The stories we tell...
Over the weekend I was clearing out some boxes from our loft. I came across my old school reports and began to have a flick through them.
I was bowled over by the language that was used throughout, and from reading them I started to question just how much impact some of these words had integrated into my belief system.
I was a very vibrant child, full of energy, never sat still, and yes... my voice could often be heard above others. I think I felt that by being the loudest I would get more attention - and at times I didn't seem to mind whether that was negative attention or positive. I often reverted to acting like 'the clown' and really thrived from making people laugh - even if it wasn't always thought through entirely! It was exploration, natural curiosity and yes - at times I did push boundaries - but that is how we learn right?
I distinctly remember towards the end of my teenage years, suddenly becoming very aware of the sound of my voice, and a feeling that what I had to say was of no interest and that nobody would be interested in me. At the time I wondered what had happened to the outgoing and confident girl that I had once been, but I tried to make peace with that fact that maybe I had just changed and 'grown up'. In reality that girl had turned into someone who was self conscious and didn't really know where her place was in this world, and so began a journey with anxiety and worry.
Different learning styles
I struggled to learn by sitting still in a classroom if I am honest, I am not that kind of learner. I do better when I am interacting and the theme running through the school reports was that I needed to concentrate more - that I had the potential to do very well at school - I know I was bright and smart enough - but the learning methods didn't really serve me. I can see that now.
This in itself made me believe that I was not good at learning full stop. It made me feel that I wasn't capable of absorbing information, because the only way I had known to be taught things was to sit and listen, and I just couldn't take in the information that way. My response was to act out, to put on a performance, and find other ways to entertain myself - which obviously wasn't that popular with the teachers!
Perhaps subconsciously that was why I decided to work in a hands on job after school - with horses - and maybe that even impacted my belief about whether I was 'good enough' to go to university. It is only now, at the age of 35, that I have fallen back in love with learning again - but this time studying is a different ball game. I get to choose to learn about the things that I enjoy, and I get to learn in different ways, more interactive methods which suit my personality a lot more.
I really hope that teaching styles have evolved to offer more inclusive, varied learning methods now - because there are so many wonderful, creative, intelligent children out there that might, like me, just not thrive on the traditional 'sit still and absorb' style!
Recently I wanted to study some more scientific information about hormones and women's health to support the work I do with menstruation education, but the first thought I had was - 'I am not good enough at science to do that', and it definitely stems back to being graded at school in certain subjects, learning a curriculum that had been set by others because it was what I was 'suppose' to know.
This pattern has repeated itself over and over again over the years. This feeling of being average and 'satisfactory' (one of the common words in the report) at things and not really believing I had a skill or a particular talent in a certain area. I wanted to be a veterinary nurse at one point as a teenager, but gave up on that because I 'wasn't good' at the science stuff.
I doubted my ability to be a yoga teacher because of the fear around learning anatomy. I doubted my ability to teach meditation for worry that I couldn't explain the neurological information. This story that I am not capable of learning has stayed with me in so many areas.
The language that is used
One of the teachers had written in a report that a project had been 'disappointing', and someone else said that my 'interruptions' where a sign of no manners. I was constantly told I needed to be more 'mature'.
I was only around 12 years old, a child at that time, and I was still finding my feet and learning how to express myself - and of course during that process there will be some boundaries to cross and set up to understand, but these words, when I read them back, really felt like heart break and made me desperate to go back to Little Lauren and tell her that she was good enough.
To take her by the hand and say that she was worthy, and intelligent, that she could enjoy being young, and playful and curious, and that she would perhaps take a different, less academic path, but that path would be beautiful and exploitative and magical.
I was also told by a teacher once, after offering a contribution to a lesson, that I was 'neither use nor ornament'... those words have stuck with me to this day. My contribution was not deemed as valid.
Over time I began to listen to these words, subconsciously of course, and I learned to silence myself unless I felt 100% safe, and even then - I audited the words I spoke.
I started to become the person the world was telling me I 'should' be.
I started to lose myself.
Old beliefs and their impact
When I work with coaching clients, I cannot tell you how many times I am told that when they were at school they were told that they 'weren't creative', or they 'couldn't write', or they were 'not good' at a certain subject.
These words stick HARD and can cause major blockages to people when it comes to pursuing dreams. We have to work really hard to overcome these belief patterns. It isn't easy to unravel decades of believing that we are not good at something because a teacher, or another authoritative figure has told us.
Just as a note... please don't think I am bashing teachers - because I know there are some wonderful ones out there, and I was lucky that in some subjects I had really supportive, kind and encouraging teachers - unsurprisingly they were the classes I looked forward to the most, that I scored good grades in, and they were also the classes with the most interactive ways of learning.
I am sure things have changed in many ways, and I know lots of friends who are the most incredible teachers. And it isn't always teachers that give us these stories - inadvertently it could be parents, friends, siblings, or just society in general. I am just using my school days as an example for this piece of writing.
The power of stories
The power of some of the stories we are told in our younger years is incredible. We absorb so much between the ages of 0 - 6 years old - this is when patterns and subconscious behaviours begin to form. Beliefs that will stay nestled away in our mind for years and become an autopilot system. Think of them as a seed - they are planted and if you are told something enough times, then that seed will grow into a tree and take up a lot of space! This can be both powerful if it is a positive belief, but also have a hugely negative effect if it is a belittling mindset.
However, the wonderful thing about the mind is that we can begin to change the stories we tell ourselves.
Because they are just that - they are stories. They are things we have told ourselves over and over again, and yes some stories take longer to untangle from than others - because they have kept us safe and in our comfort zone for a long time - however I believe that these stories are what makes so many of us feel stuck around certain areas of our life, particularly our ability to choose a career or working life that really lights us up.
I went from a confident chatty teenage girl, to feeling like nobody wanted to hear my voice, to feeling totally anxious at social situations because I feared that nobdoy wanted to hear my contribution to a conversation. I wasn't interesting enough, I said inappropriate things (yes still do that but that is a part of me I see kindly now), I often spoke before I thought, and so to protect myself against any negative feedback, I stayed quiet. I retreated into myself and it has taken me years and years to see that for what it was, and even now I have to work really hard to feel confident in a conversation with someone I do not know.
Each time I do it though, I am re-programming my mind to a different belief system, one that is empowering and positive.
So how do we re-write these stories?
First of all by discovering what the stories are! Becoming conscious of what we tell ourselves over and over again needs a great deal of awareness, and this is where journaling has been really useful to me. It may also be something you need to do with a coach or a therapist if they are particularly traumatic or well planted belief systems.
When I meet resistance in my life I start to unpick it now.
What is it I am resisting and why? What is the over riding feeling? What am I scared of (because usually it is fear)? And what makes me believe that the fear will come true?
It might be really obvious straight away, or it might take journaling every day for a year before you start to piece the jigsaw together, but the answer will be there within you if you probe enough.
Once you start to understand where that belief stems from you can change the script using different language. You get to choose your new beliefs - how cool is that?
Whether you call this an affirmation, or a mantra, or simply a new story - you can begin to write the belief in a different way.
The old belief - 'I am not a good writer'
The new belief - 'I express myself confidently through my writing.'
The old belief - 'I am not creative'
The new belief - 'I find creativity in all the things I do'
If you can pinpoint the time in your life when this belief was planted, ask yourself what the 'younger you' needed to hear at that point instead of what they really heard. And tell that younger you those words, tell them the affirmation and the belief you want to grow.
I actually have a photo of me at primary school on my bedside table and I often tell her the things she needed to hear back then!
Once you have decided what the new belief is, there are many ways you can integrate it in to your mindset...
- Write it down EVERYWHERE so you constantly see it - think phone screen, vision boards, post it notes around the house, alarms on your phone, at your desk, by your bathroom mirror - wherever it will serve as a reminder.
- Breathe it in - a simple meditation to embody your new belief is to sit for a few minutes and simply breathe in your new belief, repeating it every time you breath. Literally welcoming it into your body.
- Listen to it - if you listened to the wonderful Chelsea Parsons podcast episode you will have heard her suggesting you record your affirmations and listen back to them. Using an app on your phone you can record yourself saying your new belief and listen to it for a few minutes a day.
- Speak it - saying your affirmation out loud to others, to yourself as you get ready in the morning, or even turning it into a little song to sing to yourself in the shower - drip feed it in and eventually your subconscious will start to listen.
- Yoga nidra - this deep restorative 'yogi sleep' works with sankalpa (intention) to tap into the subconscious. You can find amazing ones on Insight Timer, and I thoroughly recommend the work of Jana Roemer and Tanis Fishman on there.
Of course, this is a very basic way of starting to reprogramme your beliefs, and it may be that some of them are so deeply engrained you might find the support of an external trained professional beneficial, so don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
Living your new belief is one of the best ways to begin - truly living your life as though 'it already is'.
You are the storyteller of your own life and you get to decide what each page looks like. If you are not happy with the current storyline - then only you can change it.
Take hold of that pen with confidence, and start writing that new story today.
PS... please let me know if this resonates, supports you, or if you have any comments or feedback to add. I always welcome conversations to dive deeper.