Finding Strength to leap into new possibilities
The other day I saw the movie The Post. Now I don’t want to get into the movie’s politics nor do I want to discuss current politics. What I do want to discuss is Kay Graham’s (played by Meryl Streep) internal struggle and her personal growth. I want to discuss how the circumstances of our growing up impacts our own expectations of ourselves. How terrifying it is to even contemplate stepping outside of what we believe about ourselves. And how amazing we are when we find that moment of bravery to break new ground and try a new direction.
As I first watched the movie, I became frustrated with Kay Graham’s indecision and weakness. “Just decide already” I yelled in my head. Then I really thought about when she was; when the movie was happening. The Post is set in 1971. Now I don’t remember 1971 because I wasn’t even born until the year was more than half over, but I know from history that what was expected of and accepted from women was very different then from today. The character Kay Graham was in her 40’s in 1971. Which means she grew up in the 1930’s and 1940’s. She grew up in a time when women (particularly rich White women) were taught from birth to smile and look pretty and to “defer to their betters” (who were all men). Not only was she never given the responsibility of momentous decisions, she was taught she was incapable of them. In that light, her struggle became not only more understandable but also more amazing. She was asked to make a decision that could bankrupt her company, un-employ hundreds of people, and even possibly put her in federal prison. Despite all of the limits that she understood of her own ability, she stepped off of the clear path of who she knew she could be and forged ahead onto new ground. Amazing! It made me cry. Not because she finally made “the right” choice, but because she found the strength within to make HER RIGHT choice.
The circumstances of our growing up has a profound impact on who we understand ourselves to be. We exist within the world within the limits of ourselves as we understand them. If we are raised to understand ourselves to be smart and brave, then we act in the world with the internal understanding that we are smart and brave. Doing something brave or smart is actually easier for those of us with this internal understanding of ourselves. If we are raised to believe that we are bad or worthless, then our default way of acting within the world will be from the place of understanding that we are bad or worthless. When that individual has the audacity, strength and bravery to dare to dream that they can be more than what their growing up has taught them they are, that person is AMAZING! Their doing something smart or brave takes so much more, is so much harder, and thus is so much more inspiring! It is for this reason, I do this work. I know how hard it is to take that chance and dare to dream that you can be more then you were taught to believe. And I love being a part of that process. I love that they are so brave. I love that I can help make it less hard and more successful.
My blogs usually include pointers, tips or steps to help someone move forward in their healing process. In the spirit of that precedent, here are 5 steps to help someone who is facing that moment of needing to dare to believe that they too can be more then they know themselves to be.
5 Steps for Leaping
- Breathe: Every time I have had to make momentous choices or risk stepping off that cliff, I have held my breath. When we are so stressed, some part of us seems to think that not breathing will help. Which just makes no sense, we must breath to think clearly, we must breath to have energy to act, we must breath to live, so not breathing seems really counter-productive. Despite that, we hold our breath. So, notice your breathing. Are you breathing? Are you breathing slowly? Deeply? If you answer no to any of these questions, Take a deep breath in, slowly, through your nose. Release it slowly like a whistle.
Get your free Calming Breath Handout to learn more ways to help yourself calm down, chill out and feel more grounded.
- Be Kind: This is scary! It is hard! And it is okay that you are scared, terrified even. Don’t tear yourself down or beat yourself up just because you hesitate or are unsure. It may take time to actually take that step, you may regret it the moment you do. That is totally NORMAL. Usually my first thought after I take that leap is “What the F*@! was I thinking!!?” Look back at tip 1 and breathe. Remind yourself that okay to be scared, that it is normal to be upset and be accepting of those feelings and fears. Let them pass, they will.
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- Prepare: There is often stuff that you can do to make this decision less scary. If you are a numbers person, then run the numbers. If you need facts, then learn the facts. If you need stories of others succeeding, then find them. If there are steps that can take, take them. Careful though, sometimes preparation is actually procrastination. Some delaying may be necessary (building nerve) but at some point it becomes avoiding – pay attention for that transition. If you find yourself procrastinating, ask yourself why. What is the advantage to this delay? What am I trying to achieve? If it’s just that it’s scary… see step 4.
- Do It: Taking that step, making that decision, stepping off that cliff will never feel safe or easy. Don’t wait until it does. But there will be moments when you feel more capable, stronger, braver, or just a bit less terrified; that is when you need to go. Remind yourself that it’s okay to be scared, that you may feel regret or anger after you’ve leapt, and that those feelings don’t mean you made a bad choice (just a scary one).
- Enlist Help: If you’re struggling to become more then you were taught to believe you are, it can be helpful to enlist support. Have you got supportive friends or family? Involve them. If not, or if you want more help than they have to give, I recommend hiring a therapist. Helping people make these kinds of changes is what we excel at.
When we don’t pay attention, we will live in the world within the limits that we understand we have. We come to understand our own limits or expectations from our childhood experiences. What we come to believe about ourselves is not necessarily accurate. Daring to step outside of your own expectations of yourself is scary. It takes guts to take this huge step, and you may doubt your own ability to do this. These fears and doubt are not proof. It is possible to overcome the limitations and beliefs about yourself that you learned about in your childhood.