It’s a beautiful Summer day at the lake. There is low humidity in the air, and the water is at the warmest time of the year. The children are creating worlds with sand, and the two lifeguards monitor the water for causalities in a cool kind of way. The bandanas, tattoos, and sunglasses give their coolness away before they walk casually to change shifts. The moms are being mothers emptying full bottles of sunblock on their children. Kids look like little ghosts running on the sand waiting to be rescued by their helicopter mothers every time they are near the water. Dads are being dads throwing children in the deep to challenge them to swim.
I remember my dad throwing my siblings and me into the deep water so we could swim to shore. As much as it was meant to be fun, it taught us to be safe. We lived four houses from the beach in which we visited daily ten months out of the year unsupervised. Knowing how to swim was not an option.
We really don’t know how often and when to protect our children or how to push or withhold them into a challenge. I believe it depends on the type of parents you had.
There are no manuals for parenting. When we leave the hospital with the tiny defenseless infant, there is no instruction guide on how to raise a human being. This is the worst kind of “winging.” Nature expects us to know one of the most challenging tasks in life. We send doctors to school for 8 years before we let them care for people, but parents have nine months of unsupervised time to learn how to raise a child who is their responsibility for 18 years or more.
As far as parenting, we resort to what we know. And what we know was indoctrinated in our subconscious by osmosis when we were newborn until age nine. Our well-intended parents with no parent skills who were indoctrinated by their parents with similar or less parenting skills raised us the best they could.
As we grow, we continue to learn, but most of our beliefs are hidden in our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Independently of how protective or challenging our parents were, we trusted them blindly even if our intuition told us there is something wrong with what they did.
The beliefs we learned will filter what we continue to learn. For example, if you learn from your parents that lifeguards are fun killers, as you grow, you may dislike lifeguards. You can go for years not knowing why you dislike lifeguards, meet people who work as a lifeguard, but unless you do the work, the understanding that lifeguards provide safety will not come into your experience. If I try to convince you with reason how lifeguards save lives, you may agree with me, but you will continue to have strong emotions about lifeguards.
When I was a child, my father didn’t let me play with children whose parents were divorced. He had his reasons which don’t even merit mentioning. Even though I did play with my friends behind his back, I carried strong feeling about divorce. The worse part is that I didn’t know.
I grew up, got married and had children. I was not happy in my marriage but It took me a long time to have the courage to get a divorce. I used to feel uncomfortable when I was out in public with my children without my husband or a boyfriend. I didn’t question these feelings until years later, and when I did and found out that I felt “less than” for being divorced. I carried shame around about being divorced. When I reflected on that, I learned it was not my truth. It had originated in my childhood with my father’s belief about divorced women.
There are many examples of beliefs adults spread around to children out of fear, protection or ignorance. Maybe you are not good at math, because you had a low score on the test and your parents decided that you are not good at math just like one of them. Or you never learn how to swim because your uncle died on the water.
How do we stop the false beliefs from influencing our actions?
Pay attention to what you think. Thoughts have power. 95% of the thoughts we think were the same thoughts from the day before. Most of those thoughts are the product of your parent’s upbringing. Many of them don’t belong in your life today and the world you are building. Please don’t call your parents and drop the f-bomb because of the way you were raised. They did the best they could. Now is your turn to do your best.
Today, I invite you to create your life. A life that you build with your true thoughts. You do that by catching the negative thoughts that pop into your head expecting the worst case scenario, judging others or criticizing yourself. It may seem that this voice is protecting you, but it is stopping you from growing. The fact that you can catch these unique thoughts is a testament that your truth is trying to surface. Do the work by paying attention to what you think.
Another way to do the work is to pay attention to your feelings. Meltdowns, road-rage, a burst of anger, fast mood swings, feeling insulted, disrespected or ignored, etc. are indications that you believe something that is not aligned with your truth. Find what the thought is and ask yourself “Is this true to me?” “Where did I learn this?”, “Who did I learn this from?” Finding the answers will create new pathways in your brain, and that’s how a new belief can find a home within you and eliminate those thoughts that no long servers you.
As the late Louise Hay would say, make this your affirmation until you have a good hold on the negative thoughts you think. And Remeber “Don’t believe all the thoughts you think until you are sure they are your truth.”