I’ve grown up with a lot of luck — intelligent, clever, loving and very good-looking parents with a lot of charisma — and spent a very long time not realising that not all of my friends were privy to such daring, adventurous parents as mine. When you’re being raised a certain way, you tend to think that it’s natural. Entry into adulthood and discovering completely different paths of life is enlightening, because you realise that your idea of normal never even crossed someone else’s mind.
I started watching Suits not very long ago and got through the first three series quickly (although I did get bored with a lot of overused plot devices). Among the many dramatic character traits all the main cast portray, it is obvious that Jessica and Harvey are strong believers in tough love. Not opening up to anyone, ensuring that they are always respected and most importantly, knowing just the right button to push when something needs to be done and there’s a special emotional connection to a legal case. I really came to appreciate Harvey’s attitude with Mike because even when the guy wanted to give up or just for his boss to cut him some slack, the opposite happened and the results were outstanding. So the hierarchy was set: Jessica and Harvey — pals; Harvey and Mike — father to son.
The show reflects an aspect of life, though: you eventually see that no one is at the top, nobody really rules the world and therefore, Jessica and Harvey are manager to partner first, friends second. Everyone has someone to answer to, even in families.
So I thought about how much I appreciate someone applying tough love on me, because it’s the main way to get me to do things, if you’re soft with me I’m much more likely to think I can get away with stuff… Or, I was, until I realised that when someone at the office treats you with kindness and respect, you thank them by doing your damn job and proving yourself worthy of that respect.
That’s actually something my Dad’s always done with my siblings and I. While my Mum is the nurturing kind, who looks out for you and makes sure that you’re feeling confident and loved, my father’s always the ‘military’ one who will tell you to suck it up and get on with it because there’s only so much others can do for you. Sometimes, that’s an exaggeration but sometimes, it’s tougher than that and it makes me want to explode and tell him to stop teasing me for my mistakes and just tell me what I’m supposed to do.
Some people might not like that discipline, but I really wouldn’t want it any other way. Whenever I’m feeling down and have a cry on my mother’s shoulder, if it gets back to my Dad, I’ll feel embarrassed. Because I can handle it, and I do want the tough love over the lifelong coddling, but at the same time, everyone needs a break and when your mother’s the one everyone turns to for comfort and support, there’s a clear balance you come to appreciate.
That’s made me question whether it helps children. By the nature of this upbringing, when you reach a breaking point, your mentor pushes you to the results you both want. When you don’t want to do something, there’s no way you’re getting out of the engagement because you’re already committed to it. It’s actually how I am with my siblings, I don’t give them pity parties, I push them to do what they’re supposed to do because they need to learn not to sulk when they don’t get what they want. Every time I do that, I wonder whether that’s a way to traumatise a child from a young age or if it can really be an excellent, minimally damaging, character-building technique. I don’t yet have an answer to that one.
It’s also the way I think we should treat mental illness more often, because from my time browsing through Tumblr, I think we’re being very soft on ourselves. There’s a fair amount of “Don’t be hard on yourself, you got out of bed and that’s impressive,” which can be true, but all too often, someone is telling the world that they shouldn’t be forced out of their comfort zone. I completely disagree. You’re anxious about that phone call and on the verge of crying? If you don’t yet know what works for you, apply tips you’ve been given, write your script down, make yourself comfortable, deep breath and dial. Don’t hang up. Go get paperwork you’ve been meaning to retrieve for a while and go by yourself, talk to the person who’s sitting at their desk in front of you and be proud of yourself afterwards for facing your fears and not giving into the weird horror stories minds make up to frighten us. That’s not being a grown up, by the way, that’s being a badass human who’s overcome the most challenging part of our body and honed their being to handle life better. If you do that, well done. If you’re still into being coddled, cut it out and challenge yourself in the little ways, upgrade small challenges into bigger ones as you go. It is terrifying, of course, but that’s the point of tough love: you take what is terrifying and you decide that you’re going to accomplish that in spite of what everyone (including you) thinks of your abilities.
My new driving instructor’s a perfect balance of humour, friendliness, and tilting the conversation back to the lesson when needs be. Yes, it means that I’ve had to take a breath and think “let’s try that again, don’t worry about his tone,” and I was right to because it turns out he’s that nice. He wants me to do well and to enjoy myself and most importantly, he wants me to learn quickly so I get my money’s worth. Somehow, I think there’s a great life lesson to be learned from his teaching technique. So try it.