What if they were simply, and only ever, a form of self-protection?
What if forming those kinds of early beliefs is actually a very normal part of the human condition, and an inevitable response to the way we are wired?
Here’s what I mean:
We are all born seeking love and belonging – it’s how we evolved, it’s hard-wired into us. Back in the day, we needed to belong in order to survive – getting kicked out of the tribe used to mean certain death!
“You need to Change”
At key points in our development, the messages we received from parents, authority figures and society, were that we needed to change ourselves in order to be accepted.
“Do this. Don’t do that. Nice girls don’t. Good girls do. You’re too loud, too quiet, too pretty, too plain, too fat, too thin. Too much this. Not enough that. Who do you think you are!?”
These messages, often well intended, created unconscious beliefs that it was not safe to be our true selves.
And, because of our innate need for safety and belonging, we adapted our behaviours and personalities, to ensure those needs would be met.
The message we internalised was that who we really are, is not acceptable.
As part of our natural response to this conditioning, we made secret, unconscious pacts with ourselves to keep all of our ‘not enoughness’ hidden away, at all cost.
Even when that cost included sabotaging our own success.
One foot on the accelerator, one on the brake
It makes complete sense that we would respond this way, when our primitive brains believed that exposing our true selves posed a real threat to our survival.
In the book, Immunity to Change, (Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey), the authors describe this self-sabotage as feeling like we’re driving a car with one foot on the accelerator, and one foot on the brake.
This is such a great metaphor, and I don’t know about you, it’s one I completely relate to!
It looks like going full steam ahead with an important goal or project, then applying the brakes in one of a number of ways. And thus undermining our progress, and success.
The brakes might manifest as procrastination, not taking enough action, hiding, deferring to the opinions and approval of others over trusting ourselves, people-pleasing, weak boundaries, etc.
Our lack of progress builds frustration, and we despairingly wonder why the hell we can’t get out of our own way, and just get on with achieving our goal, already!
And instead of having compassion for our completely natural response to self-doubt, we berate and shame ourselves for our perceived failings.
This behavioural pattern then serves to reinforce the negative self-image we hold about ourselves. And on it goes.
Can you relate?
But what if we’ve been operating under false assumptions, all along?
What if nothing has gone wrong?
What if our brains are simply and efficiently doing the job they’ve been wired to do?
What if the self-protection mechanisms our younger selves deemed necessary for our safety, are no longer needed?
What if that was the memo we never got?
What if we, as grown adults, can take over the job and responsibility of keeping ourselves safe now, and release those formative beliefs?
What if those beliefs were never true to begin with? (Spoiler: they weren’t)
What if they were simply a normal part of the human experience that nobody ever told us was not a permanent state, and certainly not a reflection of our worth as a human being?
What if there’s nothing we need to fix or change or prove, because we were born enough, our worth is inherent, and there’s nothing anyone, including us, can ever do to change that?
What if the only thing wrong with you, is your belief that there’s something wrong with you?
What if this is the secret to life no one ever told us about?
What if our only job now is to lovingly and compassionately thank those beliefs for keeping us safe, and gently release them?
What becomes possible?
You are, and always have been, a perfectly imperfect, lovable, human.
You belong – first and foremost, to yourself.
Have a great week.