One of my main goals in life has been to raise my kids so they wouldn't turn out to be quite the jackass that I am. Part of bringing up kids is giving them self-esteem, and both my wife and I wanted to impart a sense of self-worth and confidence to our children that would carry on throughout their lifetimes. We read to them at an early age, helped them through sports and homework, and advised them on how to converse and understand their fellow humans. These are tools we hoped would guide them to be successful in their careers and socialize with a large circle of friends and family.
But like an alcoholic telling his kids not to drink, imparting the virtue of self-worth is difficult when the adviser constantly questions his own. Looking back as a child of the '60s, I squandered many opportunities to embrace my abilities and pat myself on the back. I remember being asked by a school counselor whether I thought I was unique and I remember thinking that I was not at all. I would struggle for years to accept that I had a place in the world, a world that admires confidence and scoffs at doubt.
My children are both successful in different but amazing ways, having survived my parenting while flourishing under my wife's. There is a modesty and humility to both of them that made me recently come to this conclusion: parents can raise winners who think they're losers, and that might be just as bad as the other way around. Confidence balanced with humility is a goal that's as difficult to reach as happiness, the ultimate destination we wish on our kids.
I've come a long way to accepting who I am, something that's a struggle for some and joyful journey for others. Allowing myself to be imperfect for my children and accepting who I am makes me a better parent and human being. Raising my opinion of myself and raising children who don't see a jackass gives them insight into their own inner-critic.
And that's the balance I'm talking about.