The metaphor of the parrot on the shoulder vividly captures the emotional and psychological strain that results from conforming to the expectations or voices of others. The ongoing requirement to echo opinions and fulfil the expectations of those in one’s environment can be both draining and limiting. Have you ever felt the weight of societal pressure pushing you to find a partner, behave in a specific manner, secure a desirable job, or strive for personal improvement? These instances represent conditions we often perceive as necessary to earn acceptance, love, or positive regard from others.

Unmasking the Impact: Examples of Conditions of Worth in Our Lives

Unconditional Love: Unconditional love is bestowed upon us for simply being ourselves, regardless of our actions or choices.

Conditional Love: In contrast, conditional love is contingent upon meeting the expectations and desires of others, linking our worth to our compliance with external standards.

You may have heard some common saying growing up such as:

  • Boys should act like…
  • Girls should act like….
  • I will respect you when..
  • I will love you if…
  • To be successful you…
  • You will be beautiful if…

These are all examples of conditions of worth, telling you what is and isn’t accepted. However there are other ways of communicating conditions of worth which aren’t as obvious.

  • “Man up”
  • “Boys don’t cry”
  • “Girls are too emotional”
  • “Girls can’t get their dress dirty”
  • “You look funny”
  • “To get a good job you have to go to university”
  • “You have to have a good job to be successful”
  • “You have to be a certain size to fit these clothes”

Consider whose voices guide you, who serves as your parrot?

As kids, we naturally want to fit in and belong. To figure out how to do this, we pay attention to “conditions of worth.” These conditions, which can be sneaky and show up everywhere, are linked to the culture we’re raised in, like gender, age, ethnicity, religion, school, media, family, teachers, and more. We swiftly grasp which behaviours make our parents, caregivers, teachers, friends, and society happy.

If certain ideas are repeatedly emphasized to us and we gradually internalize them, they can evolve into introjected values—behaviours shaped by others’ expectations. As we naturally develop, we form a sense of our own identity and lifestyle choices. However, the collision of these internalized values with our authentic beliefs can stir feelings of unhappiness, depression, or anxiety. It prompts a contemplation of whose voices truly resonate within us and whether our parrot reflects our genuine self.

Liberating the Self: Embracing Uniqueness and Silencing the Parrot on Our Shoulder

In the journey of self-discovery and empowerment, there comes a pivotal moment when we must embrace our uniqueness and take control of our lives. This involves bidding farewell to the metaphorical parrot on our shoulder – the echo of external expectations that has shaped our existence.

How would you complete the following sentence: In order to be accepted I must…

Once you acknowledge the conditions of worth that shape your life, it opens the door for reflection. Ask yourself: Do these align with the way you genuinely want to live, or are they thoughts still dictated by the influence of the metaphorical ‘parrot’?

As we embark on the journey of embracing our uniqueness and reclaiming control over our lives, the echoes of the parrot on our shoulder fade away. Saying goodbye to external expectations opens the door to a life guided by authenticity, self-love, and the pursuit of genuine happiness.

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