The lessons we learn in childhood often stay with us as adults. Some of these learnings are helpful — but others…not so much. From time to time, it’s valuable to pause and consider what deeply ingrained beliefs of ours are preventing us from unlocking our full potential.

We asked our Thrive community to share with us the lessons and beliefs they’ve unlearned as an adult in order to reach their goals. Which of these lessons have you unlearned as you’ve gotten older?

“If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

“This is the first lesson I unlearned as an adult and a professional who wanted to be forward-moving and progressive. Holding your tongue as an adult can be detrimental to your mental health, your character, and the trajectory of your career. I learned as an adult to make unfavorable comments with a kind delivery. You don’t have to hold your perspective back! Just be sure your delivery has impact followed by action.’

—Jessica M. Williams, career consultant, Fairfield, CA

“Aim for perfection.”

“One childhood lesson I had to unlearn very gradually was the need to always aim for perfection. Growing up, I wanted to be the best and achieve the very best of life. As I became more aware of who I am and the value I can bring to the world, I started learning to trust the process more and not worry so much about whether I achieved perfection. I realized that progression matters more than perfection.”

—Charles Omofuma Ituah, mental health counselor and mentor, Lagos, Nigeria

“Don’t show off.”

“As the eldest of four girls, it was pretty much a daily occurrence for me to be told to stop showing off. Looking back, I was fighting for attention, but I was being told it was not a good trait to have, learning that ’showing off’ is not what good girls do. Fast forward to my mid-40s when I was running my own business, I initially struggled to promote myself, as I felt it was almost vulgar behavior and not becoming. I had to reteach myself that talking about my business, sharing my achievements, and promoting myself authentically, wasn’t showing off. I had to unlearn what I was told as a child.”

—Shelley Bosworth, coach, Essex, U.K.

“Say yes to every opportunity.”

“As a child, I was told to accept every request that came my way in order to be successful. I now understand that timing and alignment matter, and that the opportunities meant for me will respect me and fit in my schedule without throwing me into a place where I have to sacrifice sleep to make it work. There will always be more opportunities down the line that may be a better fit. Doing things from a place of depletion or self-sacrifice can lead to burnout, and it makes us not perform at our best for existing commitments. It creates a lot of distraction, chaos, and scattered energy. I have found that saying ‘no’ to most things has worked for me, which is the opposite of what I was always told.”

—Karisa Karmali, personal trainer and nutrition coach, Ontario, Canada

“Failure is the opposite of success.”

“I’ve had to learn as I’ve gotten older that if you want to succeed, you need to experience failure. You must understand the feeling of all the pressure on yourself and use it as a motivation to continue to conquer the peak of your glory. Once we embark on something, if there is a failure, we should try to turn it into a success, no matter if we have to start again. I also failed many times in life and work. For the sake of my family and for the future, I have to try again from zero. I don’t see failure as a negative anymore. It’s part of my motivation!”

—La Ngọc Hưng, CEO, Buon Ma Thuot, Vietnam

“Others’ needs should go before your own.”

“I was always told that you should put others’ needs, desires, and preferences before your own. I had no boundaries, and I have since learned that boundaries help me define myself: what I want, like, think, prefer and feel about things. I read a lot about setting boundaries, and now I’m a boundaries coach! That’s how important they’ve been to me.”

—Barb Nangle, coach, New Haven, CT

“Words won’t hurt you.”

“One childhood lesson I’ve had to unlearn as an adult is that words don’t hurt, which came from the popular phrase ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.’ Words do matter and they are powerful. As an adult, I also know now how words can mend what is broken.”

—Kristin Meekhof, author and therapist, Royal Oak, MI

“Wait until someone calls on you.”

“It astonishes me when I think of the time I’d lost waiting to be called upon, either as a student in the classroom, terrified to raise my hand — or as a girlfriend at a school dance, waiting to be chosen. This continued as an employee, around tables, in conversations, waiting to be given the next opportunity — and as an entrepreneur, waiting for a ‘yes,’ one post from viral, one application from award-winning. It took me way too long to understand no one else will make my future their priority. No one but me!”

—Stacy Cassio, CEO, Charlotte, N.C.

“Everything has to get done.”

“As a child, I was someone who wrote the list and completed the list. That was how I studied, worked through tasks, prepared for a trip, and made decisions. As an adult, I have had to unlearn that the list has to be completed. During the pandemic, with virtual reality, I didn’t just own different hats, I wore them all at once, all day long: mother, colleague, neighbour, teacher, chef, learner, presenter, listener, speaker, and human being. So I had to switch my script and accept that the list is endless and more important than finishing it, is adding self-care to the top and ticking that off first.”

—Siobhan Kukolic, author, inspirational speaker and life coach, Toronto, ON, Canada

“Say sorry, even if it’s not your fault.”

“Growing up, I was expected to apologize for things that I hadn’t done, and accept responsibility for other peoples’ mistakes. As I grew up, this led me to believe that I had to take on the issues of others, try to fix them, put their needs first, and that I was always at fault if things went wrong. Outcomes for others were always my priority and I held a negative self-belief that when things didn’t work, it was my fault. I’ve had to unlearn this idea to shift to more positive ideas around my own actions. It has changed my perception and allowed me to move forwards in all areas of my life.”

—John Kenny, relationship coach, London, England, U.K.

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  • Marina Khidekel

    Chief Content Officer at Thrive

    Marina leads strategy, ideation and execution of Thrive's content company-wide, including cross-platform brand partnership and content marketing campaigns, curricula, and the voice of the Thrive platform. She's the author of Thrive's first book, Your Time to Thrive. In her role, Marina brings Thrive's audience actionable, science-backed tips for reducing stress and improving their physical and mental well-being, and shares those insights on panels and in national outlets like NBC's TODAY. Previously, Marina held senior editorial roles at Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour, where she edited award-winning health and mental health features and spearheaded the campaigns and partnerships around them.