We all love our parents. They helped to mold and shape us into the people we are today. From toddlers into our teens, we are taught right from wrong and trained how to behave. Though we are all raised differently, one thing is for sure, our parents did the best they could do with what they were given and taught, themselves.
We are heavily influenced in many ways by our parents. Family culture usually shapes our views on religion, politics, personal values an even habits. It is during these years that we tend to create beliefs about ourselves and the world around us.
What Exactly Is a “Parent Tape?”: A parent tape is essentially a thought, feeling, or belief that plays in the background of our mind that we picked up from our parents. These tapes are often learned from watching our parents' behaviors, but they can also be deliberately taught to us as well. This type of predisposition is one in which we tend to carry well into adulthood. We are often unaware that the thoughts we have about ourselves today stem from external influences that happened during our toddler and adolescent years. This is because as we get older we usually believe that they are just simply a part of who we are.
Parent Tape Models: We all have our own perception of what our childhood was like, how our parents communicated things to us and what it meant about us as people. Allow me to share a few “parent tape” scenarios so that we can get a clear picture of the processes involved.
A friend of mine is always stressing to me how she feels "second best" or "not good enough" at her workplace and as a mother. She was raised by her father who was an alcoholic. His addiction had instilled within her feelings of not being good enough since as a child she came second to her father's alcohol habit. She is an awesome mother and highly regarded in her career, but she often can’t see her worth because deep inside, her parent tapes overshadow what is real and true about herself.
As children, we yearn for praise and approval. While receiving it can be helpful, regularly expecting it or searching for it can actually be emotionally destructive in the long run. As a child, I knew what “being good” and “being bad” meant and the types of feedback I would get from both behaviors. The message was clear that being "good" obviously brought upon praise and acceptance, therefore, approval then became a necessity for me to obtain. When I didn’t receive approval, I was left feeling either rejected or not good enough. This particular parent tape still has a tendency to play itself every so often, but I remind myself that my worth isn’t based on the approval of others or the decisions I make.
When I was in my early twenties I worked for an Italian restaurant. I ended up becoming close friends with the restaurant supervisor at the time. I remember how she would make comments about her own weight and I always thought that she looked healthy and fit. She was once overweight, however, for many years and her mother would comment frequently about it. This was a very real parent tape for her as I remember her telling me that even though she lost all of the weight and her mother applauded and praised her for it, she still heard her mother's comments in her head, and when she looked in the mirror she still saw her overweight self. I believe she lost the weight for her mother and not for herself. We never did reconnect when I left, and I hope that she was able to work through those false beliefs about herself because she was an amazing person inside and out.
It’s unfortunate that many of us enable parent tapes to define who we are. These tapes are false thoughts and beliefs that often cause us to sell ourselves short and can hinder our potential for emotional growth. It is important to remember that often these beliefs are learned and we can replace them with healthier ones that are actually true and real.