Carol Veach

Day 19:

There are some people in my life that I could listen to all day long. They’re just wise. My mom, Carol Veach, 53, is that way. I don’t say that just because she is my mom, either. I say it because it’s the truth. So I was honored when she agreed to sit down with me and share one of her greatest life lessons. Interestingly enough, my sister and I had something to do with it.

People need to be more gentle with themselves,” she said. “Sometimes it’s easier to forgive others for their imperfections than ourselves. This has not come naturally to me. I’ve learned it by watching you girls struggle. You’re so hard on yourselves.”

Even though I know that my mom is very intuitive, I was still surprised that she had picked up on the way my sister and I handle embarrassment or failure. They say everyone is their own worst critic, but some personalities have the tendency to take that to the extreme. And my sister and I can be that way, demanding perfection when it’s not always realistic or possible.

My mom continued to explain what she meant so that her lesson would be hammered home.

“Everyone, to some degree, does this,” she said. “When you make a mistake, you focus on it and the problem becomes magnified. But the person who witnessed it will only remember it for 5 or 10 minutes, and then they’ll move on with their life. You have to understand that people aren’t focusing on you like you are. We focus on our own inadequacies because we have to live with them. But everyone has them.”

My mom is the first to admit that she’s not perfect. And even though she has learned this lesson, she still struggles with it sometimes.

“I’ve probably never been very gentle on myself, at least not until the past several years,” she said.

She gave an example. Last week, as President of the Bellingham chapter of Sister Cities, she had to give a speech at a local running club to send 3 runners off to the Tateyama Marathon in Japan.

“I had been thinking about what to say all day long. And yet, when I gave the speech, I didn’t personalize it as well as I should’ve. I just didn’t think my speech was as good as it should’ve been. I thought about that, on and off, for two days. I was beating myself up about it, thinking ‘I should have been more prepared.’ I did that until I finally decided to just make a learning opportunity out of it. I made a pact to put myself in a position to make more speeches and get better at public speaking.”

That is the key, according to my mom. You have to learn from your mistakes, not just live them endlessly, over and over.

“I think it’s important that we learn to laugh at our mistakes when it’s appropriate, too,” she said. “People need to not be afraid of making mistakes because that’s how we grow. It shows we’re challenging ourselves. If you’re not making those mistakes, it means you’re not growing. And growth should be a life-long goal.”

For my mom, watching my sister and I struggle has launched her on her own path of growth.

“Watching you girls be hard on yourselves has been really hard for me,” she said. “But I did finally realize that I was just as guilty as you were, having not been gentle with myself. I knew I needed to practice what I preached. It hasn’t been easy.”

I had never realized that by being hard on ourselves, we were also making things harder on our mom.

“Sometimes when you come down on yourselves, it makes me really angry,” she said. “Because in my eyes, as your mother, you’re perfect. Even with your idiosyncrasies and faults, you’re still perfect. And I get mad because you’re coming down on the person I love the most.”

Things you can do:

  • Be more gentle with yourself when you make a mistake and get closure on what happened by making a plan for using the experience as a learning experience.
  • Sometimes, it helps to share your failure with those closest to you. Their understanding and perspective will help you realize that the world is not over. Also, by opening up about your faults you give others permission to be more open and real about their faults as well.
  • If you were lucky in the mother lottery like I was and you’re feeling down, talk to your mom. I swear, no one in life will ever love you more than your mom. It’s a wonderful feeling.


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