A self-fulfilling prophecy is a positive or negative expectation about people, circumstances or events that causes itself to become true because a person believes it will come true. We can literally cause some things to come true just because we believe it. Self-fulfilling prophecies are often false and can influence people in a negative way.
If a self-fulfilling prophecy is a positive expectation, it can help us reach our goals. However, if it is a negative expectation, it can stop us from reaching our goals.
For example, a child is struggling in school and his goal is to become a doctor someday. His parents want him to reach his goals so they encourage him and tell him to study hard. They are very supportive and make sure he gets all the help he needs to improve his grades. They proudly tell everyone that someday their son will be a doctor. Their child will try to make this prediction come true because he believes it about himself. His self-fulfilling prophecy of achieving his potential may possibly come true.
Now, let’s look at the same situation in a different way. The same child is struggling in school and his goal is to become a doctor. His parents never went to college and they don’t believe their son has the capability of becoming a doctor. They tell him that he is too stupid to become a doctor and they continually discourage him. They tell people that their son thinks he will become a doctor and then laugh about it. Their child will likely try to make this prediction come true because he believes that he won’t be successful. He will probably get a minimum wage paid job and be frustrated with his life, thus fulfilling his self-fulfilling prophecy of being a loser.
Self-fulfilling prophecies can be self-defeating if we are expecting something bad to happen. If we believe we can’t do something, we won’t even try even if we do have the capability. If we believe that everyone is going to hurt us, we will allow them to hurt us even if they don’t intend to. If we believe we are clumsy, stupid or useless we will fulfill this prophecy and respond to people and situations with the wrong perspective. We may very well be capable of achieving something great, but if we are told that we are a failure, we might not even try.
Have you ever gone for a job interview and already told yourself that you won’t get the job? Have you ever gone to a party and already told yourself that nobody will talk to you? Have you ever written a test and already told yourself that you wouldn’t get a good grade? Have you ever woken up and just knew it was going to be a bad day? You are probably fulfilling someone’s false prophecy about you.
Parents and other adults often say things that will dampen our enthusiasm or stop us from doing what we enjoy doing with negative words. We have to build confidence in ourselves and not allow others to influence us in a negative way. We should never allow the expectations of others to defeat us in any way.
I saw an instance a few weeks ago that could result in a negative self-fulfilling prophecy. A young child was playing a game with plastic bowling pins and balls. He was throwing the ball and also throwing the pins, which is quite normal for his age. There was nothing bad about what he was doing, just a very active boy learning how use his arms. However, his grandmother started telling him that he was going to be a bully. I immediately wondered where she got that idea because he was playing alone and to be a bully you have to engaged with another person. Now, I might have re-directed his energy and showed him how to use the pins properly, but I certainly wouldn’t have called him a bully. If this expectation of her grandson is continually reinforced, the child may very well become a bully because he will believe that it is what is expected of him. We should never label a child with a negative label.
Are you fulfilling the expectations of others? Are you helping create someone else’s self-fulfilling prophecy? Make sure it is a positive one!