6 common false beliefs about ourselves
Believing something doesn’t make it true. In my sessions with kids and families, I routinely listen to ideas that people believe or feelings that they experience that simply aren’t true. Here are the most common misunderstandings I hear in my office.
1. “No type of discipline works with my child.” This erroneous belief results in parents feeling helpless and hopeless. Some kids are certainly more difficult to manage than others. However, with persistence, consistency, and ingenuity, there is a parenting approach that works with every child.
2. “I can’t help the way I feel.” This is another one of those beliefs that encourages a victim mentality. Our feelings result from the way we think about ourselves and the world. We can change our reactions and feelings by thinking differently about what happens in our lives. This is often a pseudo explanation verbalized by weak people who don’t want to work at changing their lives.
3. “My parents hate me.” This is very rarely true. Children who report these types of feelings are generally kids whose misbehavior has resulted in lots of criticism and punishment. They experience little success and thus feel little warmth or acceptance from their parents. I rarely challenge kids’ feelings on this issue, working instead with their parents to create a more loving home environment.
4. “My life will be perfect when _____happens” This type of future-thinking is common with both kids and their parents. Children think about living on their own or being in a higher school grade. Parents hope for a better paying job or having a bigger house. While this type of thinking is fine in moderation, excessive focus on the future takes away from an appreciation of life’s daily gifts.
5. “I can achieve anything if I work hard enough at it.” While this is generally a positive and empowering belief, it isn’t true. Talent is a prerequisite for success. I don’t like to challenge kids on this issue, as the world will teach them soon enough that success requires both a strong work ethic and lots of ability.
6. “I am the victim of past events.” Many kids experience bad things in their lives. They have been victims of bullying, sexual abuse, parental divorce, physical violence or verbal abuse. These kids will never forget about these childhood experiences.
However, the ultimate victimization is if these children erroneously feel that past events determine the rest of their lives. Therapy with such kids is often about helping them understand the past, but not be controlled by it.