If you’ve been following the blog, you know that my money and infertility issues have been rearing their ugly heads this Fall. I knew in my heart that they were connected, but until last week, I didn’t understand why.
In my Friday “therapy session” with my peer coach and best friend, we were discussing how these old patterns of behavior sometimes aren’t even ours – they’re patterns we learned from family or friends that seemed to “work” so they stuck.
As we discussed her struggle with wanting to be a stay-at-home mom v. a career-focused woman of the millennium, it dawned on me that I too had some interesting notions of what be-ing a woman actually meant.
Like many women in my generation, I grew up in a traditional household: mom stayed at home, dad made the money and was rarely home. Translation: women are in charge of bearing and raising the children and men are in charge of providing financially for the family. Combine that with my generation’s focus on women being career-minded, and you’ve got an interesting conundrum – for both of us.
On the one hand, women are supposed to stay home and raise the kids; but on the other, women are supposed to be career- minded and pursue their dreams in the boardroom. No wonder so many of us fall victim to the Superwoman Syndrome! So when you find that you can’t (or don’t want to) do it all – be a corporate superhero in my friend's case or be a mom in my case – you feel less than.
The really interesting (translate: warped and twisted!) thing is what our brains do with this information. Upon learning I was infertile, my subconscious decided that if I couldn’t bear children, I had to prove my worth by working (do-ing) more and provide financially for my then-husband. Every time I faced another failure in our efforts to have a child, I worked harder and longer to earn more money to “prove” my worth as a woman. At the same time I resented the fact that my ex didn’t work because that was a “man’s job!”
Of course the real issue is the fact that I feel I have to “do” something to prove my worth to begin with; that I am not a person of worth in and of myself. Once again, I chalk that up to socialization. During my childhood, I was praised for my good grades and other things that I “did.” I know this was an effort on my parent’s part to instill a good work ethic in me. (Mission accomplished.) But like many Superwomen/People Pleasers, I began to believe that my worth came solely from my ability to “do.” Be-ing wasn’t enough because be-ing implied you weren’t do-ing anything. That was lazy. And I certainly didn’t want to be called lazy.
So how does one break old patterns?
- Realize they exist – my ‘aha’ moment on Friday was very enlightening. I finally understood where my old patterns and beliefs came from – and, for me, that is half the battle.
- Question that old belief – is it true? If not, was it ever true? Does it still play a role in your life? Or do you wish it simply wasn’t there anymore?
- Decide what you’d like to have instead – you can’t replace an old pattern with a new one if you don’t have the new one figured out yet. Since my old patterns stemmed from the notion that I wasn’t a person of worth unless I was do-ing, my new pattern/belief needs to focus on my be-ing enough. Just as I am. Period.
- Begin working from this new pattern – have I completely gotten rid of the old belief that you’re nothing if you’re not do-ing? Of course not. But I’m much further along with questioning that old belief when it comes up. After all, practice makes perfect.
- Start over – for the past few days, I keep uncovering more and more old patterns and beliefs – most of which are no longer true – if they ever were. I have a feeling this exercise will have a “rinse and repeat” feel to it for while I come to grips with the old beliefs and began to replace them with new ones.
What old beliefs will you get rid of today?