Things Your Toxic Parents Taught You
Whether your parents carry their own childhood wounds, have a mental illness diagnosis, or simply don’t know any better, any toxic behaviors done around you may have been a belief or behavior that you learned and internalized. Since these learned beliefs and behaviors can be damaging to your mental health, let’s talk about some toxic things your parents taught you.
Do you feel confident in your abilities, or do you doubt yourself in everything you do? Maybe you feel like you’ll never be successful in school, like you won’t prosper at work, or like you’ll never be a good enough partner. Believing you’re not good enough can be a toxic belief your parents passed on to you, not your genuine opinion.
Psychologist James Maddux explained for Everyday Health that your parents hold a great influence on the development of your self-esteem. Were your parents overly critical? Did they put too many expectations on you? If they often sent you messages like “You’re stupid,” or “You never do anything right”, you may have internalized that message and accepted it as true. You may have started believing that you don’t really hold much worth as a person.
Today, those beliefs could cause you to avoid any kind of competition or comparison with others, cause you to be extremely sensitive to both compliments and criticism, and also increase some personality traits, such as perfectionism which we’ll talk about next.
And because of this internalized need to be good enough, to feel like you’re valuable as a person, you become a robot shell of yourself, programmed to people-please. You are enough. This is a toxic thought your parents taught you.
No Less Than Perfect
English poet Alexander Pope once said: “To err is human!” I mean, he’s right. We all make mistakes from time to time; it’s in our nature. Mistakes don’t make us less valuable. But if you grew up with toxic parents, they might have made you believe that to err is, in fact, the worst thing in the world. Were your parents controlling and demanding? Maybe you were met with extreme punishment or yelling if things didn’t go as they pleased. If that’s the case, you may be afraid of making mistakes and strive for unachievable perfection as an adult.
A 2020 study published in the journal Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience examined parenting styles, perfectionism, and something called the error-related negativity – changes in your brain chemistry when you make a mistake on a task. This basically shows how sensitive you are to making mistakes. The study found that this sensitivity was increased in study participants whose parents were controlling, and those participants also seemed to be perfectionists.
So if you had that parent who demanded perfection, remember: that voice in your head criticizing your every move isn’t you. It’s your parents, and they’re wrong. Just another toxic thing they taught you.
But What Did You Do For It?
Everyone deserves to be loved! No matter what we do or say, on our best and worst days, we deserve to feel that we still hold our place in someone’s heart. Do you believe this is true? Now, do you believe it’s true for you, as well? If you’re not really sure, you might have been taught to believe that love is conditional, something you need to earn.
Therapist Heather Timm said for Psych Central that this belief may stem from being loved and praised only when you were up to your parents’ standards. She explains how “in a kid’s mind, and rightfully so, 1+1 = 2”. So that’s when you start to believe that if you make your parents happy, they love you. If you don’t succeed in making them happy, they don’t love you. As a result, today you might think that you need to work to be loved.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Amy Marschall wrote on VeryWellMind that this belief can negatively impact your adult relationships causing you to people please, have difficulty setting healthy boundaries, and even have a harder time recognizing when you’re being manipulated or taken advantage of.
You should be loved for you. The rest is a toxic thing your parents taught you.
“Children should be seen and not heard.” How often did you hear this sentence growing up? Toxic parents often forget that children are not pets or objects. They forget that children are actual living beings who think and have opinions, just like adults. Instead of encouraging them to speak, they try to silence their children which can make them believe their opinions are not important.
Clinical psychologist Nancy Irwin said for Psych Central that “Children need to be heard and feel that they matter, and when these needs are unmet, a whole host of behaviors can crop up later.” If you were that silenced child, today you might be afraid of conflict, afraid to disagree with others, or voice your opinion in a group. Sounds a bit like you? These behaviors might stem from a learned belief that you don’t deserve to have a voice, even if that’s far from being true.
If you relate to any of these, your parents may have made some mistakes. Because of their own suffering, they inflicted suffering on you, but that doesn’t mean that you have to suffer forever! No matter how deep their beliefs are ingrained in you, you can set on a journey of self-discovery and healing through therapy like Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). Giving therapy a chance is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. Those false beliefs that you were taught as a child – it’s time to replace them with healthy and empowering ones. Because in this situation, your parents were wrong. You deserve to get better, and we believe you can make it! If you found this article helpful, please leave a like, and leave a comment if you’d like to share your thoughts! Until next time!
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Marschall, A. (2022, January 18). Why you might feel unlovable and how to cope. Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/why-you-might-feel-unlovable-and-how-to-cope-5215404
Meyer, A., & Wissemann, K. (2020). Controlling parenting and perfectionism is associated with an increased error-related negativity (ERN) in young adults. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 15(1), 87–95. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsaa018
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