We learn to feel anxiety in our first years of life
Children are taught, very early on in life, to live under pressure. They have to behave, learn fast, know the right answer, be the best, win, and never fail - in other words, they have to be perfect children.
School, as well as parents, believe that they will nurture great qualities in children and will help them become extraordinary individuals if they monitor them closely and correct their mistakes step by step. This is how children learn from their first years of life that making errors will upset their parents and will make their teachers mark them down, and this is how they start doubting themselves and experiencing fear and anxiety.
Children learn that those around them love them and give them treats only when their behaviours are satisfactory to the adult world, which tells their little minds that they cannot be liked, loved and appreciated all the time. This conditional validation brings a lot of tension in our children’s little souls and minds and makes them feel insecure, inadequate and, at times, worthless.
Growing up in this environment is not pleasant, yet parents talk passionately about the importance of school in their children’s development and experience fear when they talk about low grades and missing out on knowledge.
Parents want the best for their children; only, “the best” is a socially-constructed concept. It can mean different things to different people, and very often what we imagine is “best” for our child has little significance to their future lives.
Children’s performance in school or other activities is not directly related to their happiness, health, and well-being, and the good life they can experience in their adult life. Sometimes parents put pressure on their little children to excel in all subjects at school and succeed in all their other activities. They seem to forget that errors are natural and their children’s little minds get easily tired and distracted. That fear gets passed on from one generation to another at both conscious and unconscious level, and becomes an integral part of who we are and how we function as adults.
There is no surprise that most people continue to experience that fear through their adult years, when the competition becomes harder and the stakes are significantly raised. They live their lives in anxiety, doubting they are good enough, allowing inherent failures to define them, and listening to the external voices that evaluated them all along.
Luckily, nowadays people are more open to counselling and psychotherapy, and they use these platforms to learn more about their life experience and to enhance their parenting skills. They learn to adjust their expectations and allow their children space for error, mistakes, and imperfections, to reduce their fears and anxieties and facilitate mental well-being and happiness. Self-exploration is a very powerful tool and can lead to awareness, understanding, clarity, and change.
We can choose who we want to be and we can choose how we want to behave. We can surround our children with unconditional love, understanding, and acceptance, and they will become more balanced individuals and will, without doubt, thank us one day.
Read more about depression and anxiety in children.