As I talk with people day to day I have come to learn that many individuals adopted a belief in childhood that their worth is based on fixed criterion. For many individuals this way of seeing themselves happened quite passively. In families it materializes subtly as parents praise children for grades, winning a little league game, advancing in religious duties, and other product related praises. I imagine with very little prompting many of us can think of the conditions of worth that were established in the family we grew up in. A consequence of this praise style is that it only highlights the outcome of the child’s efforts, thus leading the child to feel that their worth is conditioned on their success or conformity.
Carl Rogers reports that in his early years as a clinician, he was asking the question, “How can I treat, or cure, or change this person?” This is a common approach taken by parents, coaches, and other individuals that have pure intentions of helping someone they love. The trouble is that this perspective continues to feed the self-belief that “I am not ok as I am”. Carl Rogers discovered, “The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.” This statement helps us to understand that our energies will be better spent when focused on accepting those we love for who they are, and coaching them to do the same for themselves.
As Carl Rogers continued to practice psychotherapy he altered his perspective and rather than focusing on changing people he framed his approach this way, “How can I provide a relationship, which this person may use for his own personal growth?” As life moves so quickly we often get distracted by products and outcomes. Through Carl’s awareness, I am reminded that our relationships are what matter most, and if we invest in relationships built on acceptance, we can let go of our anxieties over outcomes.