“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
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.
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.
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!