Have you ever noticed how babies are not yet self-conscious?
They aren’t! In fact, they are present, in the moment, and honest with their emotions (as if they have a choice!) They are just themselves, and they are real. They aren’t aware of other people (this is called object permanence – you can Google it), so they simply do things as they see them – from their own vantage point.
There was a time in all of our lives where the thought that we might not be good enough had never crossed our minds. I like to think of this time as “pre-conditioning”. It’s interesting to think that you came into this world not so much believing you were perfect, but just never for one second, thinking you might not be.
But, it seems that somewhere along the journey, we all lose our way.
As we learn language and download knowledge from the people around us, we become conditioned. We are taught false beliefs that we buy as truth because we don’t know better (yet!). We buy into the pain, judgment and criticism that we hear, see and absorb from the world around us. And the next thing you know, we have replaced the truth about who we are with the belief that we aren’t good enough.
Remember, children believe everything is about them – even when it isn’t. Egocentric thinking is a part of that developmental stage. For example, young children often grab anything (and everything) within a five-foot radius and state, “mine”. (My nephew loved to do this with my phone, which, as you can imagine, was interesting). This is just what kids do – they perceive everything as their own.
But now, imagine for a moment that phone was instead my anger, perhaps caused by someone cutting me off in traffic. It would make sense that a child could interpret that anger as “mine” as well. Egocentricity in our early developmental years causes us to be sponges – soaking up everything we witness and perceive around us. We personalize everything, including the erroneous idea that we are responsible for other people’s feelings and limitations.
If you witness pain, disappointment, anger or any type of negative response or emotion as a child, it’s likely you will discern that you are the cause. You put yourself in the center of the equation and personalize the reactions you see around you. Life’s pain, in your mind, becomes your fault.
See how things can get pretty convoluted?
You can’t fix something that isn’t yours to fix. But remember, a child with his or her egocentric thinking can’t conceive of this. In that life stage, we believe that we must be the cause, so we think it’s up to us to fix the problem. This is where many self-sabotaging behaviors are born.
We trade our love for ourselves for the need to conform to what we think others want and need from us. We start caretaking, people-pleasing, assuming responsibility for the feelings of others – and a myriad of other soul-destroying practices – in an effort to fix perceived problems that were never ours to begin with. Talk about a wild goose chase!
Over time, I believe all of us detach and forget our inherent worth to some degree. Those who experience trauma or neglect when they are young detach more acutely than those who don't. Regardless of the extent to which you lose your connection to your worth, it's a process no one seems to escape.
The question is, how can you find your way back to the truth you once knew: the truth that you matter and that you are enough?
We can start by identifying instances in which we may have personalized situations that we weren’t responsible for. I encourage you to simply give yourself the space to think about moments when you may have become erroneously attached to false ideas and beliefs in your early childhood – and how that might have affected you. Becoming mindful of the origin of harmful beliefs is the beginning of change.
In our next blog post, we will focus on what to do with these false thoughts and beliefs once we identify them. And then how to heal and change your thinking to honor your inner child, creating a new relationship with yourself based on the unconditional self-acceptance you once had. It was yours once, you deserve to reclaim it. Start with honoring that, and stay tuned for part II.