I remember 30 something years ago sitting on this exact red carpet (it was a lot cleaner back then😄)... Gaze swirling across the pattern of the vines, hoping they could lead me out of the moment... Biting my teeth to hold in the tears... Arms clenching my knees tightly to my chest... I wanted so badly to just be strong for her... I wanted so badly to just be what I thought she wanted me to be... I wanted so badly to just be enough.
"No pain, no gain," came her voice from above me with conviction, in recognition of my quiver, as she tugged the bristles of the brush through my knotted hair. It was not the first time I had heard it. And it might not seem like an important moment, and maybe it wasn't, but at the time it felt like it was and so, it became.
She was everything I admired, idolized, wanted to be, and I took from her reaction that tears are weakness, that pain is permissible, that my emotions aren't valid, and that true strength is to choke down my tears, bite my tongue, and pretend to be okay.
And maybe it wasn't so important... But it felt like it was. It became important to me to become the kind of person who could take it. It became important to me to be strong enough to withstand pain. It became expected that no gain could be earned without some hurting. And it became automatic to hide that hurting as best I could.
So much so that as I sat in much the same way brushing my six-year-old's hair this morning, I almost said it. "No pain..." I began and I caught myself. It wasn't what I wanted to say. "I know it hurts," I quickly modified, "Is this any better? I'm going as gently as I can and you will be okay."
"No pain, no gain."
How many times has the voice in my head echoed that phrase? How many times could I have remembered to be a bit gentler?
And what have I created from it?
How many times have I believed my emotions meant I wasn't strong enough? How many times have I struggled to prove myself by burying or denying them? How many times have I drawn in pain as a method to achieve something? How many times have I ignored my needs and stayed too long waiting for that gain to manifest itself? How many times?
It's a part of the thought patterns that kept me playing small for so long. It's a part of the thought patterns that kept me from speaking out about later abuse. It's a part of the thought patterns that led me to believe I deserved it... That I had to suffer if I ever wanted to get anything good... That I had to withstand if I ever wanted to prove my worth.
And I know she didn't mean it that way. She just meant that you can't get pretty hair without brushing it through, and yeah, sometimes that hurts, but you live through it. She meant that sometimes we have to decide what something is worth to us. That is true. That isn't what I made of it. We seldom have the discussions to really explain what we mean to say. And we seldom have the voice to question what we hear. It leaves a gap in our understanding. And sometimes it's necessary to go back and acknowledge that.
Limiting beliefs are formed in the first seven years of life. They aren't based on what was actually said or what actually happened or what was actually meant by it. They are based on the interpretation assigned by a mind too young to fully understand. And yes, a simple interaction like this can make a big impact. The early mind in it's id stage of consciousness, doesn't see the whole picture. It doesn't see beyond itself. Everything is interpreted as what it must say or mean about you. (Sometimes our adult brains do that, too🤔😉)
Limiting beliefs restrict our actions which then effects our results and poor results then further validate the limiting belief. I have to be strong so I can't show how I feel. The fact that I feel makes me weak. I'm not strong enough to handle this without feeling, so I avoid it. And the fact that I'm stuck here is further evidence that I am not enough. Seems dramatic for a hair-brushing experience, I know. That's kind of the point of this post. This belief has been fed and began to show up in bigger and bigger ways over the years until it had major effects on my life. Every moment is up for interpretation... it does not matter how big or small.
Every moment is significant. Whether you are performing surgery or making your coffee right now, how are you interpreting it? Are you judging your performance, holding yourself to an expectation, and looking to prove your own doubt? Can you remember to be a bit gentler and allow yourself to show up as you are?
What beliefs are holding you back? And how can you recognize them?
To change a limiting belief you have to shine a light on it for what it really is. See it. Own it. Acknowledge the unfavorable result it's getting you and recognize the error in it. Be committed to becoming more aware of when and how it's coming up.
Yes, sometimes we do gain from the processing of pain, but not from the pain itself. The gain comes as we process our growth through allowing our response to whatever is. Pain, though it is sometimes a part of that process, is not a requirement.
To be honest, I've been working on this one for decades (it's a shoot off of "Life is hard")... And it came from more than one source, but this morning was the first memory I had of this old hair-brushing adage. And I could've been mad about it, but instead I'm grateful that I can now reinterpret this one. This awareness gives me another layer to work through, and I'm ready for it. It doesn't come up nearly as much as it used to and these days I have a lot more ease in my life, but I'm still growing. And that's okay. Allowing yourself to recognize when a thought is repetitive and not working for you is your first key to creating change.
That little girl is still in there, trying to hold it together and prove her worth. To acknowledge what she is looking for and what she thinks she has to be to get approval, allows me to be gentler with her. It allows me to adjust the expectation and support her growth. It allows me to say,
"I see that it hurts. What can I adjust to make that better? Let's move gently. Let me know if it's too much, and we will be okay."
What do you tell yourself under pressure? Is it true? And is it helping you through or keeping you stuck in it?
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