Our fathers are important, whether or not they were present.
Whether we learned all we needed to know from our fathers, learned what not to do from our fathers, or somewhere in between, all fathers are important.
The influence of presence.
Without the intention of being stereotypical, and knowing full-well that women may also embody fatherly characteristics, it’s been my experience that fatherly influence can come in a myriad of forms. Whether our father’s presence and teachings inspired us to be adventurous, perform well in business, stand up and do the “right” thing, play sports, fix engines, maintain equipment, do math equations, mow the lawn, tend cattle, write poetry, cook, sew, or perform on stage—their presence, willingness to share, and to put up with our shenanigans were all signs that they were, in fact, our dads.
The influence of absence.
Our father’s absence, whether by circumstance or death, gives us an opportunity to consciously define their importance without their presence. We might ask ourself, what might I learn from my father’s absence? What kind of father do I long for? Can I be that father for myself now? And, what kind of father would I like to be?
In mentoring people to increase their willpower and overcome addictions, I’ve seen the depth and longevity of a father’s influence on both children and adults. Two very common areas where a father’s influence may limit us are “our” beliefs and self-worth. As a child, we may have been raised to “do as we are told,” and not question our parents’ beliefs. We may also instinctively learn to “do as our parents do,” and not question whether or not it is best for us. When we don’t question, and just “do,” we may “unconsciously” be agreeing with our parents and their beliefs, and those beliefs become our own.
We’ll discuss these two areas and my personal experience next, as a means to learn and grow together.
Unconsciously, my father’s beliefs became mine.
I took on some of my father’s beliefs, without questioning whether I believed that they were right for me. Before his recent retirement, my father’s work ethic consisted of work, work, a little more work, and then get up and work again. He often said to me, “If you want something done right, you’ve gotta do it yourself.” Without questioning the validity of his beliefs, I absorbed them, and chose to 1) overwork and 2) do everything myself, as a means to succeed.
What we believe, is what life gives us.
Since I believed that I had to “do it myself” to succeed, I often had employees whom others considered “lazy.” Since I was accustomed to overworking and doing other people’s jobs in addition to my own, this seemed “normal.” It also required me to “do everything myself” in order to succeed—just as my father and I believed. Although this temporarily “felt good” to “be right,” and to know that I could do all the work myself, it led me to feelings of isolation, anger, and self-pity. Until I started recreating my beliefs. By discovering the limiting beliefs I “absorbed” from others—including my dad, and replacing them with empowering beliefs, I released myself from the old beliefs and cycle. For example, instead of believing that I must “do everything myself in order to succeed,” I now believe that “I work with great collaborators” and that work and success is “creative and easy.” By changing my beliefs, my work life became a whole lot more fun, and I am surrounded by supportive, self-motivated people who get the job done with me!
I believed that my father’s absence meant that I was not worthy.
Alongside absorbing my father’s beliefs, I also carried an unconscious belief that my father’s choice to work, rather than be with me, was because I was not worthy. Growing up, I hoped to “earn” his presence, by showing him that my work ethic matched his. Like the classic song, “Cat’s in the Cradle,” by Harry Chapin, when I wanted to spend time with him, he was working, and when he wanted to spend time with me, I was working… and this went on into my thirties.
Whose approval do we seek?
For me, I sought my father’s approval. I worked myself to and through sickness, trying to prove that I was worthy of attention and care. Although my choices did not earn time with my dad, they did shine a spotlight on my need to care for, and approve of, myself.
Seeking approval from others is disempowering.
The trouble with seeking approval from others, is that it requires someone else to tell us that we are “OK,” “good enough,” “worthy,” and/or “wonderful.” By disempowering ourself in this way, we give away our freedom, happiness, success, love, etc. to someone who we believe has authority or wisdom greater than our own.
This sets us up for failure, by setting our standards of conduct outside of ourself.
Most of us have looked to others to determine our worth, at some point. However, what human being is able to accurately determine what is best for us, what we need, or how to live? Even if another person is graced with an ability to know everything, why would we want to continue being dependent upon him or her to tell us what to do? We can learn to connect, ask, listen, and receive answers directly from the source of all wisdom, Life itself, or God. Instead of seeking approval from others, we can seek and stay connected to this Source within us all.
The approval we seek is the chain we wear.
I’ve witnessed people suffer for many years, desperate for approval from others… parents, lovers, mates, friends, pastors, God, you name it. And if the person they seek approval from has physically died, is incapacitated, or cannot be reached, they may carry that painful and lonesome burden for a lifetime.
When we are empowered, the only approval we seek is our own.
By “our own,” I do not mean the selfish, ego-driven part of us, which may feed on vanity and mischief. I mean the part of us that has willingly submitted to doing what is best for us, such as eating raw vegetables instead of donuts, apologizing instead of arguing, and seeking answers from within, rather than from others.
Are we afraid to approve of ourself?
Often, we seek approval from others because we are afraid. We’re afraid of making the wrong decision. Afraid of losing a person’s affection. Afraid of falling out of favor. Afraid that we’re not good enough, smart enough, well-liked enough, or “connected” to Life or God enough to know our “true” answers. And most challenging of all, we might be afraid to know our “truth,” because it may not be what we selfishly want to hear. In this case, we may hide, deny, lie, suppress, and distract ourself from our truth, with unhealthy habits and denial.
Life approves of us.
Truth be known, Life/God approves of us being here. How can we know? If it didn’t, it could take us from this world in an instant. But it hasn’t. It keeps our eyes working to read this message. It keeps our heart beating, our blood pumping, our food digesting, our lungs breathing, and it keeps us alive while we wake and sleep. Just knowing that we have this approval from Life/God, can be enough kudos and incentive to continue living and succeeding and enjoying and creating and loving.
We are worthy and good enough.
When we accept that being alive is approval enough, we can quit seeking approval from people. And what a relief that is!
Are we ready to give ourself some fatherly love?
First, release limiting beliefs and empower ourself with new beliefs.
- “What are my beliefs?”
- “Does this belief serve the ‘me’ I want to be?”
Second, accept that Life/God approves of you, and that’s enough.
Third, (if we’re still having difficulty), we can learn to release anger and resistance towards our fathers, ourself and/or Life/God. Although we have the right to feel what we feel, do we want to feel better in the future? If so, here are some free articles with ways to forgive our fathers for the pain we feel they caused, forgive ourself for idolizing them by seeking their approval, and forgive Life/God for how our life turned out so far: Forgiving Others, Forgiving Ourself, and Forgiving Life/God.
What say ye?
Will you learn to love, care for and approve of yourself in ways that your father couldn’t? Let us know in the comments section, so we may learn and grow together!
Always with love,