Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Traits vs. Flaws vs. Soft Skills: What's the difference?

A friend just posted the above article, on her fb, from Babble.  I read it through, and was crying by the end.  I give credit to the author for finding the bravery to share her thoughts, but wonder if her daughter will feel the same way when she is grown and reads it.  I also couldn't help but wonder how much of the author's description of her daughter was, in fact, a projection of how she feels about herself, and her own insecurities??  
My mom always knew that she wasn't her mother's 'favourite', in fact, my grandmother said something to her, when my mom was a young adult, that she found her 'hard to like', and 'didn't really understand her'.   I didn't know my great-grandmother well, but I've heard that she was a hard-ass, and although my mom liked her as a grandmother, I have often wondered what she was like to my grandmother, as a mother.   It is my guess, that something has trickled down my family tree, generation to generation, as my mother often told me, that she found me 'very challenging, emotional (she often calls me a cry-baby in jest), stubborn and bossy'.  She still sees me this way, and that's ok.  But it wasn't always. 
My mom made it known that she loved me, but she also reminded me that I possessed certain character 'traits'.  She always mentioned them with humour, in a 'poking fun' sort of way, but I still felt very insecure about them, feeling that by 'traits', she meant 'flaws'.  For a long time, I tried to hide these 'traits' from people, and attempted to change myself to be more calm, less emotional, more flexible and less bossy.  As it turned out, this was impossible (surprise, surprise).  Later, I learned to live with these 'traits', alienating and distancing myself, slightly, from others.  But then, around the time I met my husband, I began to become comfortable with, and appreciative of, these 'traits'.  In fact, the other day I was working on my CV and, with the help of Mayu, I massaged out, into words, certain 'traits' into 'soft skills' - it's a great exercise for anyone (and easiest to do with someone who loves you!).   Write down a list of all of your, so called, character flaws or 'traits' or less-desirable qualities:  lazy, slow, takes on too many projects, talks too much, loud, etc, and, in turn, make your list into a list of 'soft skills':  enjoys taking time with projects, careful, thoughtful and meticulous, thrives when multi-tasking, extremely social and co-operative, charismatic, etc.  My husband, very kindly, describes me as having boundless energy, empathetic and passionate, committed and a born leader (he is the master of 'soft-skilling'). 
Now, my youngest daughter, Poppy, is a miniature version of my husband:  calm, cool, low maintenance and even-tempered - always has been.  They are two peas.  And, just as I love, adore and admire Mayu for all of these qualities, I love, adore and admire Poppy for them.  My first born, Olive, on the other hand, is a miniature version of me:  the very opposite of Poppy.  It took me a long time to get comfortable with, and understand the worth of, my 'traits', but because I am and do, I LOVE all of these, very same, 'traits' in Olive.  If I hadn't come to love myself and be confident in who I am, I don't believe I could love Olive the way I do. 
If I could give any advice to a parent, it would be:  Be happy with, love and appreciate yourself, and your partner, as it is very, very likely, you will see all of you and your partner's 'traits' in the faces, expressions and actions of the little people who live with you (it's like a house of mirrors being a parent!)...this makes it easy to love your children - equally, wholly, and unbiased.    Olive will be the president of the world one day (and Poppy her diplomatic, mediating, peaceful vice-president), I'm sure of this.  And she will do great things, in her own way.  And I will make sure just as my mom did, and her mom, and her mom, that she realizes that there is a line, where certain character 'traits' can, in fact, be character 'flaws', but unlike my mom, and her mom, and her mom, I hope I will make sure that she realizes the potential of these 'traits', is able to view them as 'soft skills' and appreciates their worth.  
Until next time,
Grumpy Old Sarah

1 comment:

  1. This was beautifully said Sarah. I too, read that article but certainly didn't have the same reaction that you did. To be quite honest it made me feel a little ill (particularly about her being okay if something were to happen to her daughter b/c she'd still have her son) I guess I'm lucky I have never felt that way. I think maybe the issue IS that she projects onto her daughter and I don't know how one would deal with that daily...being the Mother or the Daughter. You made me see a different side to her story. Thank you.