How I Stopped Being a Tiger Mom to My Inner Child

 *Adapted from a speech presented at the Infinite Possibilities Train the Trainer conference in Santa Fe, NM May 2017.

Unfold....Photo by N.D.Mignone. 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Unfold....Photo by N.D.Mignone. 2017. All Rights Reserved.

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

     Looking back on many monumental decisions of my life, I have found this quote by Anaïs Nin perfectly encapsulates that crucial moment when I eventually took the risk, jumped off proverbial cliff into the chasm of the unknown, and had to rely on faith to give me wings or a safety net. The adventurous part of life also has a sense of humor: Just when you think you have fear mastered, another lesson in the life workbook shows up to help you grow.

        A little over a year ago, I was still feeling a bit wobbly after some major life changes. Although the concepts of transformation, metaphysics, and faith in a magical universe were not new or complicated, I was at a point in my life where I needed reinforcement, community, and to feel grounded. Part of me wanted to teach and share this information, but when I contemplated this possibility, an all too familiar voice would speak:

You aren’t ready to teach this—you are a fraud-look at your life….”

“What do you have to add to this information—it’s already being taught?”

“Who the hell do you think you are?”

 

The Tiger Mom to my Inner Child

    I nick-named this inner voice my Tiger Mom. She’s been around forever. Tiger Mom is a term coined by an author a few years ago to describe mothers who book every last moment of their child’s day into learning and achieving to gain the competitive edge for achieving the socially-approved, outward measure of success. My internal voice was a Tiger Mom to my inner child. I had a to-do list for my to-do list, and every moment had to be onward and upward with no idle moments, no creativity, and no play time. DO DO DO.

   Tiger Mom did not always run the show, though. For instance, during my 20s I went “rogue” by living in Japan, teaching yoga, and traveling. My inner child felt creative and content, but Tiger Mom said I was being lazy and wasting my talent. So, I started climbing the corporate conformance ladder and earned an MBA to prove my worth. Then again in my 30s, I went “astray” with my own business teaching yoga and pilates, coaching, and consulting. Internally, I felt happy to help people find balance mentally and physically, but Tiger Mom said it was too "woo woo," and I needed more money and credentials to prove myself. This time I tried to compromise by earning another degree in something I loved: Metaphysics & Theology. Although this inspired my inner child, Tiger Mom discounted the achievement because the doctorate degree was not “mainstream” enough. She said I needed something more, to prove myself to the world. This led me to make the most logical decision ever for a mid-life career change: Go back to school. Law school.  

   All these years the Tiger Mom voice kept me motivated, goal-oriented, and focused, yet too busy and distracted from my feelings by always climbing, doing, achieving.  I appreciate this has served me well, and I have gratitude without regrets. But after a decade of practicing law, I had started to feel restless, and realized my inner child was too exhausted to play any more.

The Rebellion

   I realized I would lose the playfulness and creativity of that inner child forever (along with my health), if I did not advocate for her.  I left a toxic job, toxic relationships, toxic friendships, and toxic situations. I decluttered everything to start over. I had jumped off the cliff into the unknown—no job, no plan, no ideas—and I confess that it was not exactly the softest of landings. I hit emotional rock bottom. The Tiger-Mom tactics no longer worked, and I could not push myself to do anything. This was my dark night of the soul, and I felt worse than depressed—I felt apathetic.

   Even the metaphysical principles I had relied upon in prior years did not seem to work. Instead, I used them to internally berate myself up:  Shouldn’t I know better??? How had I gotten here? 

   Yet, just like the caterpillar has some inkling of what’s at the end of that food coma, I had this little fleck of hope stored inside. The inner child was holding that piece of faith, like a precious stone, for the right time, but since she had been pushed away for so long, she was waitingto be heard over the self-defeating internal chatter and the Tiger Mom.

Advocating for the Soul

   I rebuilt my life on my terms. I created freedom in my work, my living space, and my creativity. I connected with a community of people who are positive, encouraging, and adventurous. Along the way, Tiger Mom would occasionally show up to interject her opinions, but the inner child had become her own advocate by then, and she could assure the Tiger Mom it would all work out. “We got this.” 

   My life is perfectly imperfect in its gentle unfolding. When I opened to the playful side, listened to hunches, and had faith the path would unfold for me, I was able to open to its infinite possibilities.  My Tiger Mom had a role in my early life and I am grateful, but now she needs to be a team player with my creative, adventurous side.

Lessons Learned

   We each have our own journey. Others are there to show us our own path is possible rather than tell us to do it like they did. What I learned in this process is to 

              a.    Let go of some external concept of perfection;

              b.     Let go of controlling the process; and

               c.     Listen to and trust the inner voice.

   Embark on a journey that allows your soul to sing. What excites you? What would be audacious? What if what you deeply desired were possible? What could you imagine that to look and feel like?

   If you have been a Tiger Mom to your inner child, STOP.  Be an advocate for your soul, the one that has been calling you to live and love more deeply. Nurture your faith. Believe. The time is now.

Minding Your Own Business is a series dedicated to helping professionals create infinite possibilities and transform body, mind, and business. Check out the MYOB YouTube Channel for more MYOB tips.