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  • Paula Thompson
    Paula Thompson

    Surviving the Unseen Grandmother Contest

    When I received the invitation to join a large family gathering, I was filled with joy. This was a chance to reconnect with relatives I have not seen in years. Upon my arrival, however, I quickly realized that something was wrong. Everyone was carrying on with mundane conversation as if nothing was amiss. I glanced around the room and noticed an invisible contest taking place. My heart pounded as I desperately tried to figure out what I had gotten myself into.

    It soon became apparent that this was the infamous Grandmother Contest. Each grandchild felt like they were being judged by their relatives and friends. All of us wondered who would win the coveted award of being named the best grandchild. We all wanted to be top of the class, but none of us knew the rules. We silently competed for the prize of acceptance and love.

    My emotions fluctuated wildly. I felt overwhelmed at times and then proud of myself a few seconds later. I thought about how to gain an advantage in the competition and desperately sought a way to stand out. I began to carefully assess every move I made and panicked when I failed to measure up.

    A thought suddenly crossed my mind. There was no need to join the madness. I started to remember that my worth had nothing to do with anyone else's opinion. I took a deep breath and allowed my heart to fill with self-love. Each grandchild was entitled to self-respect whether or not they gained anyone else's validation. I pushed aside the anxiety and basked in my own unconditional respect.

    I was not the only one struggling with these feelings. Everyone was feeling judged and insecure. As I looked around, I saw my fellow grandkids running through the same emotions as me. I realized that we all wanted the same thing: to be accepted and loved. Our hearts beat in the same rhythm, recognizing our collective fear and need for connection.

    From that moment forward I decided to shift my perspective. I no longer saw this family gathering as a Grandmother Contest. Instead, I looked at it as a sign of love and support from all my relatives. The awards of appreciation were symbols of hope in difficult times. Furthermore, I understood that instead of competing with each other, we could instead work together to build a strong bond within the family.

    I understood that feeling judged by society is common. It may be labeled as a ‘Grandmother Contest’ but it can exist at any level of society. In the end, I learned to embrace and cherish the moments of connection with my family, to trust my inner compass, and to honor those I was surrounded by.

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