The other day my oldest daughter (7 going on 17) said “Mommy, may I ask you a question?” I gave her the go ahead and she said “Why do you always say we are getting on your last nerve? It seems like every time you say that you end up with a new one”.
Yes. I laughed. And rolled my eyes at the same time.
But that conversation sparked my own curiosity. Yes, I do tell my children “ya’ll are working the very last nerve that I have…” knowing good and well that I will be saying the same thing the next day. So why do I say that when I know it’s not true? And if I am saying that to my child knowing it’s not true, are there other things I say to them that don’t hold up? And what statements or life lessons did my parents (or other adults) teach me that may not be all the way true? And I guess the bigger question is, does it really matter?
Well, I believe it does matter. Whether we understand this or not, our core beliefs about success, love and our self-worth were shaped by lessons we learned as children.
Yes, that’s right. Whether you are 30, 40 or nearing the golden years, the core of who you are was shaped very early in your life.
As a therapist I teach my clients to intentionally challenge their core beliefs, because only when we challenge what we believe, will we get to the root of why we are where we are (good or bad) in our life.
With that in mind, let’s explore 4 lessons many of us were taught very early in life that may not be true. Let’s also consider how those ‘lessons’ are impacting our lives in a not-so positive way.
Lesson # 1: It doesn’t matter what people think / say / believe about you.
Wow. If this isn’t so far from the truth I am not sure what is. If you are going to find long-term success in your platonic, professional or romantic relationships, it absolutely does matter what people think about you. Your reputation speaks much louder than any words you may use. Being careful about how you present yourself to the world (the “world” meaning the realm of influence God has given you) really does matter.
If you have found yourself saying “I don’t care what they think….” Or “I don’t really care about what folks say about me”, I would like to encourage you to re-think either of those statements.
The Bible tells us that: “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches….” (Proverbs 22:1). Even Forbes Magazine shared research that indicated that 85% of your financial success is due to skills in “human engineering”.
So, yes, it absolutely does matter how you connect with others and therefore what people say or think about you. However, I think what our parents were trying to teach us is that while having a good reputation is important, you should not allow your dreams, goals and desires to be stifled by the views of others. Just because someone doesn’t like you or believe in you, doesn’t mean that you should stop doing what you believe is right for you to do.
The take away: Your reputation and social skills are critical to your success. How you engage and connect with others must be managed effectively. But your life is not dictated by random, unfounded opinions or views. Be selective when it comes to receiving accolades, feedback and even correction.
Lesson # 2: You are THE most beautiful, talented, smartest (use any adjective you want to use) person in the world!
I literally took a real deep breath with this one. I am so guilty of this. Not because I really believe my children are better (smarter, faster, stronger, etc) than other children, but simply because I tend to be over the top in how I express myself.
Long before I had children, I would heap excessive, over the top praise on my nephew. One day his mother (my sister –in-love) said “girl stop it! I heard that all that praise wasn’t good”. I literally laughed and said “how in the world is telling him that he is the best 2-year-old that ever lived bad for him”. Fast forward several years, a profession change (leaving full-time ministry and entering into the field of psychology) and I learned that she was right.
Dr. Steven Meyers, a professor of psychology at Roosevelt University, was recently quoted in a Huffington Post article. He said “In general, children with low self-esteem are more risk averse because they fear failure. This can be triggered by parents who use excessive praise.”
Our parents (or grandparents, aunties or godparents) meant absolutely no harm when they told us that we were THE best dancer ever…or THE best reader ever….or THE best artist ever. But they unintentionally set us up to be gravely disappointed when we learned that we were not always THE best.
The truth is there is always someone better, faster, smarter, or more talented than you. But it doesn’t matter. We aren’t in competition with others. We are only in competition with our best self.
Now. With that said I can’t promise that I won’t stop this all together. But I think I’ll tweak it by saying: “Ryann you are the best singer….Reagan you are the best gymnast…Riley you are the best…ummm…cooer, in our eyes!” (I wonder if that’s any better?)
The take away: While you might be a beast in your area of influence, there is always someone who is out performing you. Focus on out doing yourself on a daily basis and that is where you will find your greatest success.
Lesson # 3: There are no limits…or…you can be whatever you want to be.
I struggled with sharing this lesson because I know that life coaches and motivational speakers will struggle with this one. I am both of those things and even I struggled with it. But let’s think about it. What if I told you that I really want to supersede Mariah Carey in album sales? Would you encourage me by saying “go for it! There are no limits!” or would you look me in the eye and say “ma’am. Dream another dream”.
If you are my friend I hope you would tell me the latter. Especially since I can’t sing a lick.
Many of us were told by our parents that we could be whatever it is we wanted to be. But the truth is there are times that our big dreams are just not feasible.
I know. You are shaking your head at me. But hear me out.
My daughter Ryann desperately wants to drive right now but she can’t. She is limited by her age, the law and her height.
I would LOVE to be a background dancer for my girl Bey, but that’s not going to happen.
Jennifer Hudson wanted to be the American Idol, but America didn’t vote for her as the winner.
The Miami Heat wanted to win this last championship but they didn’t.
I don’t mean to sound like a Debbie Downer, but the truth is there are times in our lives where there is a limit…and we might not obtain “whatever we want”. And for those of us who are Believers, we understand that many times that’s a good thing. Sometimes what we want isn’t what God has for us, and so trusting His plan is always the wiser choice.
Listen, like many of you I too believe the SKY is the LIMIT and once you hit the sky, push through the clouds and go even higher. But I also believe that we should strive in the area that God has called and gifted us. We shouldn’t identify random goals or dreams that are not in accordance with what we were created to do.
Again…our parents had the best of intentions, as we do with our children. But sometimes telling someone there are no limits actually sets them up for a huge let down.
Also, if we are going to tell our children (or ourselves) that there is no limit, we should at least make sure we include the other half of it…the part that talks about sacrifice, dedication and unrelenting focus to reach our goals and surpass them.
The Take-away: While there will be times that you are striving for something that you may not attain, the journey is always just as important as the destination. And when you are open to God’s will for your life, He will guide you towards what is TRULY for you and what will bring you the truest joy and fulfillment.
Lesson # 4: If you treat people right, they will treat you right.
This is another tough pill to swallow but if you’ve lived beyond your naïve years, you have learned that this statement is not always true. There will be plenty of times in our lives that we will do good to someone who does not do good to us in return.
Be it an ex-boyfriend, former employer, or even your blood relative, most of us have experienced a time when we have treated someone well but have in turn been hurt or disappointed by that very person.
Does that mean it doesn’t matter how we treat people and should therefore do whatever we want? No not at all!
While our decision to treat others well, does not guarantee that specific person will do the same towards us, it does lead to us being treated well by others overall.
Whether we call it sowing and reaping, or Karma, what you put out, you get back. The challenge is when we expect (or demand) it to come back through a specific vessel. And remember, the boomerang affect goes both ways. If you choose to dishonor or disrespect others, you will find that same energy showing up in your life as well.
The Takeaway: Our goal should be to not only treat others the way we want to be treated, but to treat others according to what is congruent with our value system. We should live our lives in such a way that we truly glorify our Father in Heaven. Despite whether or not others are doing the same.
I would love to hear from you. Can you think of a lesson that our parents taught us that just might not be true? Share your thoughts below.