How Your Parents' Influence Could Be Showing Up In Your Life As An Adult
Long after we stop living under our parents' roofs or depending on them financially, our feelings often remain tied to them in more ways than we realize. Even when we're not thinking about them, our parents impact our decisions well into adulthood. This can be both good and bad in different situations, but it's important to become aware of it so that we can figure out when it's good or bad and act accordingly.
"Much of our adult life is spent trying to correct and repair the relationships we form with our parents," professor and psychologist Jennifer Noble, PhD, tells Bustle. "A parent need not be present to remind their adult child of the issues that were created. The experience, if never repaired directly with the parent or through therapy, will continually play out in their adult life. So, the ways parent issues can still show up in your adult life could be: career choice, need for achievement, work ethic, partner choice, eating habits, emotional assertiveness, codependence, self-sabotage, empathy for others, being a team player,' procrastination, being a 'control freak,' and more."
So, basically, most issues we face probably have some tie to our parents. That said, here are some of the most common ways our parents tend to influence our lives.
1. Looking For Things You Didn't Get As A Kid
If our parents didn't ever buy us things, we may gravitate toward partners who pick up the bill on dates. If our parents didn't praise us often, we may become workaholics to get that praise from our bosses. "Anything we did not feel we got from them in childhood or adolescence will continue to show up in our lives as adults because we will have an unconscious (sometimes conscious) need to repair that pain or loss," says Noble.
2. Dating People With The Same Issues As Your Parents
In a subconscious effort to repair our relationships with our parents, we may date people with similar qualities and try to make these relationships go better than our parental ones. "For example, one may choose a partner who is emotionally unavailable and endure a lonely relationship filled with arguments over why their partner will not show them love because they are trying to 'fix' one of the parents who was not able to show love during their childhood," says Noble.
3. Viewing Yourself The Way They Viewed You
The way our parents talk about us forms the basis of our identity, childhood expert and parent coach Barbara E. Harvey, tells Bustle. Many of the beliefs we have about ourselves stem from things our parents said to us, even if they're not true. One way to identify these thoughts is to tune into our "self-talk," says Harvey. "Most people do not realize how much of this self-talk is really parental talk," she says. "It affects the way we think about most things. In many ways it is the root of our self-sabotage."
4. Keeping Secrets
When we keep secrets from the world, we're often really keeping them from our parents, psychotherapist Karen R. Koenig, MEd, LCSW, tells Bustle. For example, we may not be open about our sexual orientation because we're afraid it could get back to them. Or we may avoid talking about politics on social media because our differently-minded parents Google us.
5. Feeling Inadequate
That nagging sense that you should be working in a different profession, making more money, or getting married by now is often attributable to your folks, says Koenig. Even when they don't say anything, we often judge ourselves based on what we think they'd say.
6. Acting Different From Them
We might think we've escaped our parents' influence if we don't act anything like them, but in fact, this could be just another way of letting them dictate how we act. "Trying to be the opposite of our parents shows that they still affect us as much as if we were trying to be like them," says Koenig. "True emotional independence from them would be if we were indifferent to what they thought about our lives. Intentionally going out of our way to show our parents how much we are unlike them means we’re still trying to prove something to them or to ourselves."
We often strive for perfection because deep down, we want our parents to be happy with us, psychologist Paul DePompo, PsyD, ABPP, tells Bustle. Or, we feel inadequate because of the way they talked to us, and we're trying to feel better about ourselves. "If you are acting in ways that you hope will please them or believe in their idea of success and have not formulated your own, you may be acting in ways to still get their approval," says DePompo.
It's highly likely that you've experienced at least one of these things, and you probably always will to some extent. But the more you become aware of these patterns, the better you can tell the difference between your parents' beliefs and your own — and act in accordance with the latter.