Parents do the best they can, right?
Many of us got to see our parents as hard-working people who sacrificed to ensure we had better lives than they did.
And the best they could hope for was that we turned into fully functioning, hard-working, productive members of society.
Our parents, however, can’t be the only influences over our lives.
In fact, we have many others.
Last week, we talked about asset-building in youth. Developmental assets are a set of skills, experiences, relationships and behaviours that enable young people to develop into successful, contributing adults.
Those assets don’t just come from our family lives, although our parents are a huge influence.
They also come from members of our community, especially adults who share their skills, talents and knowledge with the youth.
But what happens when we don’t have all those positive influences?
Who do we become?
Check out this Tech Insider video called, “How 5 things that happened to you in childhood shape you as an adult.”
All stressed out
We can all stand a little personal growth and self-development.
But if we’re talking about lacking self-assuredness or confidence, we missed out on some kind of support in our childhood.
It leaves us wanting, unable to believe we can do anything, incapable of taking risks to advance ourselves.
Take one of my clients, for example.
He grew up with parents who did everything for him, from picking his school courses to scheduling his after-school activities. They ensured he had tutors, played tennis and significant amounts of study time.
He knew what post-secondary school he would attend and what his career path would be.
He never made his own decisions.
His parents felt they were doing their best to make him successful.
And he was.
Academically, he was a star student.
He became a master with numbers and went into accounting, just as his parents desired. He landed a great job with a large accounting firm.
However, things started to break down without his parents taking care of everything for him.
He did the work that was required of him … daily, never failing to meet a target or a deadline.
But when it came time for his annual review, he was given feedback that he wasn’t demonstrating any initiative to advance his career.
He was left confused, wondering what could be wrong when he never questioned a project and always got his job done.
Filling the gaps
My client missed out on becoming his own critical thinker.
He never once questioned his parents’ decisions and that left him needing the world to be very black and white.
Grey areas created anxiety for him.
Grey areas, like the feedback from his supervisor at the accounting firm, turned him into a coiled-up ball of stress.
When he came to me, he had no idea what he needed to improve upon — at work or in his own personal life. His life history signaled to me that he missed out on building several of the internal assets, especially those around social competencies and positive identity.
I asked him a lot of “what if” questions and saw that some decisions — some that may seem simple and obvious to you and me — created anxiety for him. Why not? Many of his decisions were not his, but his parents, to make when he was growing up.
We looked at areas of his life where he could make simple changes, where he could give himself permission to break the rules — at the least the ones he perceived his parents set out —and discover what he wanted.
I had him drive a different route home from work every day.
That might sound like fun to you but it broke a very distinct pattern for him, one that gave him comfort and normalcy. My client had to learn that even the least efficient route could still get him home.
Give yourself permission
Change is stressful if you haven’t learned the ability to make decisions, accept the outcome and adjust along the way.
[tweetthis hidden_hashtags=”#beatburnout #stressmanagement” remove_twitter_handles=”true”]A simple stress-management technique is to give yourself permission to change.[/tweetthis]
To change what you’ve learned and, in the case of my client, know that change doesn’t have to mean relinquishing control.
It’s about creating variables and asking yourself to look at things differently. When you’re cooking, do you always follow a recipe?
What if you changed an ingredient? EEK! Could you?
And what if the dish turned out delicious! Surprise!
My client never would have asked to change anything as a kid. It would have been disrespectful to his parents and their decisions never seemed to be a negative for him until he became an adult.
When we miss out on those valuable assets as children, we develop gaps in our skillsets. If we miss out on enough, we can build real deficits that create stress and anxiety for us when we grow up.
We search for those assets as adults.
Thankfully, it is never too late to learn!
My client? Well, he is showing more confidence at work and taking initiative with giving ideas and starting new projects.
And he’s found a couple of new restaurants to try on his different routes home from work.