15 Things We Can Learn About Ourselves From Who We Were As Children

1. What was your favorite game of make-believe/pretend? The predominant thing that we used to fantasize about tends to tell us both what we most desire as well as what makes us most comfortable. Tapping into what we most wanted then — and what spoke to us in our most innocent state — can often tell us (or show us by way of reflection) what still does now.

2. What was your biggest source of anxiety? Mine, for example, was any situation that would lead me to feeling inadequate or embarrassed in front of a large group of people — so speaking in class, performing in a dance recital, etc. was really hard for me at first. I got over it eventually, but that inner-shyness remains, whether or not I realize it (and becoming aware of it it’s paramount in overcoming it).

3. In what ways didn’t you feel loved? Were your parents dismissive of your opinions? Your classmates unaccepting? Those gaps in receiving love and acceptance don’t mend naturally — they grow as we do. We tend to crave love and affirmation in the exact ways we weren’t given it as children.

4. How did you approach your first childhood love? Were you direct, did you have a friend ask them if they liked you first, did you not say anything at all, was it your deepest, darkest secret? The same tends to be true of our adult relationships, except some of the more negative patterns can emerge in much more destructive ways.

5. What was the worst thing to happen to you?  It could be as relatively consequence-free as getting lost in the supermarket for 10 minutes, or as scarring as losing a loved one or getting in an accident or being cut from the varsity team — whatever you as a child defined as the worst is a pretty strong indicator of what your priorities were shaping up to be later in your adult life. Maybe you’re afraid of losing your way, or losing the people you love, or being rejected. The corollaries will always pop up later in life; after all, there’s always a reason as to why you remember this one thing as the worst.

6. What was your irrational fear? Was it that there were monsters under your bed? That something would happen to your parents? Our irrational fears as kids tend to allude toward something greater we fear — abandonment, physical pain, etc. Many of these we simply get over with time, but as all else, the essence of them are very often part of us now.

7. What made you happiest? One of the biggest reasons we adults live predominantly unhappy lives is that we lose track of what makes us happy in lieu of what we feel we “need to do.” What did your childhood self like to do? Not that you should run around playing with stuffed animals and coloring books again, but recognize if what made you happy was a companion, being creative, etc.

8. Did anybody tell you that you couldn’t do something?  Especially a parent or teacher? It tends to be the thing we most fiercely fight for (and feel always a bit inadequate with, though we don’t have any reason to).

9. Were your parents “strict” or “lenient” with set rules? Controlling parents tend to create controlling kids. If you never felt as though you had a sense of control over your life then, you tend to go to extremes to feel that way as an adult, especially when it comes to having control over the other people who could possibly take control away from you again.

10. Were you bullied? If so, for what? It’s the thing you most feel you need to justify, to find acceptance with, be admired for. In fact, the degree to which you were bullied for it tends to be directly parallel to how much you crave and seek that affirmation now.

11. How were you punished? It’s how you “punish” other people who act out against you now.

12. How did your parents relate to you? The way parents speak to their children becomes the way they speak to themselves when they grow up.

13. Who was your first best friend? Were they your mirror image? Were they utterly different than you? Did you admire them and want to be around them for that reason? Were they backhandedly mean to you? Was one of you the leader, the other a follower? How did you play together? Are you still close? The first close relationships we choose for ourselves says something of what we most innately want present in our lives.

14. What was your favorite book, story or movie? And what element of it was so compellingly interesting to you? The “lesson” of the piece of entertainment we most loved tends to translate to what are dreams and goals are for the future at maximum; at minimum, it alludes to something that inherently speaks to you, and should be examined further (especially if you still enjoy it now.)

15. Who did you look up to most? This may seem a little backwards, but it’s not that you necessarily became like the person you admired, but you often adopt that person’s sense of right vs. wrong and judge yourself as they would. Your sense of “failure” tends to come from theirs, and as far as your life doesn’t look like something they’d approve of, you don’t approve of it either. TC Mark

image – Flickr/Haley

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