Growing up means being able to truly stand on your own in life, able to make your own choices and to effectively live out these choices without being held back by others.
We are born into this world dependent, helpless, and we initially must rely on others—primarily our parents—to take care of us. It takes a decade or more to grow to where we could possibly live in the world on our own, and a lot longer than that to be really ready to not need parents.
During this period of growing up, our parents (and other adult authorities) dictate standards and limits for what we do, what we know, and what we feel. They do this directly and indirectly, regardless of whether they are aware of doing it. The dictates we receive from them become a powerful influence on our development.
Eventually, we are grown and ready to move on in life, but by then our experience with our parents has shaped us in many ways.
Some of what we learn from growing up with our parents is valuable and will help us through life. But some of what we learn is passed on by them because of their own unresolved emotional needs—holding them back from helping us or even allowing us to grow beyond their limits. They do this usually without awareness, but the effect is to limit our self-existence in favor of being who they need us to be.
This distancing from our own nature happens through ignoring or forgetting ourselves, or through active self-criticism when anything ‘unacceptable’ about who we are in ourselves shows through.
The process of becoming who we truly are includes sorting all of this through. It begins with identifying what we have taken on in order to prop up our parents’ mental and emotional health. This means becoming aware of much about ourselves we have hidden.
It takes courage to see this. Often we have made that hiding into an apparent strength, such as the man who masks a deep childhood wound with stoicism or manliness, or the woman who dedicates herself to taking care of others because she didn’t get the attention she needed as a child.
Facing and untangling these wounds can be very challenging. But we can learn to appreciate and encourage what we have disavowed of ourselves. We can get to know ourselves in a deeper way, to build trust within ourselves. Doing so is the start of establishing true independence, freeing ourselves up to live life as who we truly are.