Within the personal growth industry there is a widely held belief that 65% of our belief system is formed by the time we are 8 years old and by age 18 over 90% of our belief system has been firmly established. Do we believe the world is a scary, unjust place or do we believe it’s a safe place with unlimited opportunity? Are we bold or fearful? Do we ask questions or do we simply accept things at face value? Do we live with passion or are we complacent? Are we willing to take risks or do we prefer to stay in our comfort zone? Are we tolerant or intolerant of people who hold different beliefs than we do? The answers to these questions tend to be a direct reflection of the messages we received during our formative years. Having interacted with thousands of people in my capacity as a life and business coach, I have been able to identify 5 childhood messages that have kept many of my clients from achieving the results they truly desired. On a personal note, I spent years “re-wiring” my own belief system, much of which was a direct result of the messages I received throughout childhood. Below are 5 childhood messages that are keeping many of us stuck.
*Shut Up, unless you have something important to say! Many of us have still not figured out what constitutes important? We remain silent even when we know that something doesn’t feel right. We “keep our mouths shut” in abusive relationships, unfair work environments and in our dealings with friends and family. Over time, “going along to get along” has become our way of being. Our challenge is to begin using our voice in a respectful manner whenever we have something to say or add to a conversation. Each time we verbalize what is on our mind we are building muscles of courage and most importantly we are honoring ourselves. This is an important first step toward self empowerment.
*Quit being so selfish! In my book, Wisdom Through Failure, I refer to a character named Helpful Harry. Harry has spent most of his life doing everything for everyone and very little for himself. Harry is a people pleaser. Harry is also an ANGRY GIVER! Whenever Harry does something for himself he immediately feels guilty and begins rationalizing his behavior. Harry will buy a beautiful new tie and then return it to the store an hour later because he feels guilty for spending money that “should be going to something else”. Harry’s challenge is to become self centered. When we are self centered we are choosing to nurture ourselves and we are focused on doing what is in our best interests. This does not mean that we have to quit being generous, it means that we prioritize our needs. We can start out by doing something nice for ourselves once a week and build from there. Being self centered is not selfish.
*Why can’t you be more like your sibling? The message most of us received was that we were not good enough. Many of us are still comparing our success to the perceived success of others. For example, when I self published my first book, Wisdom Through Failure, I found myself comparing my book to every other author in the personal development arena. Once published, I obsessively tore through my book looking for every error, criticized myself endlessly and drove my wife Diana crazy with my never ending revisions. I was blind to my own content because I was comparing my work to that of Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins and Jack Canfield. When I stopped comparing myself to these “heavy weights” and focused on creating the best version of my book an interesting thing happened…my book gained traction and has become very well received by a worldwide audience. Our challenge is to run our own, unique, race! Comparing ourselves to others is a flawed practice because we really don’t know what has taken or is taking place on the other person’s journey.
*Quit acting so stupid! The message many of us internalized was that we were not smart. Far too many have become chronic underachievers due mainly to a fear of doing or saying something that could be perceived as foolish. In my practice, I routinely work with clients who are able to breakthrough this limiting behavior by creating a new story and hence a new reality around the intelligent, innovative people they actually are. Our challenge is to replace a past lie with a new truth. A good coach can help you achieve this breakthrough by effectively guiding you to your new truth.
*Quit being so emotional! As a coach, I interact with clients who are very comfortable showing their emotions and others who will fight tooth and nail to keep them in lock down. Many men, including myself, have been admonished since childhood that showing our emotions is a sign of weakness. “Real men don’t cry”, “don’t be such a wimp”, “toughen up” and “quit acting like a girl” were all phrases I heard growing up. On the other hand, it is socially acceptable for women to show their emotions, in fact it is expected. Recently, I was involved in an intervention designed to remove a wife and three small children from an abusive home. The husband, a former college football star and successful business owner had been arrested for a significant act of domestic violence. Everyone who knew the couple seemed shocked and most characterized them as such a “happy couple”. What they didn’t know was that the husband had developed a significant drinking problem shortly after his brothers death, had become very distant, refused to talk with his wife about his mood changes and finally one night when she pressed him to talk to her he broke her jaw, 2 ribs and dislocated her shoulder. In a subsequent conversation she admitted that she had never seen him cry or discuss his feelings as it pertained to his brothers death or any other challenge in his life. This is a tragic example of what can happen when a person doesn’t release their emotions in real time. Being an emotionally healthy adult involves being able to release our emotions in healthy ways. Our challenge is to give ourselves permission to share our feelings rather than hold them in to a point of combustion. A good coach or therapist can help us design a healthy strategy for managing our emotions.
In reality, most of us also received some very empowering messages designed to encourage and inspire us to become the best version of ourselves. I welcome you to take a look at any areas in your life where you feel stuck. Are any of these childhood messages contributing factors to your frustration? If so, it may be time to take the proactive first step toward creating a brand new story to tell yourself.
As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback! #myindustry