Self-reflect before you judge
Updated: Mar 15, 2021
If someone's behaviour triggers you, it is often because they are acting in a way that reminds you of yourself.
For as long as I can remember people have compared me to my father. Something that I railed against, particularly when the comparison came from my mom. She had, after all, divorced my dad so I considered the comparison from her an insult. Since she usually made the comparison when she was frustrated with me, I don't think my assumption was that far off the mark. So I would insist I was nothing like him and list all the ways in which we differed.
And there are many ways that I am different from my dad, but the truth is that I was/am well aware of the ways in which I am like him, I just didn't want to admit it because the traits of his that I mirrored
were not necessarily the ones I liked about him best.
My dad is loud, opinionated, fast-talking, and short-tempered. I am loud, opinionated, fast-talking, and short-tempered - nothing like him at all! I would argue though that those traits run strong through all the Forans I know. You could hear my aunt from a mile away; she shrieked like a banshee at her kids. Walk into a room where four Forans are talking and you might think you entered a busy nightclub. We know how to project our voices - it doesn't even take effort, and we do have a tendency to talk over others. People think we are yelling when we are talking, and screaming at the top of our lungs when we are yelling. We are also all readers, so we have pretty good vocabulary. And we are all fast thinkers so we form arguments quickly and concisely. I wouldn't want to debate me or any of my Foran relatives. I, along with my father am also honest almost to a fault, we tend to be blunter than others are comfortable with. And neither of us is good at lying or hiding our feelings.
Some of these traits can be beneficial but are often judged harshly by others. I have spent most of my life analyzing myself and comparing myself to my father. I really did not like being compared to him, and I was hellbent on finding and focusing on all the ways I was different. But with age and a new perspective through the eyes of my daughter, I have come to realize that my resistance to being compared to him came from the fact that I recognized his worst traits in myself and I did not want to admit that. So in recent years, instead of focusing on his flaws and denying how I am similar, I have tried to embrace the whole man and learn from the bad and the good. There are many things I admire about my dad - his intellect, his work ethic, his pleasure-seeking ways, and his capacity to accept others and make friends (my dad has gay friends, friends who smoke weed, and friends of all ethnicities).
My two biological daughters are similar to me in that they are often compared to me like I am to my dad. And they HATE it. They insist they are NOTHING like me. And even though it is perfectly clear to anyone who knows us well that they are remarkably similar to me, they refuse to see or acknowledge this. I think the reason for the resistance is because they are focusing on the things they think are my flaws, and are not ready to accept those flaws in themselves. I am loud, opinionated, fast-talking, and short-tempered. They are loud, opinionated, fast-talking, and short-tempered - nothing like me at all! See the pattern?
I have come to think that the relationship with my daughters will not improve until they are ready and willing to accept the ways they are similar to me, and then figure out how to work with that. Which of those traits are good ones that they want to nurture and grow, which are ones they would like to grow out of? If my father is a reflection of the things I don't like in myself then I can and should use that reflection as an opportunity to see myself and work on the things I need and want to change, but also celebrate and embrace the things I don't. My daughters need to do the same thing. I know, even though they don't tell me, that there are things about me they like and admire, but those things are always clouded by the fact that they don't like some of my in-their-face personality traits. I think, however, that they really recognize that trait in themselves and they don't like it, but it is easier to lash out at and criticize me than it is to do the work on themselves.
I am trying to learn to take a breath and consider my own feelings and intentions before judging and reacting to others because I have come to realize that when I don't like something in others, it is usually a reflection of my worst self. So instead of throwing that back at others, I am trying to work on improving myself then maybe others won't see such a negative reflection when looking at me. It's a work in progress!