Life itself is a struggle with everyday living — so is learning how to live. We are born. Then immediately we are encouraged to grow through the nourishment of food but also through the life experiences we have and the knowledge that we receive in each moment of our lives.
We are constantly being cheered on by everyone around us to exceed their expectations. We are praised when we finally accomplish each goal, no matter how small or large.
We feel good about ourselves, even as small children, although we may not have any long-term memory of the high moments of accomplishing our goals.
Each triumph builds on another triumph and so our self-esteem grows. We are on our way to being secure, proud, confident adults. As a child, we discover that each wonderful moment builds on another wonderful moment — or does it?
Not Everyone Gets the Perfect Path for Developing Good Self-Esteem. Not all of us are allowed to proceed on a path that is considered the high road to good self-esteem. Some of us are literally pushed off this road, fall into a canyon, and spend the rest of our lives trying to climb and scale our way back to the main path.
The focus of these observations is about children, pre-teenagers, teenagers and adults who have struggled with their lives as they have continued to attempt to climb up to the top and get back to the path, yet keep finding that they frequently slip back into that dark canyon before they can make it out completely. Maybe you’ve felt this way before or perhaps you’ve been having this feeling recently — or right now.
We all receive mixed messages that we are taught at home, at school, by our peers, our teachers, and others we look up to. As young children, we are taught our roles by all of the nurturing people around us.
I’m sure you remember being told, “Little girls don’t do that,” and “don’t hit”; “don’t fight”; “don’t play in the dirt”; “that’s what little boys do”; and being asked, “You want to be pretty, don’t you?”
We’re also told, “Young man [or young lady], you should know better,” and other directions that are supposed to help us become better people. How confusing this can be when you are only a child…how would we “know better”? Why “should” we? We start off in life with all of these mixed messages that are well intended but instead they confuse us. How are we to keep this straight?
It’s like anything in life: repetition, repetition, repetition. “Repetition is the mother of all learning.” Repetition can be good, but repetition can also be extremely negative. It can wreak havoc for a small child for life if they have no concept or understanding of a behavior they are repeating that has been taught to them to harm themselves or others. As a child, we have dreams. For little girls, it may be to become a princess, a movie star, a doctor, the President, or a beauty queen. For boys, it may be to become a fireman, a lawyer, or a football player. Everything seems possible until you meet up with an adult who sets limitations. When you are constantly being told “no”, it makes life so much more difficult.
As we grow up, our roles become more difficult to live into. We set expectations for ourselves that may not even be our own and that are often influenced by or demanded by others around us. They limit us and who we can become. The child “pleaser” in all of us that desperately wants to strive for and receive positive recognition drives us to fulfill these expectations of others, so we adopt them as our own.
For many of us, the frustration of getting so many mixed messages puts a halt to our dreams — as children and at any age. We begin to question our ideals and thoughts.
I have many patients who come to see me from all walks of life and who are of various ages. It seems that they are all struggling with who they truly are. They have been beaten down by life’s challenges and feel badly about the road life has given them. Some feel they have lost their chance to reach an unfulfilled dream. They feel defeated and don’t know how to get what they want and need.
Sometimes, though, you can see that glimmer in their eyes and that thought that perhaps maybe if they try again, if they can regain their power to do something that has meaning for them, just maybe they can accomplish what they truly desire.
It is never too late to change your path and reprogram your ideas and dreams. It is never too late to nurture yourself and give yourself the messages that you wished you had heard years ago.
You can reclaim your power by changing those old messages that you never agreed with in the first place.
You can create whatever you want if you have passion and belief in your dreams.
Yes, it is nice to ask for other people’s opinions but this is YOUR LIFE and the only opinion that matters is YOURS!
Dream and live with passion,
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