One of the most common questions we get from people who use our free belief-elimination site is, “I don’t think I got my beliefs from my parents. Can’t negative self-esteem beliefs be formed from interactions with siblings or later in life from teachers or peers?”
The answer in 99% of the situations is, no, such beliefs are almost always formed during the first five or six years of life in interactions with your primary caregivers, which is almost always our parents. So the source of these crippling beliefs is almost always our parents. On the other hand, their behavior didn’t cause our beliefs; the meaning we gave to their behavior constitute our beliefs today.
I think there are two primary reasons why the source of self-esteem beliefs is always interactions with parents as a young child and not people or events later in life. First, as children we depend on them for our very survival; on some level we feel that we have to be able to trust them to survive. Second, as adults, they seem to know how to navigate reality and we know we can’t.” (What do all kids say? “When I grow up, then I’ll be able to ….”) So they must know what they are doing and their behavior must be “correct.” If I don’t like how I’m treated, it must be my fault.
If I trust them and they must know what they are doing, and if they are angry with me, it must be my fault. I’m not good enough. If I can’t get them to spend the time with me that I want or if they are physically around but not paying attention to me, it must be my fault. I’m not important. If I can’t get them to give me what I want most of the time, it must be my fault. I’m not worthy or deserving.
Why can’t these beliefs come from teachers treating us the same way? Because with rare exceptions most of us already have the beliefs before we ever get to school. In other words, even though unpleasant events later in life (such as being ostracized by kids in school and going to a school where you are treated badly by teachers year after year) could lead to negative beliefs, in most cases the negative beliefs already had been formed in childhood parental interactions.)
And if our parents treated us such that we formed the positive beliefs I’m good enough, I’m important, and I’m worthy and deserving, it’s unlikely that poor treatment by a single teacher would change the positive beliefs already formed from interactions with our parents.
Two experiences my daughter Brittany had when she was five or six makes this clear. The first experience involves Brittany and my wife Shelly. After a day of helping clients eliminate negative beliefs, especially a lot of the beliefs that start with, What makes me good enough or important is …., Shelly asked Brittany over dinner: “What makes you good enough?” Britt answered calmly, “Nothing, I just am.” I other words, she had already formed the belief, I am good enough.
About the same time Britt came home one day from school and told us about an incident earlier in the day involving her and one of her teachers. At the end of each day, Britt took a van from her school to a drop off spot a block from our house. A teacher took the kids who were riding the van from the inside of the school to the curb where they would board the van. On this particular day the van was late and Britt was walking around, talking to her friends. The teacher got annoyed with Britt and angrily told her to stand still and wait for the van to arrive. She said something like: “Can’t you follow instructions?”
When Britt got home she said to us, “What’s wrong with [teacher’s name]? Why was she so mean?” It never would occur to her to think that perhaps there was something wrong with her if the teacher was angry with her. In other words, once you form positive self-esteem beliefs as a child during the first five or six years, it is actually difficult to turn them into negative beliefs later on if others treat you badly.
Another reason our beliefs are usually formed in interactions with our parents is that during the first few years of life, we are always asking “why?”. Sometimes we ask our parents to explain things to us, and sometimes we ask ourselves, “Why am I being treated like this? Why is my life like this?” We answer these questions for ourselves during the first few years of life. Because our parents are the people who we spend most of our waking hours with, they are involved in most of the experiences that lead to our fundamental beliefs.
And what are those experiences in most households? Parents, being adults, generally like quiet; children are not quiet and cannot even understand why anyone would value quiet. Parents for the most part want their house to be neat; young children don’t even understand the concept of “neat.” Parents want to sit down for dinner when it is ready and before it gets cold; children are almost always doing something that is far more important to them and don’t want to stop doing it when their parents call them.
In other words, parents usually want their children to do things that they are developmentally incapable of doing. They want their young children to act like little adults, which they cannot possibly do.
The question is not, Do children frequently “disobey” their parents? Children are developmentally incapable to living up to most parents’ expectations. The only question is how parents react when their children are not doing what the parents want them to do.
And because few parents go to parenting school and most bring their own beliefs from their childhoods with them, their reactions range from annoyance and frustration to anger and abuse, with every possibility in between.
From our experience in working with over 13,000 clients, we have found that virtually every one of them formed their basic self-esteem beliefs from interactions with their parents (and rarely other caregivers if such people took care of them most of the time) during the first few years of life.
And yet, behavioral and emotional problems later in life are not our parents’ fault. By that I mean we are not affected by our parents’ behavior after we grow up and leave the house. They are no longer in our lives in the same way. What does run our lives as adults? The meaning we gave our parents’ behavior, which became our beliefs.
Because it is possible at any age to eliminate our negative, limiting beliefs, it is possible to leave our past in the past any time we choose to do so. It might have been nice if our parents had had better parenting skills and had done some work on their own beliefs before they decided to have children. Nonetheless, we don’t have to be at the effect of their behavior toward us. We can eliminate our childhood beliefs at any time we choose to. And when we do that and also understand that our parents’ dysfunctional behavior toward us was a function of their beliefs, from their own childhoods, we end up feeling compassion for our parents instead of anger.
Sorry, but if you choose to hold on to your negative beliefs instead of getting rid of them, you can’t blame your parents any more for what doesn’t work in your life today. Here’s the real choice we face: To hold on to the beliefs that keep us stuck in life and then blame our parents for being the source of them, or to eliminate those beliefs and be free to choose a life of bliss and success, realizing our parents did the best they could and are blameless for our lives today.
Which do you choose?
If you haven’t yet eliminated at least one of your limiting self-esteem beliefs using the Lefkoe Belief Process, go to htp://www.recreateyourlife.com/free where you can eliminate one limiting belief free.
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