Like it or not, the person you are today has a lot to do with the environment you grew up in as a kid. Your family likely played a role in cultivating all your glowing qualities. But if you've experienced problems as an adult, or struggle with a few issues — like worrying, impulsivity, or poor communication skills — it may due to bad habits you picked up from your parents.
"Habits and behaviors are defined by what you do and how you react to the world around you," Dr. Bryan Bruno, Medical Director at Mid City TMS, tells Bustle. "But how did those habits form in the first place? It turns out your behavior is heavily influenced by your environment, and your parents’ habits could easily pass down to you during your childhood."
And there are two reasons for this. "In addition to picking up habits from your parents through imitation, science has also proven that some bad habits may be caused by your genetic lottery," Bruno says. It's the whole "nature versus nurture" thing, and both combine to make you you.
But that doesn't mean you're necessarily stuck with the cards you were dealt. If your habits aren't ones you're happy with, it is possible to change. "As we grow we can come to realize not all we saw or learned from our parents is valuable and commendable," relationship coach Rosalind Sedacca, CLC, tells Bustle. "We need to discern behaviors worth emulating and those that should be avoided and shunned. This can be challenging but is always worth the effort as we grow into mature adults." Here are 12 habits you may have picked up from your parents, as well as how to change them.
1. Ineffective Ways Of Managing Stress
How you manage stress — and even the things you tend to get stressed out about — are often learned behaviors from your parents. "For instance, if a father displays forms of stress during tax season, a child may learn to believe that tax season is when you are supposed to display forms of stress," counselor Shani Graves, LMHC, tells Bustle. "They in turn may react similarly to their father during tax season"
If that sounds familiar, it may be beneficial to reevaluate how you react to stress, as well as why you might be reacting that way. If you're engaging in ineffective ways of managing stress, being mindful of it it is a great place to start. Once you do, you can begin to make changes — such as seeing a therapist — so you can learn how to handle moments like these in a more rational way.
2. Impulsive Spending
It's fine to buy yourself somethin' nice every now and again. But if you're in the habit of spending impulsively — like, racking up online shopping bills at 2 a.m., or going on shopping sprees when you're upset — it might be a habit you learned from your family.
"Most people learn how to spend, save, and invest their money by directly mirroring their parents’ financial decisions," Bruno says. "That means if you have parents who make impulsive financial decisions, chances are you will make them, too. Even more interesting, impulsivity itself can be directly passed down through genetic traits. Those suffering from conditions such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, and antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) are much more likely to be impulsive in all areas of their life, including their finances."
If the latter seems like it might be the case, speak with a therapist ASAP. They can help you figure out why you're so impulsive, and offers tips on how to better manage it.
3. Unhealthy Beliefs About Money
Since money problems can go beyond impulsive spending, you might also notice that you have a "weird" or unhealthy way of thinking about your finances — and possibly financial problems as a result. "Many of our beliefs, behaviors, and money patterns are fired and wired in our brains by the age of eight," Certified Money Coach Rebecca Brown tells Bustle. "When we are 'triggered' by outside circumstances we often fall back into these patterns subconsciously and/or unconsciously."
Some examples include feeling guilty about spending money (even when you have enough), feeling like having or saving money is "bad," feeling like you'll never be "good" with money, etc. According to Brown, the list goes on and on.
But the good news is, you can change these thought patterns. As Brown says, "The more conscious we are about our relationship with money and the more we source where our beliefs are coming from, the more we can operate within a positive mindset and framework."
4. Worrying Too Much
Anxiety isn't so much a habit as it is a diagnosable disorder, and it can be passed down from your parents. But many anxious habits, like worrying excessively or being afraid of certain things, might also be something you learned from your parents' actions.
"Anxiety is a common trait that can be inherited from parents. There may be a genetic component to this, but it can also be behavioral," psychotherapist Brennan C. Mallonee, LMHC tells Bustle. "Children are highly attuned to their parents' behavior, since it's how they learn to navigate the world around them. By watching how a parent responds to potential threats, the child learns what is dangerous and how to respond to this danger. If a parent is highly anxious, children pick up on this and may learn to see many of the same exaggerated threats that the parent's brain sees."
But, since excessive worry is just like other learned traits, you can turn things around once you recognize them. "Anxiety can make you feel out of control, and understanding where your anxiety comes from can help you to feel in control again and manage the anxiety," Mallonee says. "If you've inherited anxiety from your parents, understanding this can help you to learn better ways to cope with it as well as potentially improving your relationship with your anxious parent."
5. Picky Eating
Some "picky eaters" have a condition called Selective Eating Disorder, which keeps them from wanting or being able to try new foods. They are averse to certain food textures and smells, and can only eat a limited number of foods. Speaking with a specialist can help you figure out if this is an issue you're dealing with. But it can also help to look at how you were raised, as well as your family history. Were your parents picky eaters, too?
As Bruno says, "Picky eating, or neophobia, is directly linked to genetic factors that influence your willingness to try different foods. Based on specific genetic factors, some foods that others enjoy may have a hint of bitterness for you, turning you off to trying new foods altogether." However, if your picky eating stems from not wanting to try new things, this is something that counseling can also help you manage.
6. Holding Yourself Back
While not everyone turns out exactly like their parents, it is easy to pick up certain traits, such as an inability to "put yourself out there." As psychotherapist Dr. Fern Kazlow tells Bustle, "You may have been taught not to outshine your siblings, not to speak your mind, not to go for your big dream and instead play it safe, or look modest." And as a result, you may still feel the need to hold yourself back, now that you're an adult.
"Holding yourself back is a learned behavior that often becomes a habit, and may come from one or both parents," she says. "It is built on and perpetuated by related attitudes and behaviors. In addition to the learned behaviors there may be inherited traits that support it as well. You may be more pessimistic, have less vibrant health or stamina, or be more introverted."
If this is an aspect of your personality that you'd rather move away from, awareness is the first step in making a change. "Habits can be reduced or eliminated when you recognize what they are, what purpose they were meant to serve, find healthier ways to accomplish that goal, and are committed to achieving a more fulfilling life," Kazlow says. "And, if you have children, to stop passing on this bad habit of holding yourself back and being less than you can be."
7. The Inability To Express Yourself
Similarly, many families have a hard time expressing themselves and showing emotions. And that can rub off on their kids. So if your parents held in their thoughts and emotions, don't be surprised if you do so, too.
"This is probably learned behavior, but the learning happens so early that it might as well be genetic," counselor Tina Gilbertson, LPC, DCC tells Bustle. "If you tend to stuff your feelings, try labeling them instead (i.e., 'I feel anger/regret/dread/shame, etc.'). Give your feelings room to run around inside you even if you don't share them with others." Even if your parents made it seem like it was immoral or unhealthy to share your emotions, remind yourself that that's not the case.
8. Poor Communication Skills
If your parents were poor communicators — either with you, with each other, or both — you might struggle with this as an adult, too. "Children observe their parents' tone, voice level, and behavioral expectations at home," child and adolescent psychotherapist Laura Fonseca, MSW, LCSW tells Bustle. "However, this does not mean that quiet and meek parents will have quiet and meek children. Children learn how to interact, not only by how their parents act, but also by what they need to do in order to get their needs met. If children need to scream and cry at home in order to get the things they want, they will learn to communicate in these ways outside the home, as well."
By speaking with a partner, friend, or therapist, you can start to uncover more about the communication style you learned growing up. And then, you can make changes and improve your communication skills, so you can better share your feelings as an adult.
9. Unhealthy Relationship Dynamics
If you can't seem to ever maintain a truly healthy relationship, it may help to take a look into your past. "In regard to relationships, our parents serve an extremely important role model helping to mould how we [...] function in our own relationships and handle conflict," Stephanie Lee, relationship expert founder of Successfully Me, LLC, tells Bustle. "If you've watched your parents engage in the silent treatment, you may find that your style of conflict mimics this as well."
Many people never catch on that they're communicating ineffectively, or damaging their relationships. As Lee says, "Learning to recognize the dysfunction of this and engaging in effective communication will [...] help you create new habits in your own relationships."
10. Overuse Of Sarcasm
Sarcasm definitely has its place, and it can be funny when used in a lighthearted way. But mean, rude, or hurtful sarcasm isn't as cool — especially when it crosses over into bullying or teasing.
Many people who grew up in sarcastic households carry this tradition into their adult lives, Sedacca says. But since sarcasm has the ability to hurt, intimidate, or humiliate its target, it's often a good idea to monitor it in a way your parents may never have, and only use when making funny, relatable remarks, or cut out all together.
11. Not Being Able To Say "I'm Sorry"
It's tough to admit when you're wrong, and sometimes even tougher to apologize. But this is especially true for people who never saw a healthy example of an apology as a kid.
"Not taking responsibility for your behavior and believing you don't have to apologize for behavior that hurt others can be [picked] up as acceptable from poor family dynamics," Sedacca says. But that doesn't mean you're doomed to continue this bad habit. As Sedacca says, "Make a conscious decision to change this habit and start owning behaviors that you are called out on or regret."
12. Not Being Able To Resolve Conflicts
How did your parents argue and fight? How did they act when they were mad? And what did they do to cool off? "What we see at home is our 'normal' and we have no way of knowing different or healthier ways to communicate," licensed psychologist Susan Giurleo, PhD tells Bustle. "If parents avoid conflict, are passive-aggressive, or yell and scream all the time, children see that as the normal way to handle conflict and grow into adults who use the same bad habits in relationships."
If you grew up emulating your parents, or have a few lingering bad habits that you know you learned from the people who raised you, don't beat yourself up — genetics and family dynamics are powerful forces. And yet, it you want to change, you totally can. Start by recognizing your bad habits, then make an effort to make changes from there.