The Power Of Self-fulfilling Prophecies

The power of self-fulfilling prophecies

From before we were born, we are surrounded by the speeches of our parents, uncles and grandparents. What color will our eyes be? What personality will we have? We reflect and talk about us, if we will be of this football team or that other, what work will we do, etc. Then, during childhood and throughout life, these expectations are added to our own and mark our path. But all this, how much does it affect our decisions and our life choices? In this article we will tell you what self-fulfilling prophecies are and how they affect our lives.

The Pygmalion effect

All those little predictions that people make are called self-fulfilling prophecies; once pronounced, they are transformed into the very cause of their realization: an expectation is thus generated that ends up being fulfilled. The Pygmalion effect is directly related to the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy, because it consists in having a specific belief about a person, a belief that, just by the fact of existing, influences and favors a behavior, which allows this then to be true.

Self-fulfilling prophecies and expectations about behavior can be positive or negative: if we are convinced that we will not pass an exam, it is very likely that our behavior will be changed and that what we fear will end up happening. This is because our conviction conditions our answers and our way of interpreting reality.

Researcher Robert K. Merton devoted himself to studying this theme, giving a structure to the concept and its consequences: he found that these beliefs have such a strong power of determination on behavior that they can be realized even if they have no foundation. Many experiments of the Pygmalion effect have been carried out on children: it has been found that, if an educator has low expectations of his pupils, they will perform poorly; if, on the other hand, the expectations are high, the children will obtain surprising results.

The weight of self-fulfilling prophecies on children

Changing the prophecies you make about your life is difficult, but not impossible. However, in the case of children, the beliefs and expectations of parents, and of the “grown-ups” in general, have a very strong influence and can change their behavior over the course of life.

With these limiting or challenging expectations, children have to deal with the different situations that life places before them. If a child has been labeled as “rebellious”, “lazy” or “foolish”, it is likely that their development will be difficult and complicated and will have gaps. It is very important to pay attention to this issue, because children absorb all of the environment around them and their family group.

The development of self-esteem and self-knowledge is directly linked to the expectations and beliefs our parents have about us and the value they place on us. It is enough to look at a family to understand that each member occupies a place: there is the intelligent sister, the beautiful one, the good one, the sporty brother, etc. Care must be taken when attaching these labels, as they will mark children for life.

What can be done about it?

Can you think of personal situations where you have been influenced by the Pygmalion effect and self-fulfilling prophecies? You need to learn to let go of these thoughts, both about yourself and about others. Want to know what you can do about it? Consider the following points:

  • Identify these kinds of thoughts. If you find yourself in situations where you can predict a negative ending, try to think that there is nothing predetermined, that things can go well, and that you have the power to solve your problems.
  • Pay attention to the language you use in the presence of your children. Remember that children absorb like a sponge everything that comes from the people important to them and, in this case, from you.
  • Try to understand what limiting beliefs are behind your prophecies. The next time you formulate one, it will be easier for you to identify the mechanism you are using.
  • Capitalize on experiences that allow you to prove the opposite of your prophecy.

As you can see , it is possible to recognize the Pygmalion effect in ourselves; not only that: you can also fight its consequences in life, thanks to a conscious reflection of the fact that you are a mature individual. What will you get by doing this? A fuller and freer life from negative limitations and preconceptions that reduce the infinite potential you have as a human being.

Image courtesy of Alba Soler Photography

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