What if you believed everything every teacher, parent, Sunday school teacher, grandparent, aunt, sister, brother, friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, in-laws said was true about you? What if you believed everything you thought that they thought about you?
If you bought into everything everyone told you all through your life experiences up to now, you would probably be quite confused about who you are, wouldn’t you?
Perhaps you have already spent a great deal of time thinking about this, or have been in some type of counseling and realized that many of these opinions or your perceptions about these opinions have been skewed? Or maybe not?
I suppose it is possible that each of these influences gave you the exact same information about you and that you perceived their words and actions toward you exactly the same. I seriously doubt that would be the case, but I reckon anything is possible.
Since most of us received conflicting messages from at least one or more of these folks throughout our life experiences thus far, we’ll just presume it is likely the case.
Many of us may have several turning points in our lives where we realize that most of what we were told about who we are was inaccurate. We then decide what we would like to believe about who we are and try to make changes where we can to be more consistent with that person.
Others may not quite realize why they may think so poorly of themselves or where this comes from in their life experiences. Perhaps no one was so overt about it, but these beliefs had to have developed from somewhere. Someone had to have suggested it along the way and perhaps at a time when we were vulnerable, isolated or otherwise in need of believing whatever was being said.
To illustrate perhaps a bit better, let me use myself as an example.
My situation was pretty overt and obvious. There was no question in my mind that I was responsible for my mother’s happiness/unhappiness because she was quite direct in telling me these things as I was growing up.
If I had done X differently, then she would also be Y. Her alphabet was infinite, and it was clear I couldn’t do anything quite right enough to please her or make her happy. There was not even room for misperceiving this information for me, but for most, it is not quite this clear.
Most of what we learn to believe comes from what we see happening around us in interactions among others. We learn about ourselves by observing how others treat us based on how we see them treating others.
My mom would treat my friends great and everyone loved her at my school, at my extracurricular activities, at my brother’s extracurricular activities and at her work. I saw this and I honestly thought my mom was the greatest.
She did not treat me like she did anyone else as I observed it. While this was certainly accurate, what I did not know was that she was generally miserable herself and was miserable long before I entered the picture.
I didn’t realize this until well into my adulthood, so through my childhood and adolescence, (and young adulthood to some degree) I believed that I was the problem and that if I was only good enough, smart enough, helpful enough, agreeable enough, etc., then I could make this situation better. I wanted desperately to be valued by her most of all.
Here are the beliefs that developed from only my interactions with and observations of my mother: I am inadequate. I have a lot of power over how others feel. I am a problem because when she is with these other people in our world, she seems happy. My presence creates issues with other people. Seems fairly logical and straightforward that these would potentially be the result, doesn’t it?
There were certainly other messages that conflicted with these when I entered school and interacted with more adults. My teachers seemed to think I was great, smart and helpful with other students in the classrooms.
I was teacher’s pet all through elementary school, but certainly this was not enough to help me to believe anything different about myself. I actually did receive a lot of praise and reinforcement in school and other activities, but sadly because this didn’t seem to hold much weight when shared with my mom, therefore, it didn’t do much to counter the beliefs I already bought into at home.
Again, I share my example here because it is so obvious with a pretty clear cause/effect of how and where my initial beliefs about myself developed. I also use this as an illustration because as a kid, there was no way that I could have understood my mother’s misery as a human being struggling.
I could not consider the source and give appropriate weight to what she said or how she behaved with me. Instead, I adopted these beliefs and carried them on into adulthood without really understanding that I could challenge them at any time.
Regardless of how your situation may have looked growing up, as adults, we have the ability to challenge whatever we have adopted as the truth about ourselves.
I actually recommend tossing out just about everything you believe to be true and finding your new truth, as the adult that you are today, and the adult that you want to be in this life. I am not sure that many of us are even aware that the beliefs we hold onto so tightly about ourselves are not ours at all, but someone else’s projection of where we fit within their world at the time.
For some, this idea is empowering. We really can challenge and amend our beliefs about ourselves at any point in our lives!
For others, it creates more problems and fear. Our beliefs are the most powerful thing we have and without them (regardless of what they are) we feel like we are navigating this life without GPS or Google Maps to guide the way.
If you use either of these navigational tools, you certainly know that they can both be very wrong or outdated at times!
Our own truth about who we are is generally hiding beneath all of those beliefs we refuse to let go of along the way. In order to feel them and know them requires a certain amount of stillness and shift of awareness to what is within, rather than outside of us.
We are likely not who we were ten or thirty years ago because we have grown and experienced a great deal in the meantime. Our beliefs have to adapt and change and grow along with us.
It is possible that we have seen our own value in this life, regardless of what we have believed up to this point in our lives. Perhaps we are in need of some updated data to update our beliefs—look at the evidence of your experiences to find it!