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Discovering the lies behind limiting beliefs
So, you’re a liar?
I once heard Terri Cole (check out her book “Boundary Boss”) telling a story about how she realised she was a liar. She was late for work because she slept in. When she got to work, she said she got caught in traffic. Her therapist pointed out to her “so, you are a liar.” Shocked by this judgement, she increased her efforts to become a more truthful person.
So, who hasn’t done this, right? For some reason, we feel the real reason we are late (or whatever) is so shameful, we have to make up a completely different reason to excuse ourselves. Why is it less shameful to be caught in traffic than it is to accidentally sleep in? Maybe because of blame culture and the stigma against having a healthy amount of sleep, but that is discussion for another time (see blog: Who need's sleep?).
“I can’t come in to work, my body feels like lead”
I thought about this A LOT. When I called in sick because I was feeling utterly exhausted and unable to move, it was difficult to say it like that. “I’m sorry I cannot come in to work today, my body feels like lead.” It didn’t feel valid enough. Once I had a diagnosis of migraine, it was easy to use that as the reason for my absence. But if I were to be really honest with myself 1. I never actually had to give anyone a reason, I could just say that I was sick and 2. exhaustion is also sick. What I didn’t know then, I was really suffering with the somatic effects of depression.
I think as we find it difficult to express our “sickness” because of brain or mind issues, our body sometimes helps us out by giving us bodily symptoms, so that people on the outside can better understand, or rather more easily accept that we are suffering. Headaches, bellyaches, diarrhoea, etc. are tangible symptoms. Being physically and mentally exhausted, or overly anxious doesn’t meet with the same level of understanding.
I stopped lying
So, one day, inspired by what I had heard from Terri Cole, I decided to stop lying. I stopped saying “I’m fine” when I am not, I stopped pretending to be joyous or “fine” with something when it in fact either bored me or I hated it, I stopped laughing at jokes I thought were shit. I decided to stop giving people what they wanted to hear. I stopped pretending to be interested and I stopped saying I had migraines when in fact, I was plain exhausted.
Martha Beck tells me that when we remove the lies we tell others, we start to uncover the lies we tell ourselves and the lies that we have lived with throughout the years AND BELIEVED. This can be a very freeing process, but it can also be very painful.
I was already telling the truth when it came to turning down invitations or requests. “No, I cannot manage that”, “sorry I don’t have the energy”, “I’m sorry I do not want to do that, it isn’t my kind of thing,” etc.
As a general “Yes”-person and well practised self-abandoning people pleaser (see blog: Boundaries), when I started to do this at work, things started to shift. People, bosses, colleagues did not react well to this honesty. Saying “I cannot manage” many times and even using specific requests for help, brought me what felt like more rejection as a person and more pressure to function. It was as if these new words fell on completely deaf ears, which in turn lead to my utter breakdown and removal of self from work situation.
What lies within
Uncovering the lies and finding the truths behind them really brought me forward in my healing. After extensive training at the Center for Mind-Body Medicine I learned to be more authentic and not to hide behind lies. I found lies buried deep in my psyche like ”I am lazy”, “I am stupid”, “I cannot do anything right”, “I don’t deserve to be treated well”, “I don’t deserve the best in life”, “other people’s needs are more important than mine,”,”I have no right to ask for what I want” etc. etc., so many lies.
One by one they bubbled up to the surface and I was able to look at each one and ask myself where I had picked this up from and how to get rid of it. They are things I have picked up over a life time of conditioning in our patriarchal society.
The constant need to prove myself NOT to be lazy; by overdoing it and working like a dog for FAR TOO LONG, thinking someone will notice, which would in turn prove to them, me and the world that I am NOT stupid and CAN do things right.
It was very difficult to shift this pattern. Even though I desperately wanted to, I somehow could not stop myself from continuing to work too hard, overstretching myself to the detriment of my health and well-being. These beliefs were firmly anchored in my unconscious mind and as Martha Beck tells me, that unconscious mind is pretty much running the show.
I hear awareness is half the battle, some even say 80% of the battle, which is great, because I am really tired of battling. Now when people ask me how I am, I will tell them the truth. If they don’t want to hear it, they will soon turn the attention to themselves. But with this new way of being and acting and talking, I have made some magical connections with people. When one person puts their hand up and says they are suffering, it encourages others to do the same. We slowly all get the courage to remove our masks and show our imperfections.
I have been really impressed with the results I have achieved by taking these baby steps. It is one small step towards authenticity and integrity. I have started to connect with other people on a completely different level, which is a truly beautiful thing. Totally worth it!