Monday, July 21, 2014

Motivation Monday| Stop letting the beliefs of a child run your life

I attended a seminar years ago, that opened up my mind to several powerful life lessons.  I'd like to share one of these lessons with you today. Maybe someone can benefit.  The seminar lasted two very long days.  Early on, I met an attendee who about 6 foot 5 inches tall and was probably a good 50-75 lbs over his ideal weight.  Since he had height on his side, the extra weight carried pretty well relatively speaking.  But overall, he was still the biggest (not the fattest) guy in the room.

During the conference, we were asked to share our thoughts (regarding the topic at hand) with a partner. This guy, let's call him Dave, just happened to be sitting next me. My first observation when I turned to him was how approachable he was despite his intimidating size. Dave smiled a lot and appeared very friendly and likable.  The more I observed him, the more I picked up on Dave's body language.  It seemed like Dave tried to (subconsciously) shrink himself by the way he slumped his shoulders in and took as little space as possible in the tiny chair he was sitting in.  I interpreted his demeanor as wanting to accommodate for my small frame so I wouldn't feel so inadequate sitting next to him.

The day went on and we were asked to form a group with those sitting close by, I noticed the same passive behavior from Dave. In fact, his personality & confidence seemed to shrink even more when we were part of the larger group.  I'm sure no one was observing him like I was.  His behavior was peculiar to me because his actions were in direct contrast to his outward appearance. It was like he was trying compensate for his size by doing whatever  he could to make himself appear smaller. He even spoke in a tone that was lower than what you would expect from a man of his size. Throughout the conference, attendees are invite to come up to the microphone to share their past struggles and subsequent breakthroughs they experienced as a result of the conference.  Near the end of day 2, Dave went up to the microphone, stood confidently and began to share his epiphany.

Dave recalled a time when he was around 10 years old. He was at a school function with music, snacks and dancing.  Dave was always the biggest kid in his class.  At this function, Dave wasn't looking where he was going and happened to back into the table that displayed the drinks and food, knocking everything to the ground.  Suddenly, the entire room (it seemed) was laughing at him, calling him names because of his size and clumsiness.  At that moment, Dave (as a child) made the decision that being the biggest guy in the room was "bad" and he had to do everything in his power to shrink himself.  He's lived with that limiting belief for over 25 years.  As I stood in the audience, listening to Dave's story, everything I observed earlier made complete sense.

But I also noticed something else, while standing at the mic, Dave's voice resonated throughout the room. His stance was broad and confident.  Dave had come to the realization that he allowed a child to make a decision for him that impacted his entire life. He then chose to let go of that belief and allow his true self to emerge.  If he hadn't visited that seminar he probably would have continue to "shrink himself" for the rest of his life.

Dave isn't alone. We've all made lifelong decisions determinations based on the assessment of a child (our younger selves).  I decided that dogs we scary and would have avoided them until the day I died if it weren't for my husband who brought home a pit bull puppy (against my will).  Today, that way of thinking no longer exists because, as a rational adult, I came to different conclusion about dogs than I did when I was 7.

We all have a slew of fears, beliefs, conclusions we've made about ourselves (and others) that we hold on to because we were experiencing it from the mind of a child.  If Dave would have knocked over the table as an adult, I don't he would have changed his whole being from that day forward.  He simply might have apologized and moved on.  Things happen.  As children, we made a slew of assumptions about ourselves and others based on the meaning we created from the experience.  If someone calls us stupid, we take it as gospel and begin to let that way of thinking become a reality.  If someone calls us smart, we take it to mean that we have to be perfect and become perfectionists. If someone abandons us, we think no one will ever love us. Someone makes a comment about our hair or skin tone and we forever believe that we are unattractive.  Whatever the case, I invite you to take a moment and run through your list of fears and beliefs.  Ask yourself, are these real fears based on my rational adult mind or were they generated by the mind of a child.  Would you let a 9 year old come up to you today and define who you are & who you will be for the rest of your life?

Maybe nothing comes to mind for you at the moment but the next time you tell yourself that you are afraid to speak in front of others, think back to see if this is a rational fear or something created from the past. Challenge every fear, every flinch, EVERYTHING YOU BELIEVE ABOUT YOURSELF.  We evolve. Carrying around 20 year old beliefs is so limiting and useless.  After so many years of holding on to a perception, we become comfortable with it and avoid letting go.  But the truth is we can create new definitions of ourselves on a moment by moment basis.  We have to redefine who we are daily or those deeply ingrained beliefs will forever hold us back.
  1. This is awesome. I'm wondering if we'd gone to the same forum I'd taken a few years back, Landmark. I just remember having a similar experience, but again, you've broken it down much better than I :).

    My "crutch" from childhood has always been the belief that I was stupid. I tend to get really uneasy in uncomfortable social situations with people I haven't yet deemed "good" people and I'll tense up and make it visible to whoever I'm interacting with, in turn making that person uncomfortable.

    I see my 13 year old daughter doing the same (it kills me) and so I've been fighting hard to acknowledge and push through the fear as opposed to letting it control me. It's a battle but I'm prepared to win it. :)

  2. Wow, this quote really spoke to me: "Would you let a 9 year old come up to you today and define who you are & who you will be for the rest of your life? " I also love the idea you shared about human beings ever-evolving and redefining ourselves as we progress instead of limiting our identity to how we perceived ourselves at one point in time. Definitely an inspiring and thought-provoking post!

  3. Hi Frenchelle! Yep, this was at the Landmark Forum. It was a pretty interesting experience.

  4. Excellent post. I find myself trying to break out of my comfort zone also. I am so timid around strangers, I hide my intellect so as to make others comfortable. I hide my shape to make others more comfortable. I feel like I am almost ready to rise up to who I am supposed to be it's just letting go of all of the reasons I am this way in the first place, being so darn considerate of everyone else, but not my own feelings.

  5. Excellent post Nadege! Parents also have to be careful of what they say to their kids coz kids carry those things both positive and negative into adulthood and let it define them.