Job Promotions, Childhood Messages and Brown Bears (Oh My!)

Last week I took my oldest daughter, Hannah, out to dinner to celebrate her big promotion.

It was only three months ago that Hannah started her first job right out of college. She liked it, but didn’t love it. The truth was, she didn’t feel challenged, and certainly wasn’t used to sitting at a desk all day (does anyone get used to this?!).

Anyway, one day her boss asked her if she would be interested in applying for a new position within the company. She took one look at the description and didn’t think she could get it. I mean, creating and running an intranet site for 50,000+ people? That’s MAJOR!

But, instead of giving up and breathing uncontrollably into a brown paper bag, she researched how to do the job. She created a fake mock-up of what she would do for the company, were she to be considered for the job. Pretty amazing, right? #proudmom

Long story short, she got the job! (pause for applause)

But there was something Hannah said at her celebratory dinner that almost made me choke on my food. After our “hip-hip-hoorays” for scoring her new gig, she simply stated,

“See, this brown bear can do anything.”

My heart dropped, and I was immediately struck by a flashback:

Years ago, Hannah struggled academically. She was in grade school at Upper Arlington, home of the Golden Bears. One night during our parent-teacher conference, we received feedback from the school that Hannah was “just a brown bear in a golden bear school.” Being the shitty parent I was, I told her this.

I was hoping it would motivate her.

The good news? It worked like a charm (woo-hoo!). The bad news? She remembers that label I shared with her so many years ago. And I about fainted when she made that comment to me at the dinner table—more than a decade later.

The first moral of the story? Childhood messages can damage you, but they don’t define you.

Most people don’t understand this. Oftentimes, we stay stuck in the messages we received as kids. And if we don’t question these messages, fight them or redefine them, we unfortunately continue to live our lives around them in a negative way.

Pay close attention to the messages you tell yourself on a daily basis. Where do they come from? Have you ever noticed them before?

Remember: awareness is key. Identifying the messages you tell yourself is the first and most important step towards change.

The second moral: you can do anything you set your mind to, just like Hannah did.

When Hannah first read the job description that would eventually lead to her promotion, she didn’t throw her hands up in the air and give up. No way! She knew she wasn’t very happy with her current job, so she made a change—a change she actually wanted. And she worked hard to get it.

Guess what? You can, too.

And lastly, don’t be a shitty parent like I was.

Let’s face it: we’re not perfect. Parenting is difficult, so go easy on yourself. But always remember that your child’s brain is like a sponge—it soaks up every little message you tell him or her, without you even realizing it.

Think about what you’re saying before you say it. It’s not easy, but it can make a great impact on your child’s life for years to come.


Are you identifying negative messages from your childhood? Your relationship with yourself is the most important relationship in your life. Until you know who you are (at the core) and start taking personal responsibility for yourself (your feelings, beliefs, triggers, behaviors, etc.), you will never really be able to have deep, soulful connections with anyone else.

When you work with me, you’ll learn how to cope with Big Scary Feelings (BSFs) like some of the messages you developed from childhood. Contact me today to learn more!

Lisa Panos

Lisa Panos is a Certified Life Coach and Author who helps people stop struggling and start thriving in their personal and professional relationships. Trained by Dr. Martha Beck (aka, Oprah’s Life Coach), Lisa helps her clients create new, healthy relationships, mend those that are broken, or say goodbye to ones that no longer serve them. She combines highly effective coaching tactics with an explosive arsenal of personal experience that swiftly moves people out of dysfunction and into a place of deep inner strength.

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