Where I grew up we didn’t…

You’ve no doubt heard conversations in which people define themselves, defend their positions and deride others with the statement “Where I grew up we didn’t…” What follows is usually some anecdote that serves to make a point which carries the weight of precedent and by extension, history.

While it is certainly true that you are defined in large measure by your childhood experiences, you needn’t let the days of your youth define the years of your adulthood. Every child has the opportunity to rise above the strictures of personal and familial precedent. The idea that you don’t, that is, that you have a station in life and that you are better off respecting the envelope of possibility you were born into is outdated, outmoded and utterly false.

Your life expression rightly emerges from the inside out and is radiant in nature. Just as you had your start in the confines of your mother’s womb, when you continue to cooperate with life rather than struggling against it you will go through successive periods of rebirth into a larger sphere of living and influence. Life’s inclination is to move upward and outward, not downward and inward.

Adolescence is one of those critical periods of rebirth. Teenagers, full of the spirit of life, are typically hellbent on defining themselves. The longing to know who they are and what they are here to do burns in their hearts and minds, but they typically lack the tools and discipline necessary to navigate the pressures of labor and birth present in this important phase of life. As such they need a doula or a team of advisors (typically other than their parents) to help keep them on the path to self-revelation.

Parents who do not allow the lives of their children to expand do a tremendous disservice to the child. They create an artificially self-limiting environment that is deficient in critical nutrients as no parent or parents are so complete in and of themselves that they can provide everything their children need. Most parents who do this to their children feel well-justified, typically on the argument that they don’t want to miss the child’s youth, which, dear readers, is fundamentally selfish reasoning that is ignorant of the process by which individuality is nourished into being.

In an imperfect world it is highly unlikely that any child will have a perfect childhood. There will be deficiencies, mistakes made and imbalances that become more obvious as the child grows older. You are wise, then, to recognize that your childhood experiences should not limit or define those of your children. This is not to say that your children will be “better” than you, neither does it mean that their purpose is to beat your records. True individual expression is not relative, it is absolute.

Parents would be wise to provide the safe and controlled growing room by means of which their children can see beyond the blinders imposed by immediate family, relatives, societal norms and cultural mores. Individuality loses its unique and original character whenever life expression is stuffed into a preformed box.

As you can imagine, there are implications for parenting, education, business organizational theory and more to this notion of personal development. We, in all of our human brilliance, have elected the familiarity and comfort that dribbles from the status quo over the newness and richness that flow abundantly from a more dynamic, organic approach to living. Life is never static. Neither should we be.

8 thoughts on “Where I grew up we didn’t…

  1. Ricardo B.

    Good counsel for anyone involved in overseeing growth and development in a variety of settings.. Sure enough identities are most commonly formed by a stamping on of tradition and culture, and though that’s an acceptable and even necessary start, it really should be just the beginning of a continually evolving process that occurs throughout life where the identity is shaped by the release of values into the world through the person as they undergo inner development.
    It does take a bit of courage and composure to do it in the right frame of mind, as rebellion can be much worse confusing things even further for the one looking to step outside convention. To let these inner values meaningfully find their way into the world you’ve got to keep a clear head where you struggle not – that’s something I’ve learned. Accept the restrictions, but find a way for a way will always be there to be free to find yourself, and most likely it will be different from what you’ve imagined. That’s where things like resourcefulness come in handy. That’s how new ‘you’s’ can be born all the time.


  2. Vincent

    There is a strong and almost obsessive tendency for adults to look at children in terms of their similarity to their parents (or other relatives). Of course there are genetic inheritances, but surely the burning concern should be for the uniqueness of the individual, to protect and encourage that uniqueness. Each child must, it seems, overcome or break free from the pre-formed expectations and standards of those who have gone before them, and the same is true in a little different way for each adult. We can make that process easier!


  3. Colin

    There are so many things that are stratified in the various human cultures and societies, each different depending on where you are from. To have the attitude that all things are always under review for change, no matter whether it was a newly learned habit or something that your family has done for generations, would actually solve a lot of the worlds problems. Think about how many conflicts are created by stratified thinking and the unwillingness to change. Mainly it is the baser emotions that are not allowing the change to happen, as well: fear, greed, jealousy, etc… Instead we should always look at things from a standpoint of what is right. This viewpoint allows change and demands change, and we should be willing to make a change when the time comes.


  4. strawberryfield

    The notion that by restricting teens you can keep them safe is as limited as saying they’ll have to learn by making their own mistakes. There can be a balance born of trust and by paying attention during this crucial phase of development. In my own experience I realize the failures in finding that balance often began by the attention phase not being balanced; either too much because of fear or to little because of distractions, that in the end were not as important. I don’t know a person that can’t look back and see errors they’ve made as the parent or teen but as long as the relationship is intact, forgiveness and understanding will bring new opportunities to grow onward and upward together. Great post!


  5. Coco

    I think most parents want more for their children then they had. That said, I’ve observed many families that let the seeds of jealousy and competition grow in the areas there should be support and nurturing education. Oppressing another’s natural inclination to blossom or suppressing your own growth to fit someone else’s constrictions usually will lead to anger, frustration and regret. Live and let live could be said as grow and let grow.


  6. Carmen

    The more important thing to know about one’s self, is not where I come from, or where I have been, but where am I going, and what am I becoming.


  7. nicolai k

    What a great start to the day, whether we are working with our children, speaking with our family, friends or just to go into a meeting at work. We don’t have to be ruled or defined by the status quo. It’s ok to be ourselves and let enjoy the uniqueness of others!


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