I used to get irritated by the most trivial things. Like when someone cuts me off on the road to forgetting to pick something up at the grocery store. The worst are the things I had control over, but for whatever reason I missed crossing the ‘t'”s and dotting the ‘i'”s.
When this happened, my inner critic used to spin out of control, berate myself for either the mistake I made or for forgetting to do something.
And as I’ve worked on myself, I’ve learned to catch myself doing so and to let go.
The process begins with the awareness of my mental chatter. Forgiving myself for bitching myself out. Taking a few cleansing breaths. And then pivot the way I talk to myself as I would to a child in a kind, gentle manner. This has helped me tremendously to shift my energy from being negative to a better feeling place.
So for the past few years, I thought I was doing pretty good as I’ve been able to shake off my annoyance fairly easily.
Until recently I’ve been triggered a lot. And what I’ve discovered (or more like consciously became aware of) is a belief I’ve subconsciously been holding on to that triggers me to overreact in certain situations costing me to lose the internal peace and freedom I value.
My new revelation:
Being right has been more important than being who I am.
You see growing up, my parents expected me to be at my best. Looking back now, I know they just had my best interest at heart. They wanted me to attain the grades needed to be successful because that was how they were raised and taught. They would often say things like, if you get 100% on your next exam or win the speech contest we will reward you with something you’ll like or we’ll give you a wonderful surprise.
As a kid, I interpreted what they said literally. That I needed to be perfect and being at my best is having to get 100 % all the time. Of course, this is an unrealistic expectation. However, I didn’t know any better and every time I didn’t get 100%, my parents would ask what went wrong? Or how can I be better next time? Or say things like you didn’t study enough, you were lazy. You didn’t put your heart into it.
When they said this, I would find myself justifying to them I’m not what they think. At first I told the truth, I wanted to make them understand I am not lazy, the test was indeed hard and even though I only got 68% it was the second highest in the class, I don’t like playing the piano but you insist I take it. But they wouldn’t accept anything I said. We’d get into a shouting match where the conversation often ends with we are right and you are wrong. It is not good enough, we know you can do better, just try harder.
Since they weren’t going to listen and try and see my perspective, overtime I realize it was much easier to agree with them and say things they wanted to hear instead of trying to get them to hear me. I’d say things like you are right. Yes, I could have studied harder, practiced more. I’ll try harder and put more heart into it next time. I did whatever I needed to do to win the approval and peace I seek so that they would be proud of me for having ‘tried’ my best.
In doing so, I got into the habit of believing and accepting that in order to be worthy of love and acceptance, I need to agree with others. I conceded to carry this habit to please others instead of speaking my truth to avoid conflict.
Old habits die hard.
Recently, my mom was going on another rampage about how she thinks “whatever it is I am doing” (coaching and blogging) is going to be another wasted effort in my life. Instead of trying to explain and help her understand what it is I am doing, asking for what I really need from her (support and being openminded), I stayed silent and let her say her piece. Once she was done, I said that’s your opinion and I beg to differ and left the room.
I left feeling distraught and restless internally. My mind was angry, it was silently screaming stop thinking you know it all! Why can’t you be supportive for once? If only you knew the difference I’ve made in some people’s lives. Why can’t you listen to me just once without judgment? And then I’d ask myself, what’s holding you back from saying what you want to say? You know the truth, does it really matter, what mom thinks?
And as my internal battle continued on, I let it run its course as I dwell in the emotional discomfort. After a few days, the curtain started to lift. I realized what I’ve been doing all these years- holding myself back from not saying what’s on my mind has not been practical. Granted, it has served me when I was young. It saved my energy for a one-sided battle I was never going to win with my parents, but not anymore.
Let me explain.
You see by dancing around how I really feel, agreeing to others, not sharing what I really want, helps me avoid conflict.
On a deeper level, it’s been satisfying my need to feel I’m enough, I’m safe. Because the truth is I’m afraid I will be judged by my words. If for some reason I’m not able to live up to what I say I am going to do, I ‘believe’ I’ve been ‘programmed’ to believe I am a failure. I’ll feel I didn’t do my best to live up to my expectations of myself and what I’ve set out for others to expect of me.
Thus, subconsciously I’d rather be right and be able to manage what I do instead of let someone down and be criticized for not being able to fulfill my promise.
So all this time my ego had a hidden motivation. It was protecting me from needing to prove myself. It was giving me an out. It gave me an excuse to not take full responsibility for my life. My ego thought it was giving me the space and freedom I need to cover up my imperfections.
Ironically though, over time this motive only made me feel less at peace and free.
Because the truth is there’s nothing for me to prove. What gives me freedom and the feeling of peace is when I’m being my authentic self, not trying to prove anything. Just being me. Letting go of the fear of judgment, of the need to be right and the need to be validated by others. Allowing others to make their own judgments about me. I feel the most peace when I accept who I am and whatever ‘miss’-takes in life I’ve done instead of trying to compensate my self-worth to prove anything and make up for what has already been done.
This new awareness has freed me from dwelling in my stories and has empowered me to step out of my shell and go after what I want in life. Instead of resisting failure, I give myself permission to say and share what I want and plan to do in life. Leaning into my edge of discomfort, shifting my focus and energy towards what I can control and need to do to create and live the life I want. Surrendering what is out of my control to the universe to handle, knowing being right is not as important as being who I am. This sets me free.
Over to you.
What belief might have served you in the past but no longer serves you anymore? What can you do to rewrite your belief in a way that serves you?