Each year, as I pour through the applications for my Mastermind, I see the same themes emerge again and again. The same frustrations. The same aches. The same desires for an expanded sense of freedom.
We are so similar. No matter who I speak with, it seems so universally frustrating is that the solutions to our challenges appear to be so simple (drink more water; meditate more; break up with him; tell her you love her; just focus) and yet we are so complicated (Why can’t I seem to stop eating? Why can’t I forgive my mother? Why can’t I trust men? Why can’t I just focus?). While the rules seem simple, we can’t seem to play by the rules.
Why is that? Why do we not do the things that will help us, and why do we do the things that are hurting us?
Self-sabotage! Of course. When we can’t find any other explanation, we blame self-sabotage.
But the truth is, self-sabotage doesn’t exist.
When you were a little girl, there were inevitably things that happened in your life that you thought were bad or scary. Perhaps your neighbor abused you, you got lost at the grocery store, or your parents got in a big fight. Even if the occurrence would seem commonplace to an adult, as a child it was deeply upsetting and painful. It was your pain, and you felt it deeply, not just for you but for the people around you. You vowed to never let this kind of thing happen again, so you drew some logical conclusions.
You decided things about the life…
Your abuse may have led you to decide to never trust men.
Getting lost at the grocery store may have taught you to cling to your mother.
Your parents’ fight may have had you conclude that love hurts.
You decided things about yourself…
That you were stupid,
Undeserving of love.
Even if, as an adult, you have a rational understanding that there are plenty of trustworthy men, and even if you’ve read enough self-help books and affirmations to have a rational understanding that you are lovable, there is an imprint in the deep recesses of your brain that says otherwise.
We all have parts of ourselves that are “frozen” at different ages, where emotional or physical traumas occurred. In other words, the decisions that we make in different areas of our lives are made by our 3, 6 or 8 year old selves. Sometimes in our lives, there is a child in charge. No wonder our choices don’t always make sense to our grown-up selves!
What keeps us stuck, making bad decisions, procrastinating and spinning our wheels is not self-sabotage but self-love. The child inside is desperately trying to protect us, and others, from hurt.
When we get angry and frustrated at ourselves for not “sucking it up” and “making it happen”, it’s like yelling at a small child who is just trying to help.
Imagine for a moment that you are a mother, sitting in bed in the morning. On this particular morning, you happen to be feeling really upset, stressed by all of your responsibilities and overwhelmed by the prospect of facing your day. Sensing your pain, your little girl goes to the kitchen and prepares you a bowl of cereal. Waddling down the hallway with her tongue sticking out the side of her mouth, deep in concentration, she brings you your bowl of cereal on a tray. As she steps gingerly, little arms shaking with the weight of the tray, the milk splashes out of the cereal bowl into the tray. When she arrives to you, proud smile stretched across her face, she presents you with a lovingly prepared, soggy mess.
Imagine that, seeing the spilled milk, you screamed at her that she’s always screwing up and making a mess. Frustrated and red in the face, you tell her to stop being so sloppy and stupid, to get it together and stop being such a screw-up. You let her know, with no uncertainty, how deeply displeased you are with her for constantly sabotaging your efforts to feel happy.
What do you think will happen to this little girl and her mommy? Most likely, they each will sink into deep self-loathing, feeling ashamed for being so thoughtless and stupid. The little one decides that her own mommy doesn’t love her because she is unworthy and undeserving of her love. The mother decides that life is against her, as she feels her own unworthiness and lack of love. The little girl vows to do anything she can to earn her mommy’s love back, and prove that she is good. They are sad, scared, and terrified to “make things happen” for fear of screwing up.
Now, imagine instead that, seeing the spilled milk, you look with joy and loving approval at your sweet little girl. Your heart soars with her act of love, and you hug her and kiss her and thank her for sensing your stress and being so generous and thoughtful. You validate her beautiful, pure intentions, and because you’re feeling lighter in your heart, you let her know that everything is, in fact, okay.
What do you think will happen to this little girl and her mommy? Most likely, they will each brighten into the experience of deep love. The little one decides that home is a safe and loving place, and that even when you spill milk, it’s okay. The mother realizes that life isn’t so overwhelming after all, and that when she lets love lead, there’s nowhere else she needs to be. They are love-filled and grounded, excited to “make things happen”, without fear of screwing up. In fact, the process could be pleasurable, and everything that truly needs to get done will get done.
I will say it again: When we get angry and frustrated at ourselves for not “sucking it up” and “making it happen”, it’s like yelling at a small child who is just trying to help.
When the child within is free to play, unburdened from the anxiety of having to prove herself to receive love, it’s because the parent within is lovingly in charge, confident in her ability to provide for her child and herself.
This is a major access point to your freedom: becoming your own loving, nurturing mama… Not because your mother didn’t do it right, or because she can’t be loving and nurturing, but because you are an adult, and you need ample maternal love.
In your maternal strength, you are a fierce protector and a gentle loving nurturer, not a military commander. You recognize that your insecurities and fears are coming from a sweet part of yourself that wants to protect you. You recognize that there is no part of you that is trying to “sabotage” you, and that it’s all coming from a place of self-love.
So what do we do when this “self-love” is keeping us from having the freedom we want?
1. Being radically loving, gentle and reverent of yourself is the place to start. What we resist, persists, and being frustrated with yourself doesn’t help you feel free.
2. Promise to give the Girl Within the patience, listening and love she deserves. When you feel upset or anxious, check in and listen to what she needs.
3. Step into the space of being the strong, loving adult in charge, and let the kid play. Once you know what that little one needs, satisfy that need so you can move forward with ease.
Here’s a meditation that I made just for you (and her):
DOWNLOAD INSTRUCTIONS: Right-click on a PC or Control-click on a Mac to open links in a new tab or save to your desktop.
—> In the comments below, I’d love to hear how this meditation touches your heart, and what you discover on the journey…