I read a great blog post the other day about the damage we can cause with our hidden beliefs about who we are and how we should be. The author challenged his readers to identify some of their own hidden beliefs, and I wanted to share some of mine with you. Can you relate to any of these?
- There is one right thing to do in all situations, and I should be ashamed if I don’t know what it is.
- If I'm not experiencing love and happiness, something is wrong.
- "Down time" is really wasted time. My mind and body don't deserve to rest.
- I can't handle pain, rejection, or hard physical exercise.
- "Playing it safe" is an act of self-care.
- I shouldn't need reminders to breathe, focus, or be grateful for life.
- If I know the right thing to do, it should be easy to do it (and I shouldn't need help).
- Other people only pretend to like me. They really think I'm annoying and pathetic.
- If I hurt, judge, disappoint, or inconvenience people, I am bad.
- The more I give, the more inherent value I have as a person.
- Love and forgiveness have to be earned, and if I’m not perfect, I don’t deserve either.
As soon as I put them in writing, beliefs like these are no longer hidden, and they seem ridiculous. Really, I'm supposed to be happy all the time and never judge anyone and never make mistakes and do it all alone with no rest and no help or love from anyone else, under the constant threat of permanent rejection and misery? Says WHO?! In the light, I don't actually think ANY of these beliefs are true, for me or for anyone else. But when they are allowed to stay hidden, they are insidious.
I love the song Try, by Colbie Caillat, which is a great antidote to the "never good enough" messages that swim all around me. "You don't have to try so hard," she says. "You don't have to change a single thing." You just have to get up, and keep getting up, and practice being you, over and over again. (I took some liberties to paraphrase there.) The song is clearly written for women, so I'm not sure how it will resonate with you men out there, but I still think it's worth a listen. And if you know a song with a similar message that would be more appealing to men, please share it with me. I think this message is needed universally, and I'm not comfortable cutting out half of the population!
I spend a lot of time thinking about ways to help neutralize some of the nasty messages that hide within individuals and communities, and support happiness and human connection instead. These blog posts are a small part of that effort, as are my message cards and the workshops I've offered. I want to do more, though, and am eager to find allies who can help generate ideas, contribute resources, and fill in some of my blind spots.
This Thursday night (yes, just two days from now!) I am going to be holding a brainstorming session, where I will share some ideas for expanding the Gift of Happiness, and ask for feedback and advice. If you can't make it, there will be more opportunities to participate later on, but if you are available and can spare a few hours to get in on this conversation, I hope you will come!
In the meantime, despite what those hidden voices may whisper (or shout) from time to time, remember that you are a gift to everyone around you. Thank you so much for being in my life.