On my first day of Kindergarten, my teacher had drawn a huge map of the United States and put it up on the wall. She gave each student a push pin and instructed each of us to put it in the place we were born. Adorable, right? It was intended to be, that is for sure, but for little Jessica, this was a far from pleasant “get to know you” activity. In fact, it was devastating. Because I was not born in the United States. See, my parents both served in the United States Air Force and I was born 6,000 miles away in Germany. A fact about me that I have actually grown to appreciate, but 4-year-old me had not arrived at that conclusion yet and stood with a push pin and no where to pin it. My teacher felt awful and the very next day came back to school with a map of Europe so that I would have some where to put my push pin. Those maps stayed on the wall the entire school year and what was intended to be a delightful activity and then a correction to that activity served as my very first memory of a limiting belief I have held for my whole life.
I think we are a product of our experiences. In fact, I think that our experiences layer over each other to create the lens through which we see the world. The problem with that is that our lenses are generally not super accurate. In fact, they are usually not accurate at all. But we believe these things to be true and proceed into our lives and the experiences that follow by seeing the world through that belief. For me, a limiting belief that I struggle with is “I do not belong” and the story above is a strong memory of a time that I really felt like that was true. I could also share a million more memories that I believe speak to this idea that I don’t belong. The time I made JV cheer when all of my friends made Varsity. The time I got fired from my first coaching job. Even something as simple as the time I took a candid photo with some friends and I was the only brunette. Don’t worry, I will save most of those for my therapist.
Why is this important? Because we are a product of our experiences! So, when we go into a situation with our limiting belief lens in front of our face, it directs the way we behave. It changes how we interact with people and it can elicit emotions that are a direct result of a perception caused by that limiting belief.
Let’s get back to my example. A year ago, I would have told you that I have always felt invisible. I would have told you that I have always had gal pals who were brilliant and beautiful and who stole the show. I would have told you that I was pretty “Plain Jane.” I would have told you that there is not that much special about me. And the worst part about all of that is the fact that I 100% believed this to be true. But it is not. It is not true at all. The reality is that if I felt invisible, it is actually because I made myself that way. In both word and behavior. I gave away credit that should have at least been shared with me. I dressed in muted tones and did my best to fade into the back of the picture so that no one would notice me. My friends are brilliant and beautiful in any number of ways, but I was the one that allowed their shine to block mine because I stood behind them-not because they stood in front of me. When I began to get a little bit of attention, I did what I could to sidestep it or deflect it. And I did it all because I didn’t want to stand out too much just in case someone noticed that I did not belong there. In that group, at that event, in that job, the list goes on and on.
Limiting beliefs are strong but they are not so strong that they cannot be challenged. Think about it. If your best friend said to you some of the things that you say to yourself, how would you react? My guess is that you would be willing to use all the energy you had to try and convince her that this thing she believed about herself was simply not true. You probably have a million reasons that you would use to back up that argument. Ideally, I would love to tell you that all you need to do is start having that conversation with yourself. Tell yourself that what you believe is simply not true and provide all of the millions of reasons that back that up. But it is not all that easy. In fact, you probably just thought to yourself “but I don’t have any reasons so it must be true.” So, I would like to propose a challenge to you. I call it Notice and Consider.
Notice when you are speaking to yourself in such a way that you would never, ever in a million years speak to a friend. Notice what you are saying. Notice how you are saying it. Notice what you are feeling and where in your body you feel it. Notice what you are thinking. Just notice.
Consider the idea that something else besides what you believe could be true. You don’t need to commit to whether it actually is true. Just consider that there is another possibility.
You are not qualified enough for that job? Is it at all possible that you have some skills that would benefit the team?
You are a terrible Mom because you didn’t go to your kid’s field trip? Is it at all possible that watching a working Mom is actually empowering your kid?
You are not a good enough woman because you are choosing not to have children? Is it at all possible that you are inspiring others to live authentically into themselves because you are?
When we notice and consider, it causes you to stop for a second and evaluate. When you stop and evaluate, you may be surprised what you come up with. For me? I will no longer let my sparkle be dulled because I am choosing to stand behind someone else who is also shining. There is enough of that to go around.