Yesterday I spent at least some part of my day lashing myself with the Whip of Shame (the W.O.S.). Why? Because I was not getting more done faster.
You are lazy. A slacker. A fuck-off. Undisciplined. You will not fulfill your mission.
I have been beating myself with the W.O.S. for not getting more done faster quite a lot over the last few months, ever since I uprooted my life, left a painfully stressful personal situation and moved across the country, where within five months I finished a book and launched a new website to promote it and my services. Right now, I am exhausted. My body is wracked with pain so that I don’t sleep well at night and I take naps throughout the day in between working.
To me, this feels like I am off my game, that I’m not getting more done faster.
Before I went to bed last night, I made a list of what I had done that day. With a couple other things I added on at the end, accomplishments along the lines of new habits I’m trying to cultivate – eating well, doing my PT exercises, not smoking – the list filled a page and then some.
I don’t know what motivated me to do this. I do know that when I started the list, I had classified my performance that day as “underwhelming.” When I finished the list, I sat back and I laughed.
Lazy? A slacker? A fuck-off? Undisciplined? Unlikely to fulfill my personal mission?
I do. This is the lie I have been telling myself forever. One of many.
When someone asks me what I actually do as a life coach, I say I hold up a mirror to my clients so they can see what I see.
Usually a client comes to me because they’re having trouble moving forward – from a divorce, into a new career, a new lifestyle, habit, whatever. They have a goal. What’s standing in their way is a limiting belief they have about themselves – their skills, their qualities and habits, their worthiness, their strengths, courage, capabilities and resources. Sometimes it’s a limiting belief about The Way Life Goes.
It’s my job to suss out the limiting belief so I can help them let it go. We look at the belief instead of taking it for granted as The Truth. We start by searching for evidence that supports it. Most of the time there isn’t any.
The lie that diminishes a client’s self-worth and impacts their life, often profoundly, is not only unexamined, it is barely conscious. Presenting simple evidence that exposes the limiting belief for the BS it is frees my client up to let it go. The more ridiculously untrue, the easier this happens.
Like many whose work involves supporting and inspiring others on their journey to wellbeing, I am not always as helpful to myself. But last night I was.
As I sat there, as surprised as my clients always are by the obvious untruth of a belief that stands in their way, I had to wonder about its origins. I didn’t have to think very long or hard. It wasn’t something someone else (a parent or a teacher, say) had said to me. I don’t recall anyone in my life, in fact, ever accusing me of being an undisciplined and lazy fuck off. I easily trace it back to an assignment in fifth grade. (IN FIFTH GRADE!) A report on India that I left till the last minute. I can still feel the panic of my ten-year-old self.
Still, I got it done and I turned it in on time. I think I even got a decent grade. But from that moment on, I believed I was an undisciplined and lazy fuck off and this became a deeply embedded and unexamined assumption I made about myself that caused me much undue stress as I have stood over myself at my desk ever since, yielding the W.O.S..
I realized last night that it’s time to examine some of the other beliefs I have that stand in my way, to search for the evidence, for example, that I am selfish and obnoxious. Wreckless. An attention whore. Headed for a bad end, living under a bridge in a refrigerator box with my cats and my lizard.
I know that what evidence exists for these beliefs, too, will be scant to none, but these lies I tell stand in my way. They shut me down. They make me feel small and ashamed. They make me hurt all over. They make me tired. What they don’t do is uplift me, inspire me, strengthen me, or help me develop more faith in myself.
That shit stops now. These lies have to go.
What lies have you been telling yourself? Take a few moments to examine them. Search for evidence that they are true. You will be surprised.