As I became increasingly aware of this thought pattern and behaviour, I would laugh at myself doing it and challenge myself to try and fight against it, being surprised by just how impossibly uncomfortable it felt to even try to ‘rebel’ and use different coloured pegs together for fear of what untold consequences may ensue.
Fast forward many years to one of those unexpected (quite possibly wine fuelled) conversations with friends, where I was relieved, amused and frankly liberated to finally share this secret and hear the variety of weird and wonderful habitual thought patterns that we all seemed to have internalised since we could remember.
With the ammunition in hand that I wasn’t entirely mad or beset with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), I decided to share this amusing insight into my internal being with my Mum. The look that crossed her face was not the one of unsurprised ‘only you’ amusement I’d expected, it looked more like she’d seen a ghost, and in some way I guess she had.
This was the realisation from her side that something she had never shared with anyone ever, had been perfectly replicated by her daughter, who was equally unaware that it was anything other than one of her own unique foibles. On reflection if I’m honest, in that moment I felt shocked, but also strangely disappointed and cheated – more programmed than unique.
Whilst I appreciate that using matching coloured pegs is not something that’s really going to impact my success in life, I believe the implications of this simple insight are huge.
What does this say about what we pass on to our children?
I would suggest everything, all the time, conscious and subconscious, verbal and non-verbal, not just the things we want to teach them when we engage as our best parenting selves, or even those guilt ridden moments when we know we’ve just ‘lost it’ and become the worst version of our own parents that we vowed we’d never be.
Luckily this means that there are plenty of great skills and life lessons that we’re passing on everyday in their journey to function successfully in our social world. But what about those fears that have been unknowingly passed down to us and seamlessly woven into our sense-of-self – our ‘emotional DNA’, planted with the best intentions of protection and survival, but that no longer serve us well in adult life, those that clip our wings rather than help us fly?
We’re probably all aware that in the interest of teaching our children and keeping them safe there is an element of ‘do as I say, not as I do’, but have we ever considered that there is equally an element of ‘be who I am’, rather than ‘who you truly are’?
At the heart of flying is being ‘authentic’ your ‘true self’, for adults and children alike – as a parent this involves effort in developing self-awareness, taking a non-judgemental and guilt free look at our own parents, family and life patterns to work out if there are any limiting, ‘not good enough’ beliefs that we may be acting out and passing on.
In terms of our children, I believe most people would agree that we are all born with an authentic and unique nature, abilities, instincts and potential that makes us truly individual. However, without self-awareness or life experience, we have no idea of what we are capable of and what this means for us. How each of us recognise and nurture this potential in our children will be instrumental in the extent to which these innate talents and abilities will be realised.
If you would like more ‘food for thought’ on this subject, please try out these podcasts.
We’d love to hear your thoughts or feedback on this subject as well as any insights that have been useful to you.