How False Family Roles Muffle Your True Calling
Many of us can’t hear our true calling—and, hence, be our real selves—because of old family dynamics and belief systems. In my workshops, I’ve found that the main reason people don’t get what they want in life is because they’re still acting out some worn-out family role that doesn’t fit who they truly are.
For example, when I was 13 years old I was fascinated by “Debby” and “Deenie,” identical twins in my junior high school. They had long blond hair, tanned athletic bodies, and the whitest teeth I’d ever seen. Even though we lived in Smyrna, Georgia, we may as well have been in LA, because Debby and Deenie looked like movie stars to me. I used to follow them around, to tell the truth. It’s not like I was stalking them or anything, I just liked to watch them. I was curious. I was a budding psychologist, after all.
I noticed something interesting about them after a while. Even though Debby and Deenie were identical twins, they behaved differently. Whereas Debby seemed confident and down-to-earth, Deenie acted ditzy, especially around guys. I couldn’t figure it out. One day in class I noticed that Debby received a “97” on an exam and Deenie got a “93.” It began to dawn on me that maybe Debby was treated as “the smart one” in the family, leaving Deenie to be “the stupid one.” But it made no sense because Deenie was intelligent in her own right. As far as I knew, the three of us were the only ones to get A’s on that exam.
That’s when it hit me—the insidious nature of family roles. If one person is smart, the other one isn’t. But the truth is that intelligence generally runs in a family. All the children tend to be pretty smart. They just express their abilities and talents in different ways from each other. Unfortunately, it’s very hard for most of us to see this truth, stuck as we are playing the same old roles year after year. The good news is when we stop unconsciously playing a part that constrains us, our negative thoughts and bad habits tend to go with it.
In order to function as units, families divvy out parts to their members like characters in a play. It’s not a conscious thing. It’s not like someone says, “OK you be ‘the shy one’ and I’ll be ‘the popular one.’” It just sort of happens. Every role has its limits, even the ones that are seemingly good. For example, many people in my workshops took the character of “the golden child” early in life. They were told as kids, “Honey, you can do anything you want.” Now, why would such multitalented people need to take my classes? They lack direction. Precisely because they’re good at so many different things, they don’t know how to pick just one and go with it.
So what does all this old family stuff have to do with hearing your call? How does identifying an old family pattern help you get a job you love, discover a creative outlet that makes your heart sing, or find a wonderful life partner? Once my workshop participants wake up to the false roles they’ve been playing, they realize they’ve been holding themselves back from getting the lives they wanted without knowing it. This realization empowers them to turn their lives around. The same can be true for you.
So what limiting role do you suspect holds you back from getting the life of your dreams? Are you “the responsible one,” “the peacemaker,” “the people pleaser,” “the scapegoat,” or perhaps “the baby” in the family? Not sure? Don’t worry. Next week we’ll dig deeper to help you identify a false role and break it so you can follow your true calling. I’d love to hear your thoughts.