How You Carry Around Learned Behaviors - dummies

How You Carry Around Learned Behaviors

By S. Renee Smith, Vivian Harte

Many damaging “shoulds” are messages you learned from your parents. Some are little things. They may have told you to brush your teeth every night, sit up straight, and take a shower every morning.

But the types of “shoulds” you learned that are most detrimental to your self-esteem are those that go deeper — what kind of job you should have, what kind of person you should marry, what represents success, how you should spend your free time, who your friends should be, and what your religious and political beliefs should be. These are value-laden and deny the reality of how you feel as well as who and what you are.

Now as an adult, you’re so used to following others’ “shoulds” that you’ve not allowed yourself to be who and what you truly are. You have feelings of confusion. One part of you says that you want to do something, and the other part says you should do something different.


Consider a few examples that may apply to you:

  • You’re afraid. You think you should be strong, but you’re still scared.

  • You’re angry. You think you should be empathetic, but you’re still upset.

  • You’re crying because a friend died. Your inner critic tells you that you should be over your grieving, but you can’t stop crying.

  • You love to draw. Your inner critic stresses that you can’t make enough money doing that, so you become a business major. But your real love is still drawing.

  • You have strong feelings toward someone of another race, but your family’s and community’s messages are that it’s wrong to feel that way. But you still have this attraction.