October 9, 2020

3 Questions to Help us Dismantle the Toxic Lies we were fed in Childhood.


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“Is it true; is it kind, or is it necessary?” ~ Socrates


Words. Words heal. Words kill.

We have all heard the expression, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Yet life isn’t that simple when it comes to what is said to us, is it?

And nothing gets the painful ball rolling quite like hearing certain things from our childhood, often originating from our family. For here is where seeds get planted, lies get told as truths, and issues are born long before we realize them as such.

Almost from the start of our arrival on the planet, we are assessed and judged by our appearance.

Some examples?

>> You’re ugly.
>> You’re fat.
>> You’re a boy.
>> You’re a girl.
>> You’re healthy.
>> You’re unhealthy.

And soon, before we know it, we’re cute or ugly, thin or fat.

Value determinations are right alongside these simple yet powerful words. We are often taught—usually through the speech of a trusted adult—that we aren’t good enough because of how we look in their estimation.

And it has nothing to do with who we are, but rather everything to do with who they are.

Consider the Source:

Hello, projection!

Some of us with disordered food, weight, and body image issues indeed have endured this kind of projection. Perhaps there was a parent who struggled with his or her own weight and, instead of dealing with those issues directly, saw an answer or a release valve in shaming us when we were small children.

Doing so perhaps allowed the adult parent to still self-hate and be critical but take no responsibility for his or her personal behavior. Placing the blame on someone external, even if that is a small child, redirects the source of the problem. Yes, it’s the child’s fault, not mine.

So, there are those of us who have absorbed the harmful lie that there is something wrong with us. We are fat. We are ugly. We are bad. We are wrong. We should work on fixing that (also known as fixing Mommy or Daddy, to make things right.) It’s our job to do so, after all. Our childlike mind cannot withstand anything contrary to that punishing job description. We want to be good boys and girls, right?

After our very image has been assaulted as children, what can usually come next is our intellect. Think about how many times you, perhaps, were told, “You’re stupid.”

And it is sometimes accompanied by the following question:

“Can’t you do anything right?”

These commentaries attack our core being. Essentially, we as children can often absorb the message, “I’m too stupid to live, be loved, and to have self-worth.” That realized language may come later as we mature and even enter therapy.

But, make no mistake, as innocent children, we internalize the visceral experience solely as a defect in us. We believe there is something inherently wrong with us.

We’re “too stupid” for it to be otherwise.

Again, I say, consider the source.

People sometimes do not have our best interests at heart. In fact, sometimes, they live to have our worst interests motivating their behaviors.

Now, add the devastating factor of a so-called trusted adult, parent, or authority figure to the equation and see just how damaging the results can be.

Jealousy, insecurity, and schadenfreude (the term used to describe someone who delights in another’s pain or misfortune) are not limited to adult-on-adult relationships and interactions. No, often, their tentacles can spread from a fully grown adult jealous and insecure of the child within his or her midst.

For instance, a mother recognizes the special gifts and talents of her daughter. Those gifts and talents may be a high IQ, creativity, or a precocious communication style so far advanced for the child’s tender years that this adult gets threatened by it.

The adult may, indeed, feel “less than” whenever she is in her child’s presence. Insecurity, jealousy, and a need to “level” and to “take the child down a peg or a notch” becomes all-consuming.

If the adult cannot rise to that level of brilliance or intellect, naturally (according to the insecure parent) the only recourse is to eviscerate the child’s giftings and sense of self so that the child, indeed, is the “less than” individual in the parent-child relationship.

We are then made to believe that we are “worthless.”

This harmful statement is often uttered on the part of the parent or trusted authority figure. It comes across via image and performance-focused issues.

Some of us are told this outright. Some of us get the insidious, constant message communicated to us daily. We are inundated with beliefs like, “I don’t look the way I’m supposed to look,” “I don’t act the way I’m supposed to act,” “I’m wrong,” and “I can never do anything right.”

Therefore, it’s not too long before we conclude—if it isn’t dictated directly to us—“I’m worthless.”

Please. Consider the source. Ask yourself these three questions:

1. “Who told or taught me that?”

Who is the first author of this harmful belief, directed our way?

We learned it from somewhere, from someone, after all.

But, perhaps just as important of a question is…

2. “Why did they tell or teach me that?”

Again, it’s important to recognize that another person’s motivation, be they a trusted parent or any other adult in our young lives, may not be noble, healthy, or loving.

When an adult—especially a parent—insists that a child is valueless, defective, or only as good as the last thing achieved or perceived (focusing on the elusive image and perfectionistic mandates), it screams more of that adult’s inferior sense of self.

And again, that adult may wrongly determine the solution to their poor self-image is to make the child’s self-image worse.

It’s the adult’s issue, not the child’s. That is, unless and until, through abuse of the power and the charge the adult has over the child, the young and innocent party is now inheriting the unresolved issues of previous generations.

And the child doesn’t question why it’s happening because they implicitly trust that their parents, teachers, coaches, and other “respected authority figures “know what they’re doing, love them, and want the best for them.

In an ideal world, yes.

But do we live in that world?

3. “Is that so?”

These three little words can begin a relief-inspiring process of healing if we are open to it—if we are willing to challenge the “reality” which appears to be so intimidating.

Is that so?

Incorporating these three words, saying them out loud to ourselves, and even to others can, indeed, place us on a path of healthier self-perception and choices.

You and I were fed any number of lies and harmful beliefs about who we were in the world. Many of us have been wrestling with that daunting set-up since childhood.

When we were children, there was little we could do to fight against that harshness. The adults had the power, the ability, the control, and the force to execute whatever misguided, abusive, and evil will they either desired to inflict upon us. And of course, it’s always possible that they did so subconsciously or involuntarily.

But we are adults now, empowered to choose something different, if, for no other reason, than to honor that long silenced and neglected child. The question is, will we do that?

Consider the Source!

As you and I consider each harmful source, speaking each harmful word into our lives, will we create another source, all our own?

Will it be ourselves—someone who, when questioned if we are worthy already, will confidently respond with an authentic and brave “yes?”

Let’s start being that kind of authentic and brave source right now, right where we are.


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