When you hear the words, “Family Legacy” you may think of the distribution of tangible assets, trusts and maybe even estate planning. While these factors are a part of family legacy, the largest bequest family members receive are the non-material gifts. This includes: attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, communication styles, traditions, patterns, and coping mechanisms. These are the aspects of familial legacy that are often overlooked but remain so crucial to your present and your future. Why? Because if there’s anything that you’ve taken on that isn’t serving you – it’s important to observe it, understand it, and heal it. Your thoughts and beliefs create your reality. However, just because you grew up with a certain set of beliefs, it doesn’t mean that you have to keep them. You have the power to change the trajectory of your life and impact future generations.
This is family legacy, and so much of it is passed on unintentionally by parents simply doing the best they can with what they know while attempting to, in parallel, process their own past. Legacy is then extended to children who live according to what they witness so much more than to what is told to them by their well-meaning parents.
How Does a Family Legacy Affect You?
One of the greatest and most valuable of all gifts that you can leave your children is your willingness to own, resolve, and release the aspects of your family legacy that stand in the way of you living the life that you know you are meant to live – free of unresolved baggage.
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples:
You are the daughter of a single mother who worked really hard to care for you and your siblings.
Your mother is a strong woman who imparted discipline, a strong work ethic, and strong moral values. She never really got over your dad. She’d had a few relationships here and there but wanted to ensure that you and your siblings knew to be independent women and to “never depend on a man.”
While you have a relationship with your dad, it is sometimes strained. You carry subtle resentment for him because of your mother’s unhappiness and blame him for her inability to move forward.
You and your ex, who you thought was the “love of your life,” had a long, sometimes strained, relationship. You and he ended the relationship weeks before you found out you were pregnant and, after a brief reconciliation, you both decided it best to co-parent. Your son is now 10 years old.
While you’ve had a few relationships over the years, you are surprised that none have become serious enough to get much further than dating. It’s becoming more difficult for you to keep your discomfort under wraps and you sometimes find yourself being short with your ex and his wife. Your mother and aunts insist that the issue is with the men you’ve dated and encourage you to be strong and take care of and depend on yourself. While you feel comfort in their advice, you are also growing weary of the cycle of relationships that feel the same– but simply different faces and names. In fact, you notice that the cycle is one that is all too familiar amongst the women in your family.
Your grandfather on your dad’s side was reserved, often angry, and stern. Your father grew up in his household where the man of the house was an authoritarian who yelled and was occasionally physically abusive.
While your father was never physically abusive, he never really viewed his wife as an equal. He felt your mom should obey without discussion and you often witnessed your father dismissing your mother publicly and the arguments that would ensue in the late evening. When you or your siblings acted up, he got loud and threatened “whippings” with ferocity. The family lived in fearful “respect” of your father.
As you grew up, you felt your father’s actions were wrong and swore you would never behave that way. But you never really learned healthy communication or how to effectively express yourself when things didn’t go the way you wanted. As a result, you’ve had several failed relationships due to your inability to effectively communicate or resolve conflict.
Can you see the family legacy of these distinctly different households? From the outside looking in, yes, it may be quite simple to see clearly. Unfortunately, we don’t always see the full story of our family to get insights on how it has shaped us. Quite often we are just too enmeshed in the narrative to see clearly or discern the behaviors we are modeling based upon what we have witnessed and learned.
A family legacy can have lasting and multi-generational effects. In some ways, this can mean extending positive values, beliefs, and traditions to help solidify a family and cultivate personal success.
Think now to some of the values, traditions, and rituals that are part of your family legacy, such as:
- A favorite holiday recipe
- Religious/spiritual beliefs
- Stories about relatives that have passed
- Honoring a rite of passage
Many of what we pass along are beautiful expressions of love through celebration, story-telling, and connection.
Then there are those aspects of a family legacy that are the expression of unresolved limiting beliefs, family conflict, suppressed dreams, unlived lives, and negative behaviors.
A dysfunctional family legacy, can limit your beliefs, stall your potential, even cause you to repeat the same mistakes previous generations made. If fact, if you grow up with racism, sexism, abuse, or self-destructive behaviors as the norm, you’re far more likely to continue the trend until you take inventory of and own how your family legacy has shaped your life.
Even a seemingly positive family value can limit you. For example, let’s say your parents and grandparents always worked in blue collar jobs. They took pride in their decisions that led to their ability to work hard and put food on the table. As you were growing up, you had the desire to start your own business. Your family never supported the idea saying it was too risky. As a result, you ended up taking a mundane 9 to 5 job that has you feeling empty and suffocated.
Understanding the influence of your family legacy on YOU is crucial to your growth and overall happiness.
Discovering the Current Beneath Your Family Legacy
It isn’t until we can take a mindful step back from the influences of our family and childhood experiences that we begin to truly understand who we are and how we got here.
And it’s not always easy. We may not even think our family legacy is playing a role in our present life. Most of us want to believe that we are in control of how we think and act.
Like it or not, we receive subconscious programming from the first moment we enter the world. It’s nothing to be ashamed of–it’s just how life works.
Taking a closer look at your family legacy may be VERY IMPORTANT if you’re:
- Feeling unhappy, stuck, or empty
- Finding yourself a constant odds with your partner
- Frustrated with your children and how they’re being raised
- Not sure how to move forward in life
- Having difficulty with communication or behavioral patterns
- Feeling like changing yourself for the better is betraying your family
Beginning to Examine Your Family Legacy
Understanding how your family legacy is affecting you isn’t an overnight process. It will take time and self-reflection. In many cases, you will need some outside support to help get you out of the shell created by your upbringing.
There are a few things you can do right now to get the process started. You can:
- Take a little time each day to journal about how you view the world and why
- Have discussions with family members from different generations. Approach these conversations with true curiosity about why they made the choices they did.
- Consider behavioral patterns in your family and make a conscious decision about the ones you will bring forward and the ones that you will leave behind.
- Identify your ideal life values and build your family culture around those.
- Learn how to release and resolve limiting beliefs and negative behaviors, no matter where they came from.
- If changes are needed, work on you. This is where your true power lies
In time, you’ll find yourself more empowered. You’ll be clearer about the patterns and programming you want to continue and what you are ready to release. Make a commitment to do the work. Consciously curating your life and legacy is not always easy, and you may get some pushback from family (something we’ll discuss in a future blog).
You have the right to create a life that you enjoy living; one that is in full alignment with who you are and what you want for yourself and your family. Discovering the behaviors, communication styles, and beliefs that are part of your current familial legacy is an important key to ensuring you are on the right path to your ideal future.
Are you ready to begin living fully expressed and in alignment with your real feelings, desires, and dreams?
If yes, then join the Shape Your Foundation Virtual program.
This virtual immersion begins on January 12th through February 9th.
This 5-week immersion will provide you with proven tools, resources, and coaching from me that will help you on your journey to healing the past so you can SHAPE a new Foundation for YOUR future.
Space is limited so reserve your space NOW!