Three Things To Unlearn From Childhood by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD
We each have our own belief systems that help govern our lives. These belief systems – and the actions that support them – are often crafted in childhood. What starts as survival mechanisms or learned behaviors, end up becoming entrenched faulty belief systems as an adult. These following three belief systems are both the most common and the most toxic beliefs we develop as children.
CONFORMITY: We all remember standing in a straight line with our class, sitting in straight rows of desks, and some of us remember wearing uniforms to school. We were all taken through the same sequence of classes, and taught to solve math problems the same way. In addition to our structured learning environment, our peers often reinforced the importance of conformity by picking on the “weird kid” on the playground, and calling attention to those who were different. Growing up in this structure of sameness, many of us feared “being different.” As an adult, however, thinking and acting differently is what sets us apart, and often ahead.
PERFECTIONISM: As children, we were told to do our best. In sports, we kept practicing our swing to have perfect form. In school, we strived for a perfect 4.0 GPA. And often, we were rewarded based on how close to “perfect” we were able to get. Consequently, you may believe that if you get as close to perfection as you can, then you are a more successful individual or a better person. The problem with perfection is that it’s an impossible standard. When perfect becomes the standard, you become less willing to take risks. The fear of failure or imperfection generates more power than it should, and you consequently are unable to live to your full (and perfectly imperfect!) potential.
AFFIRMATION: Growing up, we sought to achieve the approval of our parents, our older siblings, our teachers, and our peers. We wanted high marks in school, and we wanted those around us to recognize and appreciate our accomplishments. While it’s important and healthy to receive support from those around us, this belief system, that approval of others is necessary for self-worth, causes us to constantly be looking for external affirmation for internal confidence. When you give other people control over how you feel about yourself, for better or for worse, what they think begins to really matter. The more positive things the person expresses, the better you feel about yourself and the more confidence you have. Conversely, however, receiving criticism can swiftly strip you of all the confidence you’ve built up. Finding our own, internal self-worth can be an incredibly freeing achievement.
As you think through your own belief systems that govern your thoughts and actions, pay careful attention to the belief systems that may no longer serve you well. Take a deep look into each of these belief systems and try to understand where they came from. Next, allow yourself to let them go. In today’s world, our ability to be our own unique individual, to take risks without a fear of failure, and ultimately to affirm our own self-worth, are the skills we need to thrive.