We have all experienced the daunting feeling of setting out to accomplish our life’s goals.
The moment we have that first flash of genius it all seems possible, realistic, and reachable. Then reality sets in and we remember who we are and where we’re at in our lives. We begin to doubt our ability to really achieve our goals. A big factor that plays into our reality is that throughout our life we’ve all heard the word “no” so many times from so many different people that we have instinctively begun to repeat that same “dirty” word to ourselves. This learned behavior puts us into a place of learned “self-doubt”.
But there’s a way to break free of that self-doubt and make it easier to accomplish your life’s goals.
I have accomplished many things over the course of my life, but this story is not about me touting those accomplishments to you. This story is for you because if I can do it then so can you.
In my early learning years, I grew up poor and in a very unloving environment. In fact I can very easily say it was an environment of extreme criticism. At a very young age I was repeatedly told that I wasn’t wanted, that everyone in the family would be better off without me, that I was worthless and would always be worthless, that I was stupid, and that I wouldn’t amount to very much.
I then felt worthless and developed a continuous attitude of self-criticism because everything I did was criticized. This behavior was easily learned since it was taught to me by those who I believed should love me the most. Because that is what family does right? Family is supposed to be loving and supportive, to teach you valuable lessons that you keep and use to live the most successful life possible and contribute to society so society can evolve. Right?
Even through all of the criticism, I only had one dream – to be in the entertainment industry and make great films. At 20 years old I had my daughter and my dream was brutally crushed by my family. They made me painfully aware that people in entertainment are starving artists and that so few really make it to success. They told me I would make my baby starve. I remembered growing up poor and I wanted better for my daughter so I told myself “No, there is no way that I could be a starving artist because I can’t let my baby starve.”
Because I did feel worthless and didn’t know what to do or where to turn, I took some tests to determine what occupation would enable me to provide for my daughter. I did my best on the tests but really didn’t expect much. What came back to me was nothing short of mind-blowing. My test results showed that I was very smart. However I had become so accustomed to self-criticism that even this knowledge didn’t change my feelings of worthlessness. What did happen was that I decided to take the safe route – I forgot about being in entertainment and I became a financial analyst.
Effects of Learned Behavior:
- There are certain ramifications as a result of criticism, you see. And because I was berated constantly as a child, adolescent, and teenager, it affected me in the following ways:
I was distant in all of my relationships – friendships, partners, and work-related ones. I wanted to be close to my family but because I couldn’t have that, I didn’t believe I could obtain that degree of closeness with anyone else no matter how much I wanted it.
- I always felt as though I had to be the stronger person when dealing with my family and keep things together no matter how much they punished me. My motto was “Tough out the pain and keep moving forward.”
- It was necessary to have more value than everyone else. I had to prove my worth in order to show there was a need to have me around.
- I didn’t love myself because I had never learned how to and was still waiting for my biological family to love me first.
In all of my relationships, people have always leaned on me. My partners have always needed different types of healing, moral support and someone to help them accomplish their goals. My immediate biological family needed financial help. I always fulfilled need but never felt loved or wanted for just being me.
As a result of the need to have more value, I worked extremely hard to accomplish goals that I set for myself. I set these goals to prove my value to everyone. No matter how many people told me “No”, “You can’t do it” or “You’ll never accomplish that” I refused to listen. The need to prove my worth was my driving force.
It wasn’t until my early 30’s when I finally stood my ground and refused the abuse that the abuse stopped. I stood my ground because in all of those years I was asking myself questions, researching, and working on myself. What I discovered was how to understand criticism and turn it from something harmful into motivation for productivity. This practice took years to master as I was still involved with my biological family, waiting for their love, and did not have anyone to show me the way. Hopefully by reading this, it won’t take as long for you to find your way.
How to Break the Criticism Cycle:
You see there are several reasons why someone criticizes you.
- Because they love you, see an issue that could possibly hurt you, and are attempting to make you aware of it.
- They are jealous of you and don’t like that you have what they feel they cannot.
- They are afraid that you will move past them and they will lose you.
- They are a bully and feel better about themselves when they tear others down.
I learned these four points matter when listening to criticism and I put that to use. When I am criticized by anyone, I ask myself the following:
- Which one of the above four is that person?
- What is their motive?
- Is their criticism coming from the right place?
- Is there any validity to it?
- How can I better myself/the situation from their criticism?
I took the good part of the criticism, the good lessons (even though they were taught harshly) and made them a part of my daily practice.
Criticism: You are worthless and lazy.
What I took from that: Hard work is necessary to achieve goals. Through hard work, there is nothing that I couldn’t accomplish.
Criticism: If you don’t know the answer now then you won’t ever know it.
What I took from that: Ignorance is not bliss and educating yourself is necessary.
Criticism: If you do that, you’re going to fail and then you will have nothing.
What I took from that: If you fall down, don’t cry. You should get back up and try again.
Criticism: There is something wrong with your brain. You are too stupid to figure it out for yourself.
What I took from that: If you cheat at something you are only cheating yourself.
Criticism: That’s a stupid question. Don’t ever ask me that again.
What I took from that: They don’t know the answer and hearing “No” doesn’t hurt me or deter me.
I made sense of all of these criticisms and made them all work for me.
I used those same questions from How to Break the Criticism Cycle to understand why the abuse in my life happened as well as to forgive. Why forgive? Because I understand not forgiving someone’s wrong doings to me only hurts me. Putting all of the things I’d discovered to use, I learned to accomplish goals for positive reasons.
Then I mastered new things like:
- How to set goals (I call them my ABC guide) and stick to them.
- Baby-steps are important when breaking new ground.
- Strong ethics and morals, while not always “cool” to all people, demonstrates integrity and the right people will gravitate toward you.
- Not only strength but confidence also comes from within, and you have to believe you can do amazing things.
- You can inspire others by just being you.
- Building an amazing “life house” or business takes laying a solid foundation.
And with all of this learning, I have won awards, received accolades, promotions, and raises, gained recognition from my peers, pursued my dream of having a career in entertainment, gained lots of love in my life, and am confident that I can continue to accomplish the goals I set for myself.
Throughout the years, I have been asked numerous times:
- “How do you do the things you do?”
- “That seemed impossible, how did you accomplish that?”
- “How did you grow up the way you did and turn out so well?”
And my answer is that in the beginning I accomplished things for all of the wrong reasons.
I wanted to have a better life and to be a better person, and in order to achieve that I knew that I had to work on myself – to resolve those past “bad” issues so I could be free of them for good and accomplish goals for the right reasons. I believe I can accomplish what I set out to do, I don’t ever expect it to be easy, and I know that lots of hard work is something I am not afraid of.
In this story, I have given you the same tools I utilized to grow, succeed, love sincerely, and find happiness in my life. Learn them, use them, and watch your life change. Because if a girl who came from abuse and poverty can do it, so can you!