Watch the video or read the transcript and then tell me that working on ourselves and our childhood ‘stuff’ isn’t holding us back in our careers and business lives!
“…our chances of leading a fulfilled adult life depend overwhelmingly on our knowledge of, and engagement with, the nature of our own childhoods, for it is in this period that the dominant share of our adult identity is moulded and our characteristic expectations and responses set. We will spend some 25,000 hours in the company of our parents by the age of eighteen, a span which ends up determining how we think of relationships and of sex, how we approach work, ambition and success, what we think of ourselves (especially whether we can like or must abhor who we are), what we should assume of strangers and friends and how much happiness we believe we deserve and could plausibly attain.”
The question is how do you dig into your childhood and figure out how it’s impacting you, particularly in your career and business life?
How Your Childhood Patterns Affect Your Career
I’ve written previously about how my own patterns from childhood have had an impact on my adult life, who I perceive myself to be, and where those patterns have come from in my childhood.
It never really occurred to me that they’d also significantly impact my career, my business and how I show up there…
Being a recovering control freak has meant: I initially found it very difficult to let go of control of parts of my own business and outsource to others; I also experienced this as a management consultant, finding it difficult to trust my team and those I managed to do the job as I might want it (forgetting they might do it better!).
Being a recovering perfectionist has meant: I’ve either not started something if I didn’t think I’d do it ‘perfectly’ (which I keep as some undefined, unattainable standard in my head setting myself up for failure before I’ve even begun), or wouldn’t ship something that was ‘good enough’ unless it was ‘perfect’ which, of course, in my own head it never was.
How To Identify The Patterns Impacting Your Career
Usually the simplest ways to identify your own patterns are to look for:
- The places you feel stuck, and don’t ever seem to move forwards with. What is it that’s stopping you? What’s the story you’re telling yourself in your head about why you can’t move forwards? Where could this story possibly have come from in your childhood?
- The relationships with colleagues/managers/clients/customers that feel full of friction. What is it about this person you find difficult? What specifically about their behaviour triggers an over-the-top reaction in you? Where in your childhood could this possibly have come from? Who does it remind you of?
- The areas of your life you’re not happy with, or are still hiding from. While there may be many areas of your life – money, relationships, health etc. – that you’re happy with, are there areas you still prefer not to look at? Are you avoiding looking because you know you won’t like what you see but you have no idea what to do about it?
On top of these, there are some common areas when it comes to being stuck or not being where we want to be in our professional lives…
This is the million pound question…what’s your purpose? Many of us find ourselves in jobs we’re not keen on or on career paths we wouldn’t necessarily have chosen because…
- “You’ll never make money in the creative/artistic fields”
- “You need to get a sensible/responsible job”
- “Don’t be silly, what makes you think you can make money from doing that?”
- “But you’re not very good at…, are you?”
- “You need X, Y and Z qualifications to do that successfully”
Our careers are typically so heavily influenced by what others think – particularly our parents – that we sometimes don’t stop to ask what our purpose is, what we want to do, and whether what we’re doing is aligned with that or far from it.
One of the things people most frequently say to me however is: “But Lea, I don’t know what my purpose is. I don’t know what I really want to do.” Or “That’s fine for a hobby but I can’t do that for a career”.
The answers lie in the journey to radical self awareness and honesty. Only when you know yourself deeply, intimately and honestly can you begin to see/feel your way to what it is YOU want to do, that isn’t clouded by others beliefs, opinions, judgments and perceptions.
Often a good starting point is to remember what you wanted to be as a child, unencumbered by anyone else’s opinions, and believing you could do and be anything you wanted…
Do you know what your deeply held beliefs about your purpose are? Do you know where they came from? Are they still serving you well? What would serve you better?
Our relationship to money – and how we feel about earning it, spending it, having it, saving it, keeping it, losing it – is heavily influenced by how our parents behaved around money as we grew up.
You are likely to have integrated and internalised many (most!) of their beliefs and behaviours as your own, without stopping to question them…
- Money doesn’t grow on trees.
- If we’ve got it, we should spend it before it goes.
- You have to work really hard to earn money.
- Getting rich doesn’t happen to people like us.
- I’m not Bill Gates, you know.
- There’s not enough to go round.
- Being rich is evil, greedy and dirty.
- You can’t be spiritual/awakened/enlightened and have money.
- Rich people aren’t good people…and on and on it goes!
Do you know what your deeply held money narratives are? Do you know where they came from? Are they still serving you well? What would serve you better?
Being Seen & Being Big
There are many clients I’ve worked with who are reluctant to show up, be seen and play bigger. They know they’ve been staying small and are desperate to play bigger but something, somewhere stops them.
Most frequently, it’s the correlation they’ve created (or that has been created for them in childhood), that it’s necessary to stay small to remain loved, and if you play bigger the love will go. That’s often the core fear.
My own version of this is about being seen, and that if I’m seen in all my ‘glory’, I’ll be rejected and abandoned, as I was at X days old when I was born (and physically seen for the first time ever), and then immediately given up for adoption by my birth mother.
Other fears about being seen, playing bigger include:
- If I show up, I’ll be found wanting and everyone will see I’m not good enough.
- I’m going to be found out soon (imposter syndrome!).
- Everyone will think I’m boasting/arrogant/big-headed.
- It’s safer to stay small.
- I’ll show up/be ‘ok’ when I’m thinner/richer/prettier/healthier.
Do you know what your deeply held ‘being seen’ narratives are? Do you know where they came from? Are they still serving you well? What would serve you better?
To see your childhood patterns requires some radical self honesty and awareness; it requires you to look deeply in the mirror and hold the discomfort you may feel about what you see. It requires exploring your ‘shadow’ sides, and elements of who you are that perhaps you feel ashamed about, dislike and would prefer not to look at.
As difficult as this is – and believe me, sometimes it can feel hideous! – on the other side of this lies freedom, power, control…not in a “Mwahahaha, I can control you!” kind of way, but in the “Mawahahaha, I can finally control me” kind of way…
Because when you understand why you behave in the way you do, why you react to things in the way you do, and where these patterns originate from, it gives you the power to choose a different way of behaving and reacting that might just serve you far better.