thanks to good meds and my kind inner parent — the one that dotes on me, says “pace yourself, honey”, and smiles when i write myself a pass — i’m back. instead of drifting quietly into the night, i embrace the gift of living out loud and in color. thank you for standing by, asking about my progress, holding me in the light, and taking time to open and read the next article in a mini-series based on the Choice List that i shared in December. i appreciate you!I choose to release limiting beliefs.
We don’t want to change our minds. [But] it’s a skill, an attitude of those who are successful and happy … the goal isn’t to find a better path; it’s to find the bravery to change your mind.” ~ Seth Godin
I need a lobotomy. The DIY kit, of course.
Once upon a time I courted this macabre notion — in jest. Mostly. It seemed the only way to disconnect my feelings from my intellect. I moved through life feeling deeply, a problem repeatedly pointed out as I grew up. Eventually, I took over scolding, chiding and shaming myself for the problem.
Convinced that my feelings needed fixing, and failing repeatedly, a lobotomy made perfect, if rather sick, sense.
I did not understand the difference between changing my feelings (unbidden emotional responses) and changing my mind (world view/beliefs). If you like shock therapy and psychotropic drugs, you may alter your feelings. But if you’re willing to work with counseling, reflection, and brave honesty, you can change your beliefs.
Beliefs underpin every action I take and inform the way I understand myself and my world. Some beliefs are positive: Honesty really is the best policy. You are what you eat. Most people look best fully clothed. And some beliefs serve for a time but not forever: I need a 9-5 job. We should be a two-car family. I know what’s best for my children.
Many of my beliefs — deeply ingrained notions of what life should or shouldn’t look like, how love behaves, the value of happiness, what forgiveness means, and much more — have formed a claustrophobic cubical around my life.
Some of these beliefs have camped out, unarticulated, unexamined, and unchallenged for years.
Working with a therapist (aka compassionate witness), I started examining my beliefs. I didn’t realize that’s what I was doing, but looking back I see that parsing out my beliefs formed the bulk of my work with her. It wasn’t pretty. I emptied box after box of Kleenex. Sometimes, I physically locked up, paralyzed by the process of examination. Never mind how painful the belief, it was MINE! What would happen if I let it go? Who would I be without it?
Over time, I began facing long-held beliefs. In the process of seeing and naming them, I updated some and let go of others that stifle growth or create barriers between me and my divine calling. My list is long, personal, and always under review, but these may resonate with you.
a limiting belief about myself —
I am too sensitive and must fix how I feel. As a child I learned that tears are troubling. Fall off the swing and sob: all right, there there. Now be more careful. Scary shadows of the boogeyman under the bed: it’s only your imagination. Stop being unreasonable! Distressed by a disapproving look: turn off the alligator tears. I said stop or I’ll give you something to cry about. Too loud, joyful, giddy? Don’t get so worked up. You’ll make yourself sick. Stop drawing attention to yourself!
I tried to fix my feelings in my personal life. Develop a thick skin, avoid setting myself up for disappointment, suck it up, settle down, and just stop feeling this way. I weep over loss – a stranger’s or family member’s. I swell with joy for the woman ahead of me in the check-out line or my own daughter. Always feeling. Up and down with the flow of life. I tried to stifle myself. I armored up.
When it worked I felt nothing at all. I wanted to die.
I tried to fix my feelings in my professional life. I worked at a series of respectable jobs. I applied myself, did my best, got creative. But I felt my soul sink. The phrases like Bloom where you’re planted confirmed I wasn’t trying hard enough. Despite my best efforts, I am vulnerable. Like a bra-strap that slips off my shoulder in summer, my feelings often show in public.
I believed what I’d been told: you can’t trust your feelings.
Now I feel the feels — and they are a gift. Combined with intuition and inspiration, my feelings form my north star. The melancholy of Chopin’s Nocturno thrills me. Evening news sickens me. Light on blooming redbuds brings me up short. A hand-written note from my daughter breaks me open with joy. A cheeky email from the man-child makes me snort with delight. Ken’s smile melts me. And it is all good.
a limiting belief about other people —
Early in life I accepted the belief that the lucky community of like-minded folks in which my family lived, worshipped and worked 1) had special information about God, heaven, and how to live now so you could get there later and 2) each member of the community — including me — must get the word out to other people, fondly called “the lost“, so they could, whether they wanted it or not, be found and fixed.
The insular nature of the community meant I didn’t meet many other people. But I worried. What if I met someone like an atheist or a Lutheran and she tried to get me to go dancing? or offered me caffeinated soda and pot? What if I told her the special information and she laughed at me? The responsibility made me ill and afraid.
If I chickened out, I failed God who sent unsuspecting or even searching heathen my way for a hook-up with the truth. If I blew it… a life lost forever and all eternity. Such a failure also raised the question, “Will there be any stars in my crown?” Further agony for a child who knew that heavenly bling would be my only chance to wear flashy jewelry.
Beyond the simple belief that I’m here to fix people’s beliefs about God, I also felt compelled to
fix help people on other fronts as well. They should realize their potential. Fulfill my expectations. Dress more modestly. Become a compassionate liberal. And for gosh sakes stop pronouncing the silent “t” in often and say “touch base” not “touch bases”. To show others the error of their ways I used my charm, eloquence, reason, and the occasional dash of disapproval, shame and manipulation when necessary. You’re welcome.
Surprise, surprise. I attracted people who felt free to comment on my life and offer corrective input. They reminded me of my not-enough-ness in case I forgot. Now, if someone insists I must, should, ought to for my own good — I quietly step back.
Letting go of my fixation with fixing saved my relationship with my children and with myself. It opened friendship doors I didn’t know existed. Instead of finding ways to fix people I find ways to enjoy them.
Like flowers in the sun, everyone relaxes in the warmth of acceptance and enough-ness.
Tools for making this shift came in part from Byron Katie’s book Loving What Is.
a limiting belief about the divine —
As suggested in the section above, I believed that God depended on me for P.R. and recruitment. I was lucky lucky lucky to live amidst enlightened people with a corner on truth because apparently there’s limit to truth and who can be trusted to manage and dispense it. My tribe fit this profile:
Various religions also play the scarcity game, saying that you can’t have salvation except through their particular belief system and way of institutionalizing it. The scarcity mentality, the fear of not having what we need is part of the human psyche…it’s also a marketing ploy used to exploit our fears.” ~ Parker Palmer
Fear, scarcity, and I go way back. All of my limiting beliefs spring from scarcity and fear and a very narrow view of God. The shift in my thinking about God could fill volumes. For now, a special thanks to Robert Munsch, Anne Lamott, and Dallas Willard who is credited with saying:
God will let anyone into heaven who can stand it.”
Along with the ideas of these writers, I cherish a handful of liberating beliefs that are the antidote to scarcity and fear:
- love casts out fear
- grace and abundance flow from a loving, limitless source
- the divine sets each of us free for freedom
- it’s not my job to fix or save myself
No more jokes about that DIY lobotomy kit.
No more cubicle.
Looking at my limiting beliefs and deciding to update or let them go, brought me to this happy life. I work as an artist full time. I write. I explore and expriment with creativity. Friends continue entering my life. I trust divine abundance even when all material reality seems designed to foster fear.
I still stumble but sometimes it feels like dancing.
I choose the joyful practice of examining and changing my beliefs. I will continue to let the limiting ones go.
I am cheering for you and your brave journey. How will you change your mind?
Did you find this article helpful? Please share it with abandon. Thank you!
next time: pictures from the studio!