life’s resume. So she goes on to really present, the author, Jennifer, to really present the information about this. And so she then goes on to share, like I mentioned, the story about her and how this was showing up. And she said that by the time her son was in sixth grade, she was already feeling like he was behind. He hadn’t found his thing yet that he was supposed to focus so much on that would get him into college.
And she said that he loved architecture. And so when he was in sixth grade, she called up all these architects and design firms in New York City to see if any of them offered classes and really try to dig into it. And finally she found one presented it to her son and her son said, mom, I love architecture. He said, please don’t ruin it for me.
And I think that’s such an important thing that as we’re thinking about this excessive pressure to excel, to get into get good grades, to get into a good school, to have a good life, sometimes we take things that our kids enjoy and actually ruin it for them because of this pressure.
So she goes on to present more of the problem. Like I said, there was a lot of presenting of the problem, and I get it. I know you have to kind of set up the problem to really understand it, but it was hard to read it. In the survey that she had put out, 80% of these 6,000 parents that filled it out said that they agreed that children in their community were under the successive pressure to achieve. And when they asked about where this pressure was coming from, they felt like they actually felt other parents were the primary source, which I thought was really interesting.
So then she goes on and lists a couple other statistics. She said nearly 80% of parents believed that academic and professional success was one of the top two priorities of other parents. So we’re constantly thinking about other parents and trying to measure our kids up. But here’s the interesting thing, only 15% of parents named academic and professional success as their first and second priority.
So she said, what this information is presenting is because we think everyone else has this, then we are now pitting our kids against that and are afraid that our kids are going to be left behind because we feel like that’s their priority and their kids are going to outpace our. And I get that, and I think it’s really hard.
It’s really hard as a parent because you do feel that. I do live in a community, a very affluent community for my state, and I see that on a very regular basis and it is constantly on the forefront of my mind. So she goes on to share one more story and we’ll keep presenting just a little bit more information before we really dive into what do we do about it. She shares a story about a woman named Catherine, and Catherine really wanted her kids to live up to their potential.
She said her and her husband were well-educated, college degrees. They then were able to move to a place where they could get the best public schools in the district. And she said she finally shifted as her kids started getting a little bit older to where she felt like she could see her son’s brilliant and felt like Yale, I think her husband attended Yale and her son showed that same promise.
So suddenly she started feeling this anxiety. I’m like, I need to really help him get there. I need to make sure that it happens. So at that point, it almost shifted to where so much of their communication was. How did the test go? What homework do you have this weekend? How are you going to budget your time? Did you read that college guide I earmarked for you?
And she said Catherine was micromanaging her son to squelch her own anxiety. And that’s hard to hear, right? Because that’s where so much of it comes from is our own anxiety. When we are blasting our kids and peppering them with so many questions about how things go, what is happening is we are trying to calm our own anxiety about how their future is going to play out. Catherine then went on to share that eventually her son completely burned out.
He flunked out of school. His depression became so bad that I don’t even think he was getting out of bed. He just stayed in his room and played video games all day and completely stopped going to class. Everything had stopped and a few years later, he was able to go back to a local college and was able to start working his way back out of that depression and the chill that the author Jennifer, as she’s interviewing this woman, Catherine, she said that it just felt like she was trying to give me a warning.
She said she moved closer and reached for my hands then as if issuing a warning from one mother to another, she looked me straight in the eyes. I thought it was my job as a mom to push my son to be the very best he could. She said, “I have so many regrets.”
And the author said, I felt a chill go up my spine as I was thinking about my own kids and my desire for them to live up to their full potential and how much I was pushing them as a result. So then she presents a really interesting question, and I just want to write it out because I want you to kind of keep it in the back of your mind as we’re going through this because it is really hard, I think, to distinguish.
She said there’s a very elusive line between high expectations for our kids versus excessive pressure. And she even says this in the book somewhere, I can’t remember what page, she said, I feel like parents are walking such a tight rope between these two, and I’m sure that you feel that just as much as I feel that. And when we’re feeling that, that’s where our anxiety starts to come in.
So at this point, it’s really, it’s important to start getting to the root of where our anxiety is coming from, because that can often be the biggest difference between excessive pressure versus high expectations. It’s our level of anxiety about the future for our children. So she then goes on to present what is the deep root behind this parental anxiety.
She talks about how stress is contagious, and oftentimes we think that parents have this anxiety because they’re trying to live through their kids their unfulfilled dreams, when in reality that’s not the case at all. She said to our brains, what actually is happening is this high anxiety is coming from our desire to have status. Now I am someone that doesn’t necessarily care about status. And so I liked that she pointed this out. She said, for most people they will say that they’re not status seekers.
She said, if you fill the room with people who say they’re anti-status, you would soon create a social hierarchy based on how anti-status they are, because that’s the human brain. So I liked that she even called people like me out in that paragraph because it’s important to recognize that status, even though we think of it, I think sometimes differently, I’ll talk about how she presents it. Status isn’t always the way I think of status is like being a celebrity or having, I don’t know, high up in the government or having people really recognize you.
So, she talks about how our brain’s instincts are to ensure survival and reproduction. And every single time we are having a rise in status, like we are ensuring that our primal instincts are met, we are ensuring survival and reproduction. So we feel that for ourselves. But then we also feel that for our kids, if there is a potential decline in status, our primal instincts kick into gear and we become concerned about their future.
Now, our brain can’t differentiate between the survival instinct of I want my kids to have food and they’re never going to live a great life in our brain. That is of same importance. Unlike the quality of job, we think it will result in them having no food, which we know probably isn’t going to be the case, but to our primal instincts, it feels the same way. So she said, when there is an increase in status of something like very small, again, we think of status, I think of status large scale.
Think about this in terms of someone scores a point, like your friend scores a point higher than you want to test, or for your child, someone gets the part that they want in the school play. That is an increase in status. So every time you get that increase, your brain actually rewards you biologically with dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins.
But if something like a drop in status happens, like you don’t get the part in the play or someone else gets the internship that your child wanted, they actually are punished by releasing a painful neurochemical like cortisol. So I think it’s really important to think about that because this is really what’s happening is it’s our primal instincts to make sure that our children have that assurance of status in their life.
Now, when we’re looking at this, it’s really important to also recognize that we live in a culture that we believe if you work hard and you have strong capabilities and abilities, then things will work out. But what’s happening is our culture is shifting so quick and so fast that it’s not enough to just work hard anymore. Okay, so I’m going to pause for just a second and read Elizabeth’s comment. Well, I know a few people in our community that pushed their kids based on their past experiences and status.
For instance, my 8-year-old son has a kid in his class that is forced by his dad to go out for all sports, even though he has some delays in his dad, coaches, his teams, but basically yells at him the entire time. That breaks my heart. That makes me want to cry because there will be things that that child will have to unwind later in life. And I think that’s a prime example.
And also to be able to see that parent actually believes they’re doing right by their child, and for all of us again, to take a step back and look at it and use it as a mirror for herself on where could this subconsciously be showing up within my own home. So she goes on to say that there is some researchers, Melissa Milky and Catherine Warner that call. What we do in this moment, and I think this is exactly what Elizabeth is pointing out in her comment, we do status safeguarding.
Now when we have status safeguarding, what we’re ensuring is that our children will be set up to always be increasing status and not decreasing. And this is to, in our brains, this is to the benefit of our child because we believe that this will allow them for survival. So some of the things that we do to safeguard is like mapping out the optimal school activities, hobbies, social and emotional skills to improve our child’s life, chances and eventually happiness.
And I think that’s really important to recognize is that when we do see other parents that are doing this, like the example Elizabeth presented, it’s because they are very concerned for their future. That’s that deep-rooted anxiety status is part of that. So she goes on to talk about scarcity. And in the coaching world, we talk about scarcity a lot. Where everybody says, scarcity mindset is so dangerous, don’t be in it.
I like how she talked about scarcity because it’s real in a lot of ways. It’s very real. She presents a very different way of addressing scarcity than what she presents here. So a couple statistics that she shares is a 1940, 90% chance of children in the middle class were able to outearn their parents. In the 1980s, the chances of outearning your parents fell to 50%.
And over the past several decades, it’s only gotten worse. Millennials on average have lower earnings, fewer assets and less wealth compared to what other generations had at their age. She said, as a result, sometimes parents do become more controlling and more likely to indulge in things like status safeguarding. This researcher that was presenting those statistics that if when I was growing up it didn’t really matter if you wanted to go to college, you would go to the college that was close to you.
There was really no concept of top colleges out there. So it wasn’t really a big deal. But at this point, what they’re showing right now is that so many in the ’70s graduates, college graduates maybe made 50% more on average than somebody that did not have a college degree. But 40 years later, college degrees earn twice as much as someone without. So that’s a prime example on how our brain truly does see that it is important for our children to have this college education.
Again, presenting the problem. So she said at this point, there are three different aspects that start to show up in our parenting. She calls it the parenting framework, and it was presented by the psychologist Diana Bonrin. I mess up on everybody’s names. So she calls it permissive and then authoritarian and authoritative. Man, I’m really struggling with spelling today. It’s always there, but today seems a little worse, guys.
All right, so when we’re looking at permissive, this is where children are allowed room for freedom and self-discovery, authoritarian, you can probably guess it restricts children’s autonomy, demands obedience and respect for work, and authoritative encourages good behavior through communication and clear limit setting. And what she was surprised about is where there are countries where there isn’t as large of an educational or a return on your educational investment, most countries will typically fall in the permissiveness where kids are able to have the freedom and self-discovery. But what you’ll find in the higher income places and the largest rise of parenting strategy is the authoritarian.
Meaning that parents will demand these things in order, and it happens more in affluent, well-educated homes, authoritarian where they start to demand this. And it’s really hard when, again, we start looking at this because research shows that unstructured play is a necessity for our children’s growth, but yet it’s not able to happen.
And we start to feel trapped because we want our children to have the same childhood that we had where we got to roam and play and be as a kid, yet we’re demanding them as young as eight years old, as Elizabeth pointed out and even younger. She tells a story about in the book, a kindergarten talent show that was canceled and the school had sent out an email saying the reason why it was canceled was because the talent show wasn’t preparing the children of the classroom for their future careers.
So even as young as that, and there’s consultants that you can hire to help get your kids in the right preschool to ensure the success of their future. So again, we start to feel trapped by all of this. Remember how I was telling you as I was reading this, my anxiety was increasing because it’s so crazy to see.
But now we start to understand on a broader level, on a cultural level, why our kids start to feel from all different aspects, it may not just be within the home, that they matter based on their achievement or their external input into the world. So what is the actual antidote to all of this? And that’s where I want to spend the rest of the time because … Oh, sorry.
There was actually one more thing that I wanted to talk about because this was not something that I knew. This was new information to me. She talks about where status and scarcity actually collide. She said that colleges will go out and actively pursue students to get them to apply only to turn them away. Because if their intake, what’s it, the admission rate is lower based on how many applicants, that actually makes it more desirable and they’re able to keep a higher status.
So colleges purposely will turn people away after they’ve recruited them in order to increase their desirability. She said that if you even were to take the number of valedictorians across the US, there’s 54,000 of them and there are only 27,000 colleges. So if all the valedictorians, they could fill up every school and the acceptance rates on these schools have significantly dropped over so many decades.
So when you’re thinking about being able to get into something like Harvard, naturally there is a push because it’s so much different than what it was years ago when so many of these parents that are pushing their kids actually attended. So I just wanted to share that, because that was not information that I had ever heard before, but I guess it does make sense. So she said, how do we really start to untangle this? What is the antidote for all of it?
She said, when we’re looking at self-worth versus achievement, there’s a couple of things that are important for us to remember. She said that one, this is a struggle for children, but it’s also a struggle for adults. And that’s what I was talking about how much this shows up in my own clients. She said the challenge now becomes that you may have had an idea on where people stood on certain things like popularity, but now they have measurable statistics on social media where kids are able to get on and base their popularity off of the followers and their likes, and now being able to present so much more information.
She said that there’s so many places where getting a 4.0 GPA isn’t good. You actually have to get above a four point. I don’t even know how to do that. Clearly that was not me, but I do remember my husband talking about it, and he knew kids that were above a 4.0 GPA that he graduated with.
So she said that one of the kids that she had interviewed had a 4.0. He was very active in extracurriculars and she had a conversation with him and he said something along the lines of, yeah, but it’s not that great. I’m average excellent. These kids, it’s not even enough to be excellent anymore because that’s just average. They have to be above average at all times and not just be good. They have to be the best in order to get into the schools that they want.
She said, when the parent pressures start to manage, there’s a couple of things that will happen. One is the hyper vigilance. And again, this is for us to check in with ourselves to see if we are contributing to the pressure. Our children may feel not as a way to shame, but just to check in. So hyper vigilance where you’re always checking in on grades.
Intrusive involvement. This is where she was talking about the status safeguarding being so particular about the activities and things that your children participate in, and then excessive criticism of failure. And she goes on to talk about this where it’s really important to recognize that. She’s like, “I would never come out and tell my kid you failed on that.”
But she said when her kid brought home a less than ideal score, she didn’t want to call attention to it, so she wouldn’t say anything about it. Which then became a little bit of criticism on, well, I’m still not being applauded for trying as hard as I could. It was like this embarrassed thing and they felt like shame about it. So that was a way that she was able to check in on her own criticism. So she said, the antidote to all of this comes down to feeling valued and mattering.
So when she talks about feeling value in the book, she talks about a phrase of mattering, and this is where she kind of defines mattering as feeling valued, feeling seen and feeling heard for the person you are, not the things you do. She said this feeling, let’s see. This is when you’re deeply valued by your family, your peers, and other adults in your life and you’re worthy of love and support. She says, the more we feel valued, the more likely we are to add value. And the other way around.
A virtuous cycle of interdependence that can continuously feed our sense of mattering. So when we feel value, we add value, and when we add value, we feel value. So it then becomes this cycle that starts to go around. So when we start to feel this, she said, when we are made to feel that we matter, who we are at our core, we build a sense of self-worth.
She says, we learn that we matter simply because we are. Mattering is a pathway back to our inherent worth. It tells us that we are enough. Mattering won’t solve everything, but it does go a long way towards addressing many of the emotional and behavioral problems facing our youth. High levels of mattering act as a protective shield buffering against stress, anxiety, depression, and loneliness.
So, I think about this of course, when it talks about a shield, there’s my wonderful drawings as always. When we’re looking at our youth, what this blocks against is that depression, that anxiety, like it can’t get into our youth or as much to our youth when they feel deeply valued. She said, but if someone doesn’t feel like they matter, they will start to behave in ways that others might take notice. So an example of that is obsessing over a perfect image, over working, developing an eating disorder and acting out in extreme ways.
Now, I don’t think I really understood the pressure that a lot of kids felt until my husband and I were in college. We were already married at this point and we’d been married for about a year. He was in a very intensive program. I was working full-time. I was in school full-time in a city an hour away. So we were commuting back and forth, and the pressure was very intense for us because we needed that scholarship money. So I wanted to get good grades, but it never came back to my inherent worth.
And it wasn’t until there was a really heartbreaking incident where there was an open area in one of the buildings at my husband’s university that he was at where one of the students jumped off that middle area and killed herself while there were other students around in this common area. And it really shook our entire university community because this was the first time I think for me, I had seen firsthand that this is an actual problem and I was already in college at that point.
So she goes on to say that many kids perceive their value and their worth being contingent on their achievements, and this creates a crisis of self. So this is the part where I would say pausing in the book and going to the back of the resources is very important to things that you can do in your home and being able to go and implement them. Sometimes seeing them in more condensed versions is a little easier than going and picking through the book.
So that is one thing that I will recommend is go into the very back. Here’s the part that I also think is very important when we’re looking at how do we help our kids feel like they matter? And what she says is, if you want children to feel like they matter, then you need to one, give them a place to recover.
And this is just something that I would challenge you just to ask yourself is do you have a place for them to recover within your own home? And that right there is, I think it gave me a chance to examine for myself. My home isn’t always been a place to recover. I feel like we are in a good spot right now where I have pockets of windows for them to recover in some of the craziness. And I am just barely starting out with teenagers. Well, my son’s 12 right now, 12 and a half.
So, he is going to be entering that soon. But he has some other challenges, and so I don’t feel like we’re in this as much and may not be for a few more years, but I do want my children to always feel like there is a safe haven within the home.
The other thing that she talks about is when we criticize our children, they don’t stop loving us, they actually stop loving themselves. So the other thing she talks about in here is being able to, she talked about compliments and how if you’re always just complimenting a good grade, children’s brain will perceive that as love from achievement. So she talks about being able to look at your values and being able to point out and compliment values versus achievements.
So, an example of that is if you see your children share with one another, instead of saying Thanks for giving them that toy, be like, wow, I really appreciate that you saw this need and that your heart felt this way. You’re talking about an intrinsic value. Another example is when you’re talking with your kids, and my daughter was an amazing example of this to me, where they were talking in the book of envy and things like that.
There was one day where she had tried out for one of the elementary school plays. She really, really wanted this part. She has never done any kind of acting. I feel like if you have not done any acting, you will not get a part in the school play because that’s just the competitive nature of the community I’m in. And so she came back and I was like, what’d you think about it?
She’s like, well, I didn’t get it, but my friend, so-and-so got it. And I was like, oh, how do you feel about that? Was that hard? She’s like, yeah, for a minute. But I was so excited for her, and so I was able to then look at, wow, that’s a really amazing value that she has, that she could allow herself to be sad and happy at the same time. She blew me away with that.
In many ways, she’s light years ahead of me. So then she goes on to talk about making sure that they have relationships in their life that are a lifeboat. They are connected. Connected relationships. This is where you’re able to see and hear them without always giving them advice or always checking in again on the achievements, making sure that we’re able to allow our children to freely express who they are on that deep level, their authentic selves.
She goes on being able, she says sometimes we accidentally look at so many of their weaknesses when we’re calling out, you can do better, you’re not living up to your full potential that sometimes we miss their strengths. So it’s important for them to be able to see their strengths and call out what those strengths are. The other thing that she talks about here is being able to include play again, she talks about that in the very beginning where she’s like, play is a luxury to many families.
Instead of play being a critical piece and helping their kids know that they matter. She said, play is where the highest quality interactions can come from, where we’re getting immersed together in something as equals. I thought that was really interesting. When I think about playing with my kids and being able to be on their level, entering their world, I’ve never thought about that as they feel like they’re equal to me, and what a beautiful way I think that they put that. It’s the highest quality interaction can come from that play.
Okay, so this is the next chapter where she talks about all of this can happen when the critical piece of the puzzle falls into place, and that’s when you see that you matter. She said that I love just the beginning. It says, your child’s mattering rest on your own. I don’t think many of us know to the extent of this, because we do want to put our children’s priorities and their dreams.
We do want to help them achieve that. She talks about the detriment that is if we are not also including our own dreams and potential. So she then goes on to talk about how, if you, I think I wrote it down, she said, if you want to help the child help the caregiver, she said, sometimes the way we model matters, and if we are telling them that they matter, but we’re not showing that we matter, that will actually backfire in the things that we’re doing.
She said, part of this is kind of getting into the atmosphere of the one person village where we are meant to do it all on our own, that we cannot ask for help, and that it is our job as a parent to be all for everyone. I see that all the time in my clients and I see it in my own self.
So she talks about this as the intensive parenting. She said that all consumed parents are typically the white affluent parents who have the time, money, and privilege to engage in full contact parenting, meaning they can be at all of the activities, they can hire the tutors and be there to support them through homework. That does not always happen in our diverse communities. And it’s important to see that that is also creating a greater divide.
She said, what’s important though is to recognize that sometimes women will then say, well, now I have to add self-care to my to-do list, which is the opposite of what we’re trying to do, because we’re already feeling burdened and already feel like there’s so much on our plates. So I really like what she talks about when we’re looking at how do we go about this? And she gives just a couple solutions to it.
She talks about the friendship solution, how so much of our mattering comes from high quality friendships, being able to, not for our kids, but for ourselves. And it doesn’t necessarily mean the quantity of time, it means the quality of time. And Amy is on here, so I’m going to call her out, but Amy is one of my closest friends, and we rarely get to spend in-person time together because she lives in a different state and we rarely get to talk on the phone with each other, but the quality of our Marco Polos are very high.
So that’s so much of the friendship. She is there in so much of the challenges I have in my life. I have a really strong friendship community that has allowed me to be more present and I feel like I matter to other people and I can then feel seen and valued and heard in my own life.
She says, I love, this is Elizabeth. I love that she talked about scheduling time for lunch or dinner with friends or simply a phone call. Yes, if we are willing to make time to take our kids to their activities, we can make time to schedule a lunch or a dinner or even a phone call and even setting a timer for it to be 10 or 15 minutes. That is such an important thing. So that’s the friendship solution.
She then goes on to say, the next solution is don’t worry alone. So then she goes on talking about when you are alone asking for, let’s see, she said, this builds. It kind of goes along with the friendship on asking for help. This was a huge theme that she had when we’re talking about mattering, which is so important to see that when we matter to ourselves, often we’re thinking like we’re strong and we don’t need anybody else.
But what she said is that when we’re actually asking for help, we feel seen and more valued. And it is so challenging for our children to ask for help because they see that as a sign of weakness, but often it’s because they’re learning it from us because we are not asking for help. So the more that we’re able, she said asking for help is powerful precisely because high achievement culture discourages it.
Reaching out can disarm those around us cause them to drop their defenses too. It’s also critical to our mattering. When you ask for help, you recognize that you are important enough to have your needs met. I’m going to read that again. When you ask for help, you recognize that you are important enough to have your needs met. I thought that was so incredibly powerful and I’m grateful that she put that in there.
It took me a long time to figure out how to ask for help, and God gave me lots of things that required me to ask for help. So I had no option on some things where literally my physical body broke and I could not take care of my children, and I had to ask for help. It was one of the most life-changing lessons that I have ever had, and I never thought that that would be one of the lessons I had to learn.
So the last thing that we’ll just talk about here is she starts addressing the grind culture of always having to work hard, the growth mindset. She says it’s really important to focus or to realize that happiness isn’t a result of good grades or good grades, good culture, good job. My daughter even said that to me the other night. She was so stressed about her grades and I was like, honey, we’ve never put that kind of pressure on you. Where’s it coming from?
She’s like, well, I read it in one of my books, like a graphic novel that their family motto was good grades, good school, good job, good life. And I was like, whoa, that’s really messed up. I was like, honey, I don’t agree with that and we need to talk about that. But it was in a graphic novel for my child that she got on her school library. And I was like, I’m so glad that she brought it up so we could discuss it.
So, she said in here, the growth mindset, if not employed correctly, can actually backfire. And sometimes they think that if they’re not able to push hard all the time, then they will not have a good life. So she talks about really having deliberate rest and being able to incorporate that deliberate rest as part of our overachieving culture to really be able to teach our children how to have deliberate rest.
This is a hard thing to do as a mother when there is so much on our plates, and this is one thing that this doesn’t mean you have to sit on the couch and just stare at the wall like your rest, but actually doing things that fulfill you. So the last thing that I’ll just mention, oh yeah. So she presents a lot of, actually, this is not the last thing. She presents a lot of information on page 129 about how the prestige of a college doesn’t actually set someone up to have a future healthy wellbeing or a good fulfilled life.
Actually, what research shows is that the more engaged you are in your college experience, regardless of what college you attend, is what will set you up for success in the future and a healthy wellbeing. So the last thing that I will say at this point is that she goes on to talk about why our kids are doing what they’re doing, and do they really know?
She said so much of the envy, the competition that’s happening is because they don’t actually know. They think it’s just for their happiness somewhere down the road, and they have to spend years pushing to get there. And then when they get there and they realize they’re not actually happy. So she said, in order to really understand that it’s important to look at your path to purpose.
And she said it’s important to kind of keep the mindset of we’re not better than others, we’re better for others. And really being able to help our kids break down what that purpose is and why they’re doing what they’re doing. And I like that. She shares a wonderful example of a teenager that helped with a search and rescue, and he found he was severely dyslexic, really struggled in school, never got good grades. So he decided to start volunteering because school was so miserable.
That was an outlet for him, and he had to help on a search and rescue for a boy his age that had committed suicide at 16. At that point, that’s when he started helping on a team hotline and was able to really help some very hard things, which then led him to want to be an EMT, which then led him down to pre-med and to go, and he eventually got to UCLA and was in pre-med and was going to be a doctor to help so many of these teens that are going through this.
And he said, “Had I not had that purpose, I would never be here. My experience would’ve ended at high school. I wouldn’t have gone on.” But because he had that deep purpose within him, he was able to then move forward. So on page 199, I really like that it talks about how you can help your children find their purpose.
And again, just like she mentioned before, if you want to help the child, help the caregiver, if you don’t know your purpose in life or if you don’t feel it blazing in your heart, that is a good place to start. Yes, your purpose might be to be a mom, but if that doesn’t feel fulfilling right now, if that feels hard and not rewarding on a daily basis, that’s okay. There are other things that you can do to help kind of bring that, and it does take a bit of discovery.
So, I wanted to just end it there. If you need help, this last quote, she says, purpose can serve as a healthy fuel that not only protects against mental health struggles, but also provides a pathway out of them. A sense of something greater than yourself, a sense of something greater than yourself can alleviate the stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout that so many of our young people are feeling today.
So I really loved that. So being able to have that purpose is not just providing, it’s not just protecting you against mental health, it’s providing the path out of them. So that is what I would challenge you. If you feel like you struggle with mattering to yourself, if you feel like you’re having a tough time knowing what your purpose is, reach out to me. I would love to do a consultation with you so that we can help you get really clear on what that path is forward for you so that you in turn can help your children.
So there you have it. That is the book for next month. We are doing essentialism. This was one of our first books we did a long time ago, and I think it’s time for us to bring it back because so many of the women, especially as we’re talking about the never enough achievement, the toxic achievement culture, they’re feeling like they have too much on their plate.
So, I thought essentialism would be a great next building block so that we can move forward and really get you the help that you deserve.
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