Who were you taught to be?
A good girl?
A go-with-the-flow gal?
We come into this world as blank slates - BEAUTIFULLY unique and free. As we grow older, our innate nature gets conditioned out of us. Some of that conditioning is good, but some of it isn't. This conditioning affects our ability to live a healthy and fulfilling life.
We receive messages from our caregivers, schools, and culture, all with good intentions of helping us navigate the world and thrive.
But at what cost?
GROW UP, THEY SAY
My mom once said something to me that resonated. She said, “You are always all of your ages.”
Then why do so many adults, myself included, only act like adults? So many of us need substances like booze, weed, food, or company to dull our senses to feel free enough to connect with our inner childish silliness.
I guess that’s what the conditioning taught us.
Throughout our upbringing, we absorb codes that dictate what we should and shouldn't do. These codes serve us well, but they can't cover every situation in life. So, what do we do when faced with unfamiliar circumstances?
As adults, we're supposed to know the code for what's "right" and "wrong," but how often have you been in a situation where you felt totally clueless about how to react? For example, I have a friend who I used to be super close with, but within the last few years she hasn’t really shown up as a friend for me. When presented with the opportunity to see her, but it would be inconvenient to me, I wasn’t sure if I “should.” Was it that I wanted to, or did I feel it’s the right thing to do? At some point, we may realize that those who taught us were guessing all along. (Let’s face it, they TOTALLY were.)
Does that knowledge make us feel at ease or more fearful?
WHICH WAY TO GO
When I ask my clients, the answer I get most often is, More fearful.
But why? In a way, learning that they were guessing the whole time gives us permission to guess too. The problem is we’re so DISCONNECTED from ourselves that we don’t trust ourselves. We want to do it “right” but have no clue what “right” is.
We want to meet every situation we’re presented with head-on, with confidence, knowing our choice is the right choice, right? But rather than acting on our desires or drive by, asking for that raise, standing up for ourselves, or taking the first step on a weight loss journey we doubt ourselves, stress out, and spin around in anxietyland. What I’ve observed from my clients is that we do that because it’s our threat response.
We fear uncomfortable feelings associated with failure because they remind us of our childhood experiences. We link failure to feelings of unworthiness and not mattering. (If you don’t know how we add meaning watch this 2 min video).
But is having an uncomfortable feeling all that threatening? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge fan of feeling uncomfortable either. But what we’re talking about here is how we associate the uncomfortable feelings of failure to our childhood.
Think about a time when you tried to do the right thing. Maybe you tried to clean your room. But rather than go the “right way,” you found yourself distracted and played with your toys instead. How did your parents or guardians react? In some homes, parents express their disappointment by withholding their affection.
If that sounds familiar, how did that feel for you back then? Did it make you feel worthy or UNworthy? Valued or UNDERvalued? In those moments, did you feel like you mattered?
Most people I present this scenario to say No, instances where their parents tried to teach them a lesson by withholding love never made them feel good. So compare that childhood experience to your life today: Do you have a deep-seated fear that if you get it “wrong” in a social situation as an adult, you’ll be punished? Ignored? Ostracized?
This all might seem like a stretch, and as weird as it may seem, we may logically understand the difference in the scenarios from our childhood versus today, but our emotions have memories. They have a different understanding.
Most of us are genuinely afraid to feel uncomfortable feelings; whether that’s because we are afraid we can’t handle them, that we will get buried under them, or that we might feel worthless, most people I’ve asked have said they’d do pretty much anything to avoid feeling uncomfortable.
WHO ARE YOU
Buried deep down underneath all that fear of discomfort is something we all seem to overlook: the power WE hold to change it all. It’s a choice.
Choice is about free will, and we all definitely have that. So think about it this way: we can choose to stay comfortable or familiar in our patterns, telling ourselves we don’t know where to start or how to do the work to get to the bottom of our insecurities to free us from our discomfort.
Or we can stay scared to see what’s behind the door. Sometimes we get a glimpse of just how much we dislike our very selves.
When we stay buried underneath all the stress and fear of the unknown, of the work it’ll take to dig ourselves out of it, we remain disconnected from our most authentic selves, staying hooked on stress and driven by fear. Now, a lot of people do it, and you can survive.
But I gotta be honest, are we really settling for “survive” now? Maybe I'm greedy, but I want to THRIVE. So how do we do that?
We get to know ourselves. We reconnect with who we were as a baby. Ok, maybe not that young, I don’t remember being that little either. But I do remember my goofy side, the silly games I used to play, how wild my imagination used to be. I remember who I wanted to be and what felt natural, what felt good to be “me”.
So, that’s where our journey begins. Ask yourself, What feels natural? When you’ve lived hooked on fear and stress for as long as we have, we don’t trust our natural selves - we don’t even know that person.
But that authentic self is still in there, we get glimmers of her spirit. Maybe it’s in a silly thought, or the desire to do something a little different or new, but then fear promptly swoops in to convince us we shouldn’t.
HOW TO START
Start by listening and challenging:
Listening to your mind, but not attaching to the thoughts. Being able to witness the thoughts, and get curious about them.
Challenge the facts, challenge your feelings and ask yourself questions:
How do you know you feel that way?
Why do you respond to ____ the way you do?
What do you like about who you are?
What do you not like and why don’t you like it?
The way back to our authentic self is through observing and taking a personal inventory of who we are from the INSIDE.
The conditioning we received as kids was purposeful, but it was never 100% for you. You are not your teachers, you are not your parents, you are not your culture. The messages and themes are more like loose guidelines, besides laws of course. But the unspoken way of being that is “correct” or “expected” is bullshit.
Living according to some unknown hierarchy keeps you trapped, keeps you unfulfilled, leaves you always wanting more. not realizing what you are really seeking is feeling worthy, and that is achieved through getting to know yourself through your lens and deciding how you feel.
When you do this, there is no “right” and “wrong” there’s just you, being clear, making decisions not from some unknow code but from your morals and values. There’s you, having faith in yourself ultimately building unbreakable self efficacy.
You’re going to struggle either way;
Either by not knowing what’s “right” and living in fear and stress
Learning who you, and yes that includes uncomfortable things you’ll have to work through, to free yourself and embrace abundant confidence.
Personally I choose me!