Your Father’s Success Legacy

Fathers influence our success in life. Financially and romantically!

Hobji explores his father's legacy of success

One of our very first examples of the masculine archetype, i.e. protector/provider, fathers teach us about success, safety and relationships. We learn from them what it means to be a man or a woman.

Because their influence typically begins in early childhood when our brains are still forming, it becomes imbedded in our mental circuitry and largely unconscious. It affects our achievements, our income, and our success in love.

As Father’s Day approaches, we have a valuable opportunity to reflect on our father’s influence, shine a light on our habits and consider whether we want or need to transform our father story into something more empowering.

Fathers influence us in three different ways: 


Through our interactions with our father we determine our worthiness, lovability and capacity.

Sometimes even minor events can leave a huge impression. For example, I was very close to my father during my first 2 years of life. I felt loved and nurtured. However, he was an army officer and, in my second year, he was transferred to Japan. We became separated at a very vulnerable stage in my life. I felt abandoned, betrayed and unsafe. By the time we were rejoined several months later, I had already lost trust. Using a 2-year old’s limited reasoning, I decided to take control of my life. I became very resourceful at pleasing others in order to insure that I got what I desired.

My father, I soon discovered, liked to play hero, so one of the patterns I acquired was damsel-in-distress. When I broke my toys, he would fix them. He could be my hero and I could feel loved. Although charming in childhood, this dynamic has unfortunate consequences for an adult. It puts your happiness in the hands of someone else, and leaves you disempowered. Self-sufficiency and self-confidence are the trade-offs.

What about the relationship with your father? Did you feel loved? Was he nurturing, over-critical, indulgent, authoritarian, absent, protective, passive, overworked, distracted, or physically or emotionally abusive? Each pattern leaves its own imprint. Unfortunately it is very hard to get fathering right, particularly when most fathers are operating from their own father wounds. The point here is not to bash Dad, but rather to clarify his impact so we can make better choices about our habits and beliefs.


Modeling is another way our fathers teach us how to operate in this world. Their behavior speaks volumes. It teach us what is effective and what is not. Depending on our personality and the nature of our relationship, we may follow in their footsteps, surpass them or rebel. Sometimes it is some combination of all three as we struggle to find our way, while never completely breaking free of their mold. 

We also pick up on the emotional content beneath our father’s actions and words. If Dad is fearful, dissatisfied, or self-critical, we absorb that information and allow it to color our perspective of the world. Limiting beliefs about life and how to survive are often passed down from generations to generation by example alone — unexamined and unconscious. 

My father was cautious and hard working. He never had big dreams. Although he accomplished a lot, he worried about being enough. When I earned my Ph.D. in Sociology, he shared with me his embarrassment about not never getting a college degree.

What messages did you pick up from your father’s behavior about success and happiness? 

Interaction with Mother

The way our father interacted with our mother has important ramifications for our own relationships. If our father showed love, support and encouragement toward her, her feminine qualities are more likely to be valued by us. If he was dismissive, degrading or emotionally or physically abusive, Mom’s feminine attributes will seem unworthy as well as unsafe.

One of my clients loved her mother and felt a lot of resentment toward her father. Yet, when it came to her behavior in work and love, she modeled herself after her dad rather than her mom. He had the power in that relationship and mimicking his power enabled her survival.

Dad’s treatment of mom teaches daughters what to expect from men and sons how to behave toward women. Unconsciously, we often replicate our father’s relationship with mom in our own relationships even when it causes struggle, conflict and unhappiness. We do this because it is familiar and feels normal, and because we don’t know any other way to be.

What relationship legacy did your father leave you? How is it working?

If you would like to make some changes in your life and love, to break from your father’s success legacy, the good news is that you can.  

Below are some actions steps that might help.


The first step in changing a father’s legacy is awareness. You must always start from where you are. You might begin by reflecting on your relationship with your father. What are the first memories that come to your mind? Are they positive, negative or mixed? How do you feel inside when you think about Dad? Do you feel love? compassion? anger? hurt? sadness? Keep exploring your feelings. Discover where they reside in your body. Give them your attention. Feelings are your entry point into your father story. What did you like? What did you dislike? What would you like to change?


In order to grow beyond their legacy, we need to forgive our fathers for their shortcomings — even if there was abuse. Holding on to resentment and anger only hurts us. Healing and empowerment come through forgiveness. The first action of forgiveness is simply to decide to forgive. For more about the forgiveness process go to my blog  Finding Forgiveness.


Once you have forgiven your father, identify the gifts you gained in being his child. What did you learn from him that serves you. How has his behavior made you stronger, more resilient, more sensitive or aware. Even the worst fairytale villain has a part to play in the development of the hero/heroine. There is no growth or change without challenge. If you have difficulty with this step it is likely that you have more forgiveness to do. Go back to step 2.

It is not easy to heal our father’s legacy. It takes time and practice. According to Albert Einstein, you cannot solve a problem from the place where it was created. You must first change your position. I would like to offer you some assistance in activating this change. 

Schedule a Discover Your Challenge Introductory Call.

Schedule now

Dr. Peticolas reframed my problem in a way that helped me see what I had done, why I was messed up, and, best of all, what I could do about it.
— Carol Pearlman

The key to your success is in your hands. What are you waiting for?

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Dr. Michelle Peticolas is a national speaker and expert on the topics of loss, emotional wounding and unresolved grief. She has a Ph.D. in Sociology and over 18 years experience coaching people through major life challenges.

If you’re ready to shift into a whole new way of being with death and loss, a new way of living your life, get Michelle’s complimentary illustrated guide, Essentials for Grieving Well at


Speak Your Mind