Don’t Believe Everything You’re Told

“Crying is a sign of weakness.”

“Keep quiet and don’t rock the boat.”

“You’ll never get anywhere if you don’t get good grades.”

These phrases are examples of the myriad of (unhelpful) messages we’ve heard along the way in life. They’re not truth; just opinion. And you know what “opinions” are, right? They’re like armpits – everyone has them and some of ‘em stink!

But when we’re young and vulnerable, we hear all kinds of messages that begin to shape what we believe to be true about the world. These messages can end up morphing into beliefs. And all of a sudden, we become adults and see the world through a particular filter that we’ve created. Often times, this filter doesn’t align with what we know is right, and the old beliefs get in our way. They get in our way of success, of relationships, of living authentically.

I see it come up consistently in my coaching work, and I’ve got a couple examples of my own that I’ll share with you.

Funny moments from my tomboy phase

Michelle & The Boys

When I was a kid, I went through a “tomboy” phase. There was a short period of time where I wanted to be a boy. Basically, I thought boys were cool and I used to dig playing with miniature motorcycles and the games that appealed to my little boy buddies. I was never interested in the frilly girl-stuff which generally included Barbies and unicorns. I dressed like a boy and had my hair cut like a boy.

One funny experience was on my first day of first grade. The night before, I had been skateboarding with some new boys in the neighborhood. We had a great time and bonded instantly, which kids do so well. The next day my mom said I had to wear a dress to school (which killed me!), but I did everything I was told, so I put on the dang dress. But I insisted on wearing my basketball shoes.

Michelle Larson 1st Grade

I walked into class with my lunchbox, and at the front of the room was one of my skateboarding buddies I had met the night before. In shock, he pointed his finger at me and announced to the whole class: “HA HA! He’s wearin’ a dresssss!!!”

OMG, that kid really did think I was a boy. Nice way to start first grade!

The other funny first grade incident happened when my mom and I were in the grocery store check-out line. As the woman in front of us was loading her groceries onto the conveyor belt, she turned around and looked at me with dreamy eyes. Then she looked up at my mom and said: “My, what a hunk of man you have!” My mom responded by petting my head like I was a lost puppy and retorted back: “No, she’s my pretty little girl!” Ha!

Can we say “embarrassment”?

I hope you’re laughing. Anyway, I quickly learned that there was a “right” way to do things in the world; a right way to be, a right way to act. And my tomboy phase wasn’t kosher. I remember getting in trouble for it once. I learned that my way of expression wasn’t appropriate.

Rather than communicate my creativity and unconventional way of playing as a kid, I gathered that it was important to “fit in” and to do things the way you’re supposed to. I especially learned that I should be a ‘nice’ girl. And so these beliefs became embedded.

If you don’t have a good voice, sit down

Fifth grade came and it was a special day as the music teacher visited our classroom. She was there to talk about music and what an honor it was to use our voices by singing. “I love to sing,” I thought to myself.

The plan was that all of the class would stand up at their desks and sing along with her. And the teacher would then go around the room and select students to participate in the choir. She explained that she would let students know if they should sit down; the remaining students still standing would be a part of her group.

I don’t remember the song, but I do remember my excitement as this fancy teacher with a skirt and high heels came closer to my corner of the room where I stood at my desk. “I’m going to show her my best voice,” I thought, and really put emotion into my singing.

Michelle Larson 5th Grade

And then it came.

The music teacher quickly tapped me on top of the head, which was the signal – and her way of saying, “Thanks for playing, but you can sit down now.”

I was crushed.

It was then that I learned you either have a “good” voice or a “bad” voice. While the music teacher never used those words or said that those of us sitting had a “bad” voice, I deduced that if the students standing were “good” singers…I must be “bad.” And so the belief became embedded.

How we’re impacted as adults

I work with my clients to examine those old beliefs when they show up. Quite often, it turns out that those old messages have been way under the radar and, unbeknownst to my clients, have been hanging out in their subconscious, blocking them in their journey. Those old beliefs run rampant! Thankfully, I have my own Coach to help me work through my old beliefs.

In a previous post, you may have read that I’ve been quite the rule-follower much of my life. I still work hard to bust out of that! Today, while I very much enjoy being a woman, I still LOVE hanging with the guys and all of Bill’s old college buddies. And you might still catch me dressing like a tomboy.

One of my favorite “guy” moments includes Bill and me partying in a hotel room with six of our guy friends before a Who concert. Upon walking into the room, we were invited to enjoy the “pizza buffet” in the corner – several boxes of pizza arranged and displayed on top of the ironing board. No napkins in sight, so it was either use my jeans or the bedspread (I chose to keep my jeans tomato sauce-free!). The evening was complete for me when a cop knocked on the door and told us to keep it down. It was fantastic!

I also love to sing. Right now that includes belting it out in the car by myself or at a concert among thousands. But my secret dream is to try out karaoke in a real setting. I did try it once at a friend’s house and there were four of us, so at least that was a start!

What you can do

Following your joy is about being undeniably you. When I think about the times I am purely me – ditching the old beliefs and letting go of the old messages I once received that are no longer serving me – that’s when I feel my best; that’s when I feel most alive.

Any time you catch yourself operating under an old belief, assumption, or idea – stop. Check-in with yourself to make sure the belief is one that is true for you. If it resonates with you and feels right in your heart, great – keep moving ahead. If there’s something that doesn’t quite feel right, though, identify the underlying belief. Ask yourself “What’s a new belief I’d rather adopt that feels more like my truth?”

For example, my old belief tells me I should dress a certain way. Recently, I had the opportunity to completely challenge that one at a funeral, where you’re “supposed to” dress up. I felt most like myself and most true to my heart wearing jeans that day, so I did. The funeral was for a former high school counselor, and I knew that he would be smiling down on me, as he was one of my biggest cheerleaders who always encouraged me to be me. It felt so good to replace the old belief (gotta dress up) with the new way of thinking that supported me fully (wear what feels best).

What do you think?

What about you? What are old beliefs you took on when you were a kid that you’re still working to bust out of? You may want to take the time to jot down a list of beliefs that no longer fit; that no longer serve you. The first step to moving past an old belief is acknowledging it and saying it out loud. You can bet that you are not alone!

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25 Responses to “Don’t Believe Everything You’re Told”

  • Barb says:

    Thank you for your authenticity- your comments were unbelievably helpful to me!

  • Jeff says:

    Thanks for today’s blog post! Here are a few of my truths based on the messages at the beginning:

    –“Crying is a sign of emotional strength.”
    –“If you’re going to rock the boat, you damn well better know how to swim!”

    –“You could potentially become President of the United States even if you get bad grades.”

    Make it a great day!

  • Bill says:

    Nicely said! These are fantastic examples of how we absorb beliefs when we are children! I clearly remember the moment in 4th grade when I, too, fell victim to “conformity.” One short moment in time for me to absorb the belief, and then years and years to undo the damage….

  • Sandy Forseth says:

    I consider it “my homework” when I read your posts. They cause heart felt contemplation, re-evaluation, laughter, tears, etc. The saying goes “Everyone has at least one book inside of them.” When will you publish one? Clearly you have a gift of communication & coaching. Thanks for sharing! Sandy

  • Michele says:

    Great post Michelle! I can relate to all that you mentioned here and I love to sing for ME. I love how it feels to listen to a really good song and get into it in every way. You are right on the mark about how important it is to do what brings us joy. If we focus on what others want us to be or do, we’ll never be happy. Thanks for sharing your stories. I enjoyed them!

  • @ Barb: You are so welcome and thank YOU! Happy to know that the post was helpful to you. Appreciate you being here!

    @ Jeff: Amen! Right-on. Now those are truths that are real. :)

    @ Billy: Boy, am I ever glad that you don’t conform now! I love you absolutely and exactly just as you are. You are wild and funny, and you are the one who helps me to live boldly as an adult. I don’t think we could have more fun together!

    @ Sandy: Really? WOW! How cool is that that the posts here are like homework for you. Love that. And it inspires me that you are committed to living a great life! Please know that your cheerleading has lifted me today and helped me to step back and ponder that “book.” Yep, it’s in me. And the encouragement from you helps. Thank you so much! You’ve made my day today.

    @ Michele: Thank you. And of course I was reminded today of the bold move you made when you posted a video of yourself singing on FB. SO brave! I believe we are meant to sing. I like how you said we’ll never be happy if we focus on what others want us to be or do. Amen! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • The self-limiting belief I’m still trying to dismiss is the notion I’m not good enough. I have struggled with self-confidence my entire life. Though it’s getting better, I’m looking forward to the day when I feel worthy to have what I want.


  • Michele says:

    What a great post, Michelle! I think we create some of our own beliefs too that served us as children but no longer serve us as adults. Beliefs about what we have to do to be safe, worthwhile, and belong. (This is an Adlerian concept I learned at Adler Graduate School.) Like the belief that I have to earn love. That I have to be perfect to matter. The changed beliefs: I am loved as I am. I matter just the way I am. Or just: I am loved. I matter.

    One of my counseling clients had the belief that men must be pleased and that women serve others. Yikes—that’s a difficult way to live! She was able to avoid a really bad situation after identifying and working to change this belief. She had developed this belief in childhood—it was a survival mechanism that made total sense in her family of origin but no longer served her as an adult.

    I agree with Sandy about the book in you. I would love to read it. Or hear you sing it! ☺ Also, I love the opinions are like armpits analogy. Thanks for another great post! And for the idea, Sandy, to consider Michelle’s posts as homework.

  • Lance says:

    I love that you have shared very personal examples of what this has been like in your life…and how you have moved beyond them, too.

    I completely agree – we shouldn’t believe everything we’re told. And yet…it’s so easy to come under that spell (even when we believe otherwise). So, Michelle…thank you so, so much for writing this – and for writing in a way that speaks very much from personal experience. Today…that helps me as I stop and look that the beliefs I have…and question them a bit more…

  • Love it, Michelle! What fun it is to unzip one ill-fitting attitude coat after another and find out you’re pretty darn cool just the way you are!!!
    I say yay to the little girl in the boy’s skateboarding clothes!
    Peace and love,

  • @ Alex: Thank you so much for sharing your struggle here. What you say is such a normal, ‘human’ thing that so many of us continuously work on. God made you absolutely perfect and worthy of all the wonderful things that life has to offer. Not only are you good enough, but you are someone I strive to be more like. You are a bright light in the world, and you are making beautiful ripples in the lives of others through your wisdom, your inspiration, and your encouragement. You inspire me, Alex! And you are perfect…just as is. :)

    @ Michele: That is brilliant! You are so right-on that we create some of those core beliefs, ourselves, simply so that we can survive and be safe. And you are encouraging me to think about what those beliefs are in my own life that I have (unknowingly) fostered on my own. Appreciate the thoughtful comments, Michele, and I’m happy to know that you’d read my book, too!

    @ Lance: You always have the perfect way of sharing what’s on your heart. Thank you for the sweet comment! Glad to know the personal experiences were helpful – I figure we can all learn from the individual journeys we are each traveling. Thanks for your friendship, Lance – you’re amazing.

    @ Joan: Here’s to the ‘unzipping’ and the notion of freeing ourselves. Kinda ties in with your book, huh? We think alike. Thanks for your kind words!

  • Loved the pics and stories, Michelle! Those years are so formative and our peers and parents are so influential. And like Bill said in his comment, it’s amazing how one pivotal moment gets etched into our minds and takes years to erase. Great post!

  • Robin says:

    When I take pause enough to stop and read your blog, it is like a drink of the best feel good potion you could find. I smile, laugh and awe. This blog is so true and real as I know I have worked hard to “unlearn” some of the things I have been told and replace them with my own truths.
    Great Blog. You shine.

  • Kim Lampe says:

    There were countless times I was mistaken for a boy in elementary school. So much we can do to accept ourselves and others.

  • Rock on!
    More pizza on the hotel sheets and jeans for everyday wear,
    I say!


  • Connie says:

    Another empowering and inspirational post Michelle. I am working to try to break those old ways of thinking…tough work but well worth it. Kudos to you!

  • @ Liv: Thank you, friend. So nice to have you here and have you “get” what I’m sayin’. Appreciate the feedback!

    @ Robin: Wow! Your kind words have completely filled my heart – thank you so much! Know that you’ve filled my office with sunshine. :)

    @ Kim: Welcome to the club! Yep, acceptance is certainly key. And foundaional.

    @ Jen: You crack me up. Love that you picked out the sheets and jeans to comment on – funny! Your comment is short, sweet, and right-on!!!

    @ Connie: Your feedback means so much to me. Thank you! And yep, it can be tough work (for everyone – no one is exempt), but the work always leads to a more full life. Cheers!

  • Keith says:

    Hi Michelle,

    I think it is so cool that you’ve illustrated these principles through real life examples. That just really “brings it home”!

    It is easy to be living life under the constraints of erroneus beliefs, and not even realize it! This has certainly been my experience. Your post has got me thinking (which is a good thing!)and Im examining to see if any other such beliefs may be holding me back.


  • I was touched by this post. You are so right about how truths, even if they are false, are established deeply in our core.

    I found myself clenching up when I read your story about the music teacher. I am a musician and just recently gave a workshop titled “Music for All, and All for Music”. It was specifically for teachers and how they should embrace each child’s innate musical ability and embrace it. The adult teachers in the class had many stories on why “they no longer sing” many that reflected your very own.

    I encourage everyone to take your wonderful advice, challenge some of their beliefs that have been holding them back, and embrace their new joy!

    I really enjoyed reading this….thank you!

  • @ Keith: Hello and welcome! Thank you so much for reading the post and leaving a comment – I appreciate it! Happy to know that the post got you to think; it’s always good to pause and re-evaluate to make sure we’re living life as ‘on purpose’ as possible. Look forward to checking out your blog! :)

    @ Jen: Hello and welcome to you, too! Thank you for listening to my story – it feels good to be heard. Wow, I LOVE the work you are doing…important stuff for each of us to embrace the music inside. The world is blessed to have you sharing that message! Thank you so much for your encouragement and kind feedback. Will be checking out your blog, too! :)

  • Cindy says:

    Always an inspiration. I always have so much to think about after reading your blogs. I too, have tended to be a rule follower most of my life. I can certainly relate to the conformity thing as children. Try going to a school where there are 6-8 kids in your class and you are the smartest of all of them but not as “pretty” or “wealthy” as some of the other girls. I tended to get excluded from things and I can tell you, that attitude still rears it’s ugly head every now and then and it’s not pretty. I think of the beauty and wealth that I have today in my life and am so grateful. I try every day to help my children realize their full potential in whatever THEY want to do. Although being only 1 and 3 it’s not that tough! I will continue to do this as they get older and they will never be able to say that they weren’t loved and honored for who they are. Thank you for sharing your personal stories. I think you’re great- tomboy or girlie girlie!! You’re beautiful!

  • @ Cindy: Yay, I’m so happy to know that the blog posts give you something to think about! I appreciate you sharing your story here – I really believe that every time we share a piece of ourselves, we help ’empower’ others to share their story as well. Yeah, I can only imagine how those old feelings still occasionally surface, even though the experience is a part of your past. Your children are SO blessed to have you as their mom, encouraging them and cheering them on. To be loved and honored for who you are…is the greatest gift ever. Thanks for joining in the conversation, and for the love. :)

  • gina says:

    Great reminder! Thanks!

  • Lorena Dunn says:

    Great reminder! Thanks!

  • Lynda says:

    I love your first grade stories! Your little first-grade feelings were hurt, so I couldn’t laugh … But those are the kind of memories we all have – some hurtful, but oh, so CUTE! All I could do was smile and say, “Awww.”

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Michelle Stimpson: Editor/Writer

Michelle Stimpson Hi and thanks for visiting - so glad you're here! This blog is especially for cool people who want to experience joy and live a life of purpose. Welcome!

Here you'll find great stories that will inspire you and remind you that life is good, and there's an abundance of joy all around us. Simply put: When you follow the things in life that make you come alive and bring you joy...the magic begins to unfold.

Start by checking out the "Best Of" page and be sure to consider subscribing above. Thank you and cheers to joy!

Michelle Joy Stimpson
Executive Editor & Writer
Life Coach, LifeShine

Bill Stimpson: Partner-In-Crime

Bill Stimpson Hi! Not only will you see me “show up” in many of Michelle’s stories and posts here, but I also serve as Michelle’s editor, helping her clarify intentions and make her posts shine.

One of the great joys in my life is being involved with this blog! It’s a constant reminder for me to focus on the things that bring me joy. It also feels great to be sharing so many of these joys with you - in hopes that you, too, will find ways to focus on your own joyful experiences.

Here's to an abundance of joy in your life!

Bill Stimpson
Hubby & Associate Editor

The Parent Company

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