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9/30/18blog post

"I must be perfect"

Believing in something doesn’t make it true. Kids, like all of us, embrace ideas about themselves and their lives that are sometimes more than just wrong, but mentally unhealthy. A young person once confidently told me that the Los Angeles Lakers were the greatest sports dynasty in basketball. While he was wrong(the right answer is the Boston Celtics), his mistaken beliefs were harmless. However, here are more damaging beliefs held by some children.

  1. I am and should be, the highest priority of my family and everyone else in the universe. Children don’t use those words, but many sure act that way.  This is a dangerous belief that typically doesn’t get shattered until kids leave home. Under the guise of love, many parents give their kids too much attention, too many things, and the wrong message about their cosmic importance.
  2. I must be perfect, and I expect perfectionism from others. Social scientists are documenting an epidemic of perfectionism, a perception among an increasing number of kids that they must excel at everything. They feel others expect them to be perfect, and in turn, expect this of everyone else. This trait is the foundation of endless anxiety, self-doubt, and a factor in youth suicide.
  3. I have no control over my life. I speak to many teens who talk and act like younger children. They are helpless in dealing with minor problems and defer to others to make decisions. This is the result of being raised by over-controlling parents in a highly structured environment where their free time was depleted by adult-managed activities. With parents overly consumed by wanting their kids always to feel good about everything, these children were never allowed to make their own decisions and experience failure.The impact of this parenting style becomes evident when kids try to navigate life at college, the military or elsewhere. College counseling services are being overwhelmed by a plethora of kids with mental health issues.
  4. The purpose of today is to prepare for tomorrow. Many youngsters seem to experience little joy in today’s activities since they are viewed as a means to get to a better place tomorrow.  The purpose of select sports teams is to help get a college scholarship. Advance placement courses are intended to impress college admission counselors. Participating in organizations is not designed to experience new things, but rather to enhance your resume.

These unhealthy beliefs are all connected, inadvertently fostered by a particular parenting style of loving but overly controlling parents who fail to realize that their job is to make themselves unnecessary, not raise dependent and anxious narcissists.