After I wrote the letter to myself, I was thinking about my own perceptions of what I could and couldn’t do.
Yesterday, for instance, I talked about my surprise – shock, really – when I realized how strong I am physically. I discovered my strength when I first started working out regularly in grad school.
Why was this such a shock?
Because years ago, I resigned myself to the idea that I just wasn’t athletic and hated working out. I placed myself into a certain box, and I didn’t even challenge the role (probably because it was self-created and ran deep).
I reasoned that I don’t look like a person who works out. I don’t know the first thing to do. I don’t belong in a gym. I don’t have muscle. I don’t have long legs.
There were so many don’ts that honestly I can’t even remember all of them.
All I know is that they regularly swirled in my head.
I think so many of us place ourselves in these unbreakable bubbles. We create ropes, restraints, stereotypes and non-expectations for ourselves that tie us down. (Or expectations of failure.)
Maybe you think you aren’t creative, so you avoid trying a new project. (You are.) Or you’re also not active, so you sit and stay miserable. (It’s more likely that you haven’t found a physical activity that you enjoy.)
Or you just aren’t assertive or strong, so you let others walk all over you. (The story of my life; by the way, being assertive and setting healthy boundaries are skills, which you can practice.)
Maybe your personas center around disordered eating (or negative body image, anxiety or the diet mentality). You’ve resigned yourself to the fact that you’ll just live this way; you’ll never recover.
But, in reality, it might be that you need to see a therapist. Or your last therapist wasn’t the right fit for you. Or they didn’t specialize in disordered eating or your other concerns. Or you needed to be in therapy longer and focus on getting better.
There’s a host of reasons to explain why you’re still struggling.
But when we stand in our own way, we also stop ourselves from finding out those reasons. We just stop, and do nothing.
Whatever your self-created (and inaccurate) persona, it can easily prevent growth and even healing. It can prevent you from having fun, from seeking new opportunities, from enjoying life.
Turns out, I might not be a marathoner (though I don’t know, I haven’t tried), but I’m great at physical practices like Pilates. And when I was really into running, I also did well and enjoyed the challenge.
Now, I work out regularly. It’s great for my head, my heart and helps me feel super strong.
Every time I exercise, I shatter a bit more of my limiting beliefs.
When I first really started exercising with a trainer in grad school, with his help, I was able to leg press over 300 lbs. That felt powerfully freeing. It was a proud moment. A moment that slowly started disproving my self-created persona.
And once you strip away your limiting personas, I bet the same will happen.
What personas have you created that paralyze you? How have they held you back? What will you do to challenge yourself?