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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

We are so sensitive to criticism and often are excessively critical of ourselves because from birth we began to scan the world around us and were especially sensitive to the facial expressions and voice inflections of our parents and other caregivers for signs of approval and disapproval.

Because children respond to parents and caregivers in this way, learning occurs about what is safe or dangerous, what is acceptable or unacceptable, what is appropriate or inappropriate, and what is helpful and unhelpful.

Caregivers (parents or otherwise) will contribute through these interactions toward shaping our behavior and value system.  If the predominant response to us is DELIGHT, and the predominant attitudes of our caregivers are characterized by patience, kindness, and tolerant acceptance of our attempts to learn helpful from hurtful behaviors, we are likely to feel valued and acceptable even if our behavior falls short of that desired by the caregivers.  Clear limits on (and clear explanations of) potentially hurtful behavior with age-appropriate and behavior-appropriate consequences, which are consistently applied when the limits are exceeded, are also helpful to our learning while maintaining our sense of acceptance as a person.  In other words, we can keep our acceptance as a person separate from approval or disapproval of our behavior or performance.

If, on the other hand, the caregivers have equated their own worth or sense of acceptability with adherence to prevailing cultural standards of acceptability, then the caregiver will tend to exhibit a lack of tolerance, patience, and kindness toward us and themselves when the standards aren't met.  This This is likely to result in a tendency by us to equate the parental disapproval of our behavior with disapproval of us.  Our sense of self-worth will be diminished, and we are likely to either stribe intensely to attain the prevailing standards or rebel against one or more of them.  In either case, however, we will measure ourselves against these standards in one way or another.

It desirable to respect our parents as people in a position of responsibility who probably have done and are doing the best they can given the circumstances of their own lives.  It is important, on the other hand, not to embrace any of their values which do not reflect a loving attitude toward themselves and others (especially toward their child).  This means it is helpful to reject any hurtful behavior by our parents while trying to the best of our ability to accept them as people who have acted hurtfully out of their own immaturity, fear, or ignorance.

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