Our first five years after birth become the foundation of our personalities and how we see the world. The years following shape who we are as people. While the nature/nurture debate has valid points on both side, environment plays a heavy role.
It’s never easy to spot a toxic person in your life, let alone a toxic parent. When you’re a naïve child with a rose-coloured-glasses-view of the world, your parents are like superheroes. They can fix anything whether it’s a broken toy, broken skin or even a broken heart.
Our parents will always be our biggest influencers. They teach us about relationships, manners, political views. A lot of these lessons stem more from example than actual communication. We watch how they react, how they interact. It isn’t until we’ve gone through a fairly substantial chunk of life that we can trace back our own traits to experiences that occurred when we were growing up.
I was at a seasonal family dinner at 16 when my maternal grandmother told me
“Wow Sam, you used to be such a confident child. What happened?”
I questioned that myself. Where did that confidence go? Was I the reason? Something I must have done that caused me to go from loving the spotlight to feeling like I’m drowning anytime there’s attention pointed my way.
It wasn’t until after extensive therapy and leaving an emotionally damaging relationship that I realized that one of my biggest influencers had a tendency to move the goal posts on me. I was always scared to try because it was never good enough. I was only ever given negative reinforcement. So what was the point in giving my all… Or anything for that matter?
It had gotten so bad that when we would have feedback sessions at work, I could feel myself grasping at the thoughts leaving my head until it was my turn to contribute. My mind would go blank, my face would get hot, my voice cracking as I try to get anything out. Anything I could manage to think of at the time would sound ridiculous and inadequate in comparison to what the others would say.
There’s a whole slew of toxic and negative personality traits that I’ve seen in myself recently once I stepped back and analyzed the series of events that lead up to the person I am today.
Just because we develop these tendencies, doesn’t mean we’re stuck this way forever. I’m not saying it’s easy to unlearn whats been ingrained in us since birth, but it’s 100% possible. Realizing what needs to be worked on is the biggest step. A step needed to ensure our children and loved ones don’t develop the same negative actions and anxieties that we did.