The things you can learn from your quirks

When you are making personal development part of your everyday lifestyle and allow yourself to become aware of patterns that you are upholding that are not serving you, you are bound to discover some of your odder quirks.

There is one particular habit that I seem to have the hardest time breaking, although it is neither serving me nor the people around me. As a matter of fact, I have noticed how it can have a rather negative effect.

Below is an example. Let’s see if you can pick up on the irony of my behavior.

When my daughter and I went for a walk the other day, she was distracted by the sights and sounds around us and stumbled down a step. I turned to her and said: “Watch out for the step. It hurts to fall down it.”

Now had I made this verbal point, before she fell down, it could have been considered a well-meant caution. But I said it immediately after it happened. At this point, she likely had already discovered for herself that falling down the step hurt. There was also not a single thing in her capacity to do that would have changed the situation at this point.

And this is not the only time I have made comments of similar fashion immediately after something happened that gave “advice” that the person could do absolutely nothing with, because the event was already over at that point. I started to ask myself, why I had the urge to express it in the first place. Is it a way for me to process what just happened? Did I have an inclination that she might fall down the step and didn’t verbalize it, but once it happens needed a way to validate that I was correct?

I am not the only person that I have observed this behavior with. It seems to not be uncommon. I see it in restaurants with parents and their kids spilling things. Same type of dialogue. It is after the accident has happened that we as parents exclaim that they should be careful, because a glass or a chair is bound to fall over.

The more I observe mine and the action of others, the more I have come to the belief that the words come out of our mouth with the advice for the other person to “act”, because we have the feeling of guilt for not having acted ourselves to prevent the act. Yet, there is nothing left to be acted upon. The only thing we are doing by exclaiming the “advice” is to shift the blame of inaction from ourselves to the other person.

Again, this is neither helpful to the other person nor to ourselves.

How often do we actually sabotage our own progress by internalizing the same conversation, when there are instances where we ourselves get into a situation that did not turn out the way we hoped and tell ourselves that we should watch out, because we might fall (fail)? All we do is eat away at our self-esteem, prevent us from following our curiosity, and lower the chances of being free to act the next time we encounter a similar scenario, because we now manifested failing as a negative thing.

It also seems that if we voice this supposed well-intentioned advice after the fact, we are more likely to hold on to it. So next time, when we don’t have the guts to embark on something, we remind ourselves and others “remember last time when you fell of the chair, I warned you and it still happened. Do you really want to do that again?”   

I think the reason why I see these kinds of conversations so often between parents and kids is because kids still have the natural curiosity to explore and follow their instinct in trying something out that seems fun. Or they allow themselves to get so absorbed in something they are interested in that they are willing to forget everything else going on around them. When kids get interested and fascinated about something they are all in. There is no constant consideration around a potential failure.

And here is where my behavior is not beneficial. My potential fear of failure can be so engrained that I find affirmation in my believes to be careful and not act on all the things that I am curious about or want to do in life. To validate my inaction on always following the things I would love to know more about or get involved in, I find proof in actions of my unassuming kid and point out (even after the fact) that simply following what you want can have negative consequences.

Here is how I plan to address this behavior in the future for myself.

Instead of pointing out the negative outcome of the action after the event has already happened, I will make a concerted effort to acknowledge that sometimes, when we try something new we fail, but that this should not stop us from trying. Yes, I still will ask my kid to help clean up the spilled milk, but would not make her feel guilty for spilling it. I will continue to foster her curiosity, despite a potential for not succeeding.

I will draw awareness to the “good advice” I am giving myself and encourage me to try new things. Instead of telling myself that I “should have known better”, when I fail, I will tell myself “well, now I know something new. How can this new information guide me in the future?”

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