THROW OUT THOSE LIMITING BELIEFS THAT NO LONGER FIT
Spring is finally here! I look forward to this time of year, like most people who live in northern climates. The snows thaw, temperatures warm and nature begins to come back to life. It’s time for the fresh and the new; and it’s also time to let some old things go. Yep, Spring Cleaning time! Pull out, dust out, clean out, throw out. Works great for our outer stuff. But what about our inner stuff?
Our inner worlds are also cluttered with old emotional habits and patterns that no longer fit. If we were to analyze our negative internal dialogue, for example, we would likely find that underneath all its layers lies a fear of some kind that holds us back from being or expressing our most awesome selves. The question is: how do you throw that fear stuff out?
STEP ONE: RECOGNIZE YOUR FEAR AND HOW IT EXPRESSES ITSELF
That’s not always an easy thing. The tell-tale, fear red flags are anxiety or worry. Our bodies are really good at carrying these signs. You might feel your stomach turning or butterflying; you might have a headache; you might feel down or like you’re carrying a heavy weight; your heart might literally ache a little or be beating a little too fast. These physical sensations are usually quickly followed by some self-talk, usually judgemental, mean and self-deprecating. Yep. That be Fear going on inside you.
Here’s a little story from my Life’s Safari to help illustrate. When I began Free Lion, I was making Vegan Leather bags (available through my Etsy Store. I still make them to order). After graduating from Architecture school, I had been a stay-at-home and then part-time working Mom. After my divorce, I had to focus on making a full-time living. I had always wanted to work for myself as an artist/artisan, selling what I made. But, I was broke and terrified, with no real confidence that I could run my own business.
When I sat to work at the sewing machine. I would feel that knot in my stomach and my heart would race a little. Then the thoughts would start. “You’ll never succeed. You think that’s even good enough? No one is going to buy that! Everyone is going to see you have no talent.”
I would argue with those voices in my head to hold them at bay while I sewed. This went on until I noticed that it was taking me forever to make a bag because I was spending more energy and time focused on fighting with the voices than on sewing. That was the day that I started questioning the voices in my head.
STEP TWO: QUESTION THE VOICES IN YOUR HEAD
I was working with a counsellor at the time who introduced me to Byron Katie and The Work, a meditative approach to opening to your heart’s voice and your personal truths. The goal is to be who you ARE, not what others think you SHOULD be. The process is not to simply replace a negative thought with a positive affirmation, a la Louise Hay or The Secret. It goes much deeper than that. It helps you become mindfully aware of your thoughts and the effect they have on you, so that you can change your relationship with them.
Most of us react in situations on auto-pilot, using stress survival habits we learned as children. Katie lays out 4 questions to ask yourself in the face of negative thoughts or fear feelings. My counsellor added one more, which helped me to stop taking on other people’s stuff by identifying which beliefs/thoughts were mine and which belonged elsewhere. Asking yourself the questions gives you a moment to slow down, witness, analyze, evaluate and choose how to respond. It takes you from reacting on auto-pilot to responsively using your own agency.
Here are Katie’s questions, plus the one more from my counselor. Sit with each question one at a time, in order. Go inside and listen for the answers that come up, paying attention to your internal dialogue, body sensations, etc. As in, "What comes up for you?" I found it useful to record my answers in a journal so that I could go back over them, analyze and re-evaluate.
So back to the story of me struggling at the sewing machine with vinyl and voices in my head. Care to walk through the Katie questions with me? Ok. Close eyes. Deep Breath. And then another one. And one more. Blow it all out. Now, take one more. Breathe.
The Statement under question,
"You’ll never succeed."
1. Is it true?
Hmmm. I don’t know. I’ve never run my own business before and actually, I’m just fricking scared right now.
2. Can you absolutely know it’s true?
Meaning do I have Actual Factual, tangible evidence that it’s true, that I won't succeed? Uh, well no. I guess i don't. I haven’t done it before so i have no concrete experience or numbers to prove I won't succeed. So it might be possible, right? I might actually be able to do this.
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
I feel sick, my stomach turns; i feel anxious, scared, like a loser, helpless, crippled, disempowered, unworthy, alone, kinda abandoned. Yeah. This sucks.
4. Where did you learn this idea?
Hmmm. My dad, rest his soul. He was a talented artist who wanted to be a graphic designer. In fact, in 1964 he was all set to start a job with an advertising firm in Nairobi, Kenya. Due to family circumstances, he had to join the family restaurant business. He quietly set aside his dreams, and never talked much about his own disappointment, or how he lived with it. He was, however, the voice of doom in all of our own career explorations. Sadly, Dad didn’t have a Byron Katie to help him out. But I do.
Ok, so this isn’t my own belief at all. I learned it from Dad. It's a limiting belief that comes from his experiences and fears. His idea of success was a professional career, not one based on craft or manual labour. I have professional credentials, but I haven't worked in architecture for 11 years. I'm behind on the career track. and the industry has become computerized. I would have to retrain, something I don't have time for. Besides, I would rather run my own business, designing, making and selling my own work.
I am not my father. I don’t have to listen to his fears and values anymore. I don't have to let them hold me back. "Thanks for worrying about me, Dad but I'm not a lesser person for enjoying designing and working with my hands. I am not a lesser person for not meeting your expectations."
This is huge! I can give myself permission to make another choice. I can work at wiping Dad’s broken dream from my inner dialogue, without shame or guilt; I can listen to my heart’s truth; I can shift my perspective; I can focus on bringing my own dream to life, one step at a time. And if I get stuck, I can ask for help. Hell Ya! A hallelujah door just opened up in the sky (cue choir of Angels)!
5. What happens when you believe something else?
When I believe that success is possible, the way that feels true to me, I feel more relaxed, grounded, capable, determined. While I am looking at a mountain to climb, I feel scared yet excited, hopeful. Maybe I WILL be able to do this after all. Woohoo!
STEP THREE: CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE
The beauty of this process is that you can CHOOSE your own beliefs, your own feelings, your own adventure. You do not have to be weighed down by beliefs that are the projections of someone else’s broken dreams or expectations. Nor do you have to be wracked with guilt for not living up to them. It doesn’t mean that you won’t ever feel fear or have limiting beliefs ever again--you will. But now you’ll have a method to face each one, break it down, shift your perspective and choose something else.
Did you notice that the answer to the question involving my Dad was the longest of all the answers? That’s not an accident. The stuff that we inherit from childhood is actually the most complex stuff to dismantle and throw out. But it is possible to do. Just go slowly, layer by layer. And be kind with yourself.
Just remember that you were born with abilities, predispositions and talents written right into your DNA. That’s your nature. How you are raised and taught (that's Nurture) can sometimes wreak havoc with your inner balance. So, it’s down to you to honour your own nature and nurture yourself back into wholeness
STEP FOUR: FLY!
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
How do you overcome fears? Do you have a process that works for you?
READY. SET. SPRING! CLEAR CLUTTER, SET GOALS, PLANT SEEDS
Spring is a time of New Beginnings. Historically it was a time for celebrating sowing seeds, fertility, renewal and hope. But what does marking this season-change look like in the 21st Century, when our lives are not as driven by agriculture and planting cycles? Spring is a great time to examine the year just passed, to clean out the old, then re-evaluate, plan, and germinate the new.
Last year I read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I was utterly impressed that the author was able to turn her OCD into a business and a best selling book! Of her entire de-cluttering methodology, the part that stayed with me is keep only that which gives you joy. De-cluttering is seriously underway in our house right now, using the “Joy Method”. When you clear out physical junk and mental clutter, you make room for new stuff and, more importantly, new ideas and new experiences.
RECOGNIZE, REVIEW, REPLACE
Spring Cleaning also extends to your inner world. Your thought patterns directly impact how you feel. In my self-evaluation, I realize I have a lot of thoughts that come up out of fears based on past negative experiences. I feel anxious when these thoughts overtake me. I do not feel joy or a sense of peaceful well being. When it comes to my thoughts, I have a choice. I can keep on in the same fear pattern and expect the same result. Or I can Recognize it, Review it and Replace it.
To do this, I Recognize my feelings and the thoughts that led to them. I give it a rest and Review, shut down that negativity, and review why I'm thinking these thoughts. What's the limiting belief that is giving rise to them? And then its Replace time. I use a variation of Byron Katie’s questions to help me shift perspective. About the fearful thoughts, I ask myself:
SET GOALS AND INTENTIONS FOR THE YEAR
Okay, so now you’ve cleaned out your junk in your space and in your spirit. It's time to germinate the new, some new ideas, new plans. My life partner Thom and I do this individually first and then as a team. We look at what went right and spend some time being seriously grateful and celebrating! Then we look at what was lousy and problem solve. We try to look at our lives holistically, at all the areas we need to pay attention to in order to experience a healthy, balanced, joyful life.
Then we make a dream board, a way to put on paper our intentions for the year. There are many ways to do this. You can Photoshop collage it, scrapbook it, cut out images from magazines, create Pinterest boards or (what we do) just write it out on a large sheet of paper, flow chart style. Our map hangs on the wall, as reminder, inspiration and compass for the year. We consciously shape our decisions and choices throughout the course of each year to make us more joyful, fulfilled and satisfied.
PLANT A GARDEN, MAKE SOMETHING
This is how I concretize my intentions to create. It helps me connect with the Creative Flow in the earth and within myself. Both can be meditative experiences that give space for that “aha” moment, or for the Muse to speak to or for the imagination to fly. I’ve had some of my best ideas in these moments.
So take some time this spring to celebrate the new life that surrounds you in nature, and to celebrate the wonder that is YOU. Dream your dream and take steps to germinate it into being. Life is a work in progress. It’s not about perfection; it’s about finding joyful balance.