By: Paula Cabrera
I remember one of my very best friends told me that I can be very competitive – with myself. I asked her what she meant by that, and she explained that I see myself as my own competitor, which is what drives me to do better, be better, work harder, but at the same time, I should learn a thing or two from competing with others. I never realized how true this was until she put it into words. This realization got me thinking about my personality, my general disposition in life, and in the process, I learned how this self-knowledge is a key to success – in whatever aspect of life.
As I became more observant of how I deal with different situations, I got to know my own strengths and weaknesses. I’m generally composed and I’m not a worrier, and when I started working, I discovered how my patience and love for reading and continuous learning come in handy with the profession I have chosen. On the other hand, the soft-spoken girl in me became a challenge I needed to work on in order for me to do my job properly. I vividly remember when I appeared in Court and was asked if I really were a lawyer. This was the one time that looking young was not really a compliment. Also, the fact that I compete with myself (and only myself) could work as a disadvantage in my profession, wherein opposing counsels strategize to your disadvantage.
Soon enough, I made a pact with myself to use my strengths and weaknesses as building blocks for me to be an effective and efficient lawyer, which is a daily challenge for me, intertwined with my goal of being an effective and efficient parent.
Before I gave birth to my daughter, I was actually confident that I would be able to take care of my baby, soothe her when she cries, and attend to her needs with ease. I’m a patient and positive person and I easily adapt to change. The only big issue for me then was that I knew I wouldn’t be able to get enough sleep. Imagine, that was my biggest concern. But then, I gave birth six weeks too early, with a low platelet count, to a baby who also had a low platelet count and who had to stay in the NICU for nine days. I tried to stay positive and composed, as I normally would be, but inside, I was a mess. Every time I went in the NICU to breastfeed my tiny baby, I cried. I wouldn’t have known how to keep myself together if my (even more patient and composed) husband, loving and supportive parents and brother, in-laws, my grandmother, my cousins, and the rest of the family weren’t there to remind me of my strength. I convinced myself that when we get home, all my worries will go away.
I was wrong, of course. Being a mom for two years and four months now, I have learned that I can’t not worry about my child. Then, when she was still tiny, I worried if she was still breathing. Now that she is a hyperactive and curious toddler who thinks she has the powers of Spiderman, I worry about whether she’ll get bruised or hurt. Apparently, I’m a worrier as a mom.
I also learned that as a mom, my patience is challenged. No matter how patient I am, it’s still difficult to make a two-year old understand that when she cries, I don’t automatically know what she wants or needs and I can’t fix it with a snap.
I further discovered that as a mom, I make an effort to be creative and I actually enjoy it. I was never an artsy person and I couldn’t draw/paint/sing to save my own life, but being a mom has made me understand that arts and crafts don’t have to be Monet’s or Van Gogh’s, and I don’t need (but still wish I have) the voice of Lea Salonga to happily sing songs with my daughter. Me doing DIY stuff seemed impossible then, but now, I have discovered that my eagerness to learn helps me in my tasks as a mom.
I also learned that the multi-tasker in me can be both an advantage and disadvantage in my adventures (and misadventures) as a working mom. I can work on several tasks when the need arises, but then, there are times when my playful toddler comments, “Mom, you’re always working,” and I know that I have to drop everything else for a while to ensure that she doesn’t feel that she’s the least of my priorities.
The determination to discover who we are and the courage to accept the same are tools that ought to help in us succeed in our careers and in motherhood. The first step is to know our strengths and weaknesses, our perspective on different matters, and our beliefs and non-negotiables. The next is to use these as guidance in our decision-making, building blocks of the persons we want to be, and fuel to persevere for our daily and long-term goals.
It’s been said that “a man who does not know himself defeats himself.” I believe this to be true. How do you improve if you don’t know your weaknesses? How do you become confident if you don’t know your strengths? Ultimately, we owe it to ourselves to embark on the journey of self-discovery.
I personally believe that there is no finality or dead end for one’s character. I believe that it could be continuously changing; for the better or for the worse is a choice we make. Hence, I also believe in the importance of knowing our selves as this self-knowledge aids us in how we decide to act in different situations. Once we understand who, what, and how we are, we are able to create a path and direction towards who, what, and how we want to be as women, as wives, as moms – whether working or stay-at-home, and as whatever role we decide to take on.
Paula Cabrera is a working mom and a devoted wife. She and her husband are both lawyers who are continuously learning to embrace the joys and pains of both work and parenting. Reading and writing have always been some of her hobbies, and so, despite being busy, she finds time to do both even for just a few minutes everyday. She hopes to be able to be able to reach out to other parents through her short pieces and remind them that they are not alone in the crazy yet fulfilling world of parenting.