Lessons Learned in Childhood

0BC7YLPWMI (2)I’ve been doing some tapping on the need to be perfect, when I got some insight into where it might have started from.

I was a quiet child, eager to please, and pretty conscientious of others. I remember once in grade school, when in a rare bout of childish meanness, I said I didn’t want a certain person in our group. The teacher turned to me with this look of deep disappointment and said something like, “Anita, how could you? I expected better of you.” A wave of shame washed over me. And also a little anger. Other people were meaner than that all day long, but they weren’t expected to always be on their best behavior. Since I had always been so “good”, apparently I was held to a higher standard. Or so it felt to me.

Other memories resurfaced from that time, such as a teacher’s look of disappointment when I dropped an expensive piece of equipment, even though the class clown had done the same only moments before. Another reinforcement of the idea that others might make mistakes, but I shouldn’t.

This is how limiting beliefs are born. An incident happens and you take it to mean something (true or not). As similar incidents occur, reinforcing the belief. Most of the seeds are planted in childhood, when we likely don’t have the capacity to rationally assess a belief and discard it. Very young children can come to some pretty far-out conclusions, like believing they caused their parents’ divorce.

This makes me really want to be careful what I say around children. A flippant remark might have far-reaching consequences. A father I know occasionally teases his 7-year-old daughter, saying that if she keeps eating so much, she’ll get fat. I know he’s joking. He loves her to bits. And she’s skinny as a rail and growing, so that’s not likely to happen for a long time. But what is she internalizing? I know it’s impossible to watch every word out of our mouths. Sometimes we’re tired or irritated and just lash out. I know at least one of those teachers was just fed up and was expecting the “good” kids to help out in class while she dealt with the rowdier ones. But it might be worth thinking about. And maybe now that tapping is becoming better known, parents can teach their children to tap on uncomfortable feelings and situations before they can take root.