#13 One way our True Self can get Suppressed in Childhood
#1 How parents inadvertently shut down there kids. I did this too until I knew better.
Did you ever have days as a child where you felt full of energy, full of the joys of spring and kind of invincible but then got stopped in your tracks?
I was eight years old and Top of the Pops was on the TV. I was dancing to the music over the black nylon carpet with the fiery swirls (it was the 1970s!) while Pan's People danced around the studio. I was in my element. Moving my body to the sounds. Copying the professional dancers. Feeling the floatiness of my pink nylon nighty around my legs. I imagined I could be like them one day. It was my favourite part of the show. I drifted across the room, arms waving, oblivious to anyone else and then I heard my mum’s voice firmly telling me, ‘that’s enough. Now go and sit down.’
I immediately felt like I had done something wrong as shame flooded my body. The energy that had been flowing through my body slumped down, heavy like rubber in my belly, as I perched on the edge of the sofa.
In my mind I tried to work out what I had done wrong. There's something wrong with me, I've done the wrong thing again. I felt like I had failed. Again. She was deep in conversation with my aunty, maybe she felt embarrassed. I've showed mum up in front of my aunty. My aunty will think I'm stupid or, even worse, naughty. She felt I was showing off. Showing off was a definite no no in our house. But there’s a big difference between showing off and expressing oneself. In fact, I’m not sure there’s any such thing as ‘showing off?’
Obviously, she wasn't trying to hurt me. She wasn't deliberately trying to stifle my wellbeing. She wasn't trying to stop me being happy. For whatever reason, she must have felt uncomfortable with me prancing around the living room in my nighty. Now when I think about how I was expressing my joy, I only feel a sense of delight at my own lightness.
But at the time it embedded more deeply the belief that I wasn’t good enough. That I had to shape myself in a way that kept the adults happy. That I needed to avoid their anger, disapproval but most of all their disappointment. I could not bear to disappoint people. To me it felt like I was hurting them.
This is not a rant about my parents. I love my parents and in many ways they were great and I knew they loved me. And they had their own baggage that affected how they behaved towards us and a lack of tools and knowledge (just like me as a young mum) to know what to do differently. They did the very best they could and did much better than the generations before them.
And it’s important to point out that it was my perception as a child. Another child might have had a completely different perspective. My brothers, for instance, probably would have ignored my mum and carried on dancing! Ha ha...
As a teen, and fuelled by alcohol which allowed me to lower my inhibitions, I danced the night away at the local disco. I learned that being drunk made 'me' and my expressing myself through dance acceptable. My parents did the same. 😊 But when you're sober you have to be sensible.
Without any education on parenting my mum could only repeat what had happened to her. She had no choices. No other options. You can't know what you don't know. And I did the same when I had my children. (More on my shame around that at a later date).
What experiences did you have as a child that made you feel you had to change yourself?
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT NOW THOUGH?
Becoming more aware of how we want to truly express ourselves in the world can be uncomfortable for the people around us. If they have been used to us saying yes and putting them first all the time and we suddenly start saying no it throws them. We're changing. It takes time for them to adjust. They'll resist that, just as our parents and caregivers did, because it feels uncomfortable to them.
So, we need to inform them of what is going on. That's our responsibility. Keep communication lines open. If we have pretty good relationships we should be able to navigate the changes together. But it's not easy after years of being wired in a certain way. It takes time and patience to adapt, adjust behaviours and rewire ourselves. It takes time for them to do the same. And it feels scary when those relationships are important to us.
In our house we have a laugh about it. Sometimes I feel the need to blurt out a sound or a song loudly. 'I'm just expressing myself," I say with a smile. It feels really good. My twenty-two-year-old son will do the same. Pulling my leg when he’s being noisily expressive!
It's taken years for me to go from knowing this to getting to the point of doing it and embodying it. Informing them of what I intend to do and when without lots of explanation or excuses trying to get them to understand me. They don't generally feel the need to do the same. I asked my son to mow the lawn Sunday. ‘If I'm here,’ he says. He doesn't go into the whys or wherefores of needing to go out and see his friends and having his own space. He just tells me he's doing it. End of story. Sometimes we need to learn from our children too.
We’re adults now!
We can choose.
Start with simple things. Lots of little things add up.
We can do what we want! We can go and splash in puddles and get mud all over our clothes. We can sing our hearts out and play our music loud. We can dance around the house naked. We can dance at family gatherings without being told to not show people up. We can go and do that course that’s been on our minds for years. We can play with arting around and paint our houses in rainbow colours. We can choose our own friends, go to the beach with them and freeze in the sea. We can leave the cleaning and let the dust settle (until it gets on my nerves).
We can find or rediscover the things we love and bring them into our lives.
The greatest gift we can give our loved ones is to fill ourselves up with the things that light us up. It’s magnetic, attractive, wholesome and fun!
Tell me all the juicy things you would love to be doing if only you didn’t feel so guilty, ashamed or tired from looking after everyone else.