When I was growing up, my parents taught us how to be good people. They taught us how to do the “right thing.” They taught us the importance of working hard and getting good grades, so we could one day go to college, get good-paying jobs, and provide for our own families.
I do not deny that that did right by me.
Unfortunately, it was HOW they taught me those things that I wish had been different.
I distinctly remember a time when we were all invited to go to my dad’s boss’s house, which was this huge mansion (with an indoor basketball court). Serious business. A lot of the day is vague, but the one moment that I remember quite well was when I met “the boss.” My dad introduced me and I probably said a shy “Hi” and that was it. The man wished us well and went back to his other guests.
Once he was out of earshot, my dad laid into me with a shit-storm of shame. I can’t remember the exact words he said, but I remember him reprimanding me for not being respectful, for not saying “Nice to meet you. Thank you for inviting us,” etc. I also distinctly remember feeling like the tiniest speck of a person. Feeling incredibly small.
Unfortunately, that way of speaking to me was the undercurrent of my childhood. If my parents didn’t like my behavior, my words, or my attire, they used shame, guilt, or fear of being punished as a way to “keep me in line.”
And it worked. I was a good girl. I got good grades. I went to a good college. I got a good job.
But it also had a cost.
To this day, I am still a little afraid of my dad. Afraid that he will again leave me feeling like a tiny speck of a person. Afraid to share my thoughts. Afraid to be myself.
Fear drove me, but it also disconnected me.
When I left my former job with my not-so-great boss, and dove into the world of coaching and personal development, I realized that I had inherited the same tactics for changing the behavior of others.
Over the 2 years that I had worked for her, I had used fear, shame, blame, and guilt to try to motivate her to change. I may not have done so directly, but I was still doing it. I encouraged others to go to HR to report her, hoping that FEAR would drive her to leave. I SHAMED her incessantly with others, and within my own head. I BLAMED her for my unhappiness at work. And finally, I used GUILT as a way to manipulate her to do it my way.
Because of all of my learning, it feels icky for me to think of that now. I hated it when my parents made me feel small, and yet I find myself doing it to others too, even if inside my own head.
And that is why I want to break the cycle.
I want my children to do things because they WANT TO (even if it does have a natural negative ripple effect), not because they HAVE TO or are AFRAID not to.
I also want all the other people I interact with to do things because they WANT TO rather than because they are afraid not to.
I want others to “do the right thing” in support of HUMAN CONNECTION and LOVE, rather than FEAR.
Now, I don’t know what your upbringing was like, but I wonder if you were also taught how to behave with fear, shame, blame, and guilt as motivators. If so, how did you feel when these tactics were used on you? Is that how you want to BE with other people? If not, how can you break the cycle?
Courage. Compassion. Connection.