My mother grew up in a less than fortunate environment, she came from a poor family and was a middle child. As a result, she was somewhat neglected. She didn’t have very many opportunities to go to school and never became educated, she has a tremendous amount of life experience, but is academically inferior. She doesn’t have a college degree, I don’t think she even has a high school diploma. But she still tried to be a tiger mom.
For those of you who might not be familiar with that term, a tiger mom is a (typically Chinese) mother who is extremely involved with her children, very overbearing, and controlling with the goal that her children are not only successful, but the best. It isn’t unheard of for Chinese parents to compete with each other based on the prowess of their children’s academic success. Being that she is the third born of six, and came from a family that couldn’t afford to send her to school, she didn’t experience the tiger mom aspect from her mother. However, she tried to emulate it with me, but didn’t really know how to do it. She was essentially winging it and it didn’t really work. I wasn’t a child prodigy. I wasn’t top in my class. I wasn’t anything worth bragging about.
Somehow, over the years, I’ve adopted the tiger mom mindset. I am essentially my own tiger mom. While it does have its benefits; diligence, self-awareness, and drive, there is a darker side to things. From my personal experience, and I would not be surprised to hear others having a similar experience, the tiger mom does not reward success. Success is expected. Success is what is supposed to be done. You don’t get rewarded for doing things you’re supposed to do, like taking a shower, brushing your teeth, or saying please and thank you. Those are things you are supposed to do. Why should a person be rewarded for doing the things that are expected of them?
The darker side lies more in when success is not achieved. Brushing your teeth isn’t anything special, it’s nothing to brag about, but not brushing is a bad habit, and just plain gross. Anything below excellence is simply just wrong.
I mentioned that I had become my own tiger mom. I don’t know when, how, or why, but this self-realization came when I reentered college. For the very first time in my life, I had a 4.0 GPA. However I noticed a couple things about this. I wasn’t excited getting a 4.0. I felt like it was something I was supposed to have. I’m supposed to have a 4.0! I shouldn’t feel proud or celebrate the fact that I achieved something that I’m supposed to achieve. Despite the fact that the highest GPA I’ve ever had prior to that quarter was a 3.2 during my freshman year of high school, I didn’t acknowledge it. I quickly moved on.
I question if I had set the bar too high too soon.
I am now in the second quarter and just completed one of the most difficult weeks of my life. My time management, diligence, and overall intelligence was put to the test. Having a midterm in all of my classes, as well as tutoring two students who also had midterms, was by far the most challenging time I’ve ever faced. I planned out my week, prioritizing what needed attention and what could be put on the back burner. My math midterm was rather difficult, however I completed it feeling confident. I felt that optimistically I had earned an A-, but realistically a B.
But then I saw my grade. 71.5%!
I couldn’t understand it, how could I possibly have done that poorly? I was ready for the blow of a B, but a C-? How could this happen? How could I fail this badly? Why didn’t I study harder or more efficiently? But then I thought about it some more and asked myself “Why is this the end of the world?”
Earlier in the quarter, for the same math class (which to specify, is pre-calculus focusing on trigonometric functions), I was absolutely positive that I either got a D or an F on a quiz. I spent the rest of the day beating myself up over it, I even considered withdrawing from college. I thought perhaps I wasn’t meant for college, perhaps I wasn’t meant to do well in life, or perhaps I simply wasn’t very intelligent. Then I got the actual score… 87.5%. I had beat myself up for nothing. I underestimated myself and undermined my accomplishment for no practical reason. Why? What was the point?
I don’t know why I am my own tiger mom. I don’t know why I hold myself to such high standards that I don’t hold anybody else to. I don’t know why I have unreasonably high expectations of myself, but am extremely forgiving of others. I might never know the answers to these questions.
However, to quote a study from Kruger and Dunning (from a dialectic essay midterm I had to do for English), “one way to make people recognize their incompetence is to make them competent.” Perhaps the fact I am aware of my irrational expectations of myself, I can learn to ease up on myself. I can learn to appreciate accomplishments for what they are: accomplishments.