Seeking Approval From A Critical Father

My father would always tell me, “You’re just not good enough,” every time I would lose a tennis match in high school. He eventually made me want to stop practicing so hard to see if I could make it to the next level because I was afraid of his disapproval. I asked him to stop coming to my matches, even though I went 10-1 senior year because I was worried he’d show up for that one loss. Losing is already a painful feeling. To then have your father be disappointed with you is terrible.

I remember coming home one day all proud of my 92% math final score. Instead of congratulating me he asked what happened to the other 8%. I stayed up all night for weeks studying because I’m pretty bad at higher level math. I still don’t know the purpose of Calculus in every day life. All I wanted was a high-five for my efforts. Once again I disappointed my father, but this time I didn’t fade. I tried harder in school because I wanted to prove to him and to myself I wasn’t a failure. I needed options.

But I realize no matter what I do, I will never live up to my father’s amorphous expectations. He never told me what occupation to follow or how much money to make or what type of person to marry. He let me figure things out for myself, which is something I do appreciate. Unfortunately, I don’t understand exactly what he wants out of me and that’s frustrating. Best I go ask.

He recently shot me an e-mail telling me, “Congrats on trying a new site design. Should be awesome once kinks are worked out.” The problem is, I just stayed up from midnight until 4am working out all the kinks.

I decided to redesign ONIG Financial Blog to make it brighter and more professional looking. Readership via tablets and phones is going up, so I wanted a “responsive” site that adjusts to the size of the screen for better readability. I figure why not do an update since it’s been almost five years. My only issue is how the site looks on a mobile phone. I like the old look better but so far there’s no way to have both.

Change is hard for people to accept, especially the older we get. I was excited to get my father’s out of the blue e-mail, but upon re-reading his words now I should have known what was coming. Because he enlarged his font size to massive on his screen, the right side column of my site disappears and he doesn’t like the layout as a result. Once he went back to regular font size, things appeared normal. Not good enough though.

Then he said FINANCIAL SAMURAI in the header looks “counterfeit” and therefore unprofessional due to all the “white scratches,” even though this is the same font I’ve been using since 2009. The reason why I kept this font is because it reminds me of battle tested armor. Building wealth over the long run is not easy as the financial crisis has shown. Temptation to splurge also gets heightened the more you have.

We talked for 28 minutes about all the things he was dissatisfied with about the redesign until I couldn’t take it anymore. He did begin to soften towards the end as he said, “I better go. I think I’ve said too much.” I was once again so sad that he was so critical and utterly disappointed with my efforts because I try very hard when it comes to my work. It’s difficult to please everyone all the time, but my father is someone I would like to one day please if no longer for my tennis and academics, then for my career and entrepreneurial endeavors.

If you’re a parent reading this, please send your kids some words of encouragement sometimes. Be proud of your children. Wrap your suggestions for improvement in a blanket of kindness. Think back to the time when you struggled to make something successful on your own. Your kids will appreciate everything you say and work that much harder to make you proud.

As for me, don’t worry. I’ll get over the hurt as I already have by writing this post. Writing is cathartic for the soul if you have some torment. I’ll experiment with more font types for the header and keep doing my best so that one day he might say, “Good job son,” and mean it. I’m not sure why he can’t just say nice things, but on the positive side, if it wasn’t for my father being so critical I don’t think I would have tried as hard.

Readers, do you have a parent who never seems to be satisfied with your accomplishments? What are some of the things they’ve said or done that hurt? What did you do about the situation? Why do you think parents are so critical of their kids even though they know they work hard and know their words are painful? Do you think it’s more of an issue with something happening to the critical parent than yourself?

Related Post:

Nature vs. Nurture: How Important Are Parents To Our Success?

Time To Man Up Dads: Time To Become Better Fathers



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