Do Not Concede The Narrative

None of us come from families that were perfect. None of us got everything we needed. Our parents were not perfect. Indeed, they may have been quite flawed. Perhaps they were not loving enough, understanding enough, accepting enough. Maybe they just weren’t there enough.

What does that mean? Of course it means that we suffered for that. It also means that we were taught–by example–a less than ideal model of what parenting is or fully could be. And? That doesn’t have to be how it goes for you.

In a fascinating in-depth profile of Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Atlantic, Arnold is asked about wrestling with his father’s legacy–a man who joined the Nazi party, fought for Germany in WWII and spent the rest of his life broken as a result. This was a man who laid hands on his family, who was not available to them, who fell down, ultimately, on the most important job.

“But Schwarzenegger does not concede to this narrative—to feeling guilty or embarrassed,” Mark Leibovich writes, “His recurring message is more upbeat, if a bit deflecting. ‘We don’t have to go and follow,’ Schwarzenegger told me. ‘My father was an alcoholic. I am not an alcoholic. My father was beating the kids and his wife, and I’m not doing that. We can break away from that and we can change.'”

We don’t have to concede the narrative. Our parent’s story informs our story but it does not control the ending. That’s on us. We decide who we are going to be, how this is going to go. By the choices we make, by what we choose to face, by going to therapy, by putting in the work, by doing the reading, by holding ourselves accountable.

We didn’t come from perfect and we will not be perfect. But we can be better.

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