"Once upon a time there was a student who came faithfully to zen retreats, but always in the grips of the belief that she was a Bad Meditator. At every retreat she agonized about this, and every time she said the same things: "I can't meditate. I sit on the cushion and I think about things, I daydream, I write books, I fidget. I just can't do this." And the teachers would say, "That's all right. Just keep showing up. Sit there. Pay attention when you can." Retreat after retreat, the same thing went on.
After five years, suddenly the Good Meditator showed up at a retreat. There was nothing to fight against any longer, and the part of the student who wanted more than anything to meditate was finally able to come to a retreat. Now, the Good Meditator was the one who had been bringing the student to every retreat all along, and taking whatever meditation time it could get. Self-hate told her endlessly what a bad meditator she was. But the Good Meditator patiently stayed with it, and finally the student was able to see that part of herself."
I love this little parable, called "The Path of Patient Effort" as recounted from Cheri Huber's book There is Nothing Wrong With You. I think it illustrates a trap we all fall into at some point in our lives.
Have you ever found yourself in the grips of a negative belief about yourself that actually kept you from succeeding - like a self-fulfilling prophecy?
I know I have. My version was "I am a Bad Architect".
Every day, for the better part of a decade, I went to my job as an architect carrying the belief that I was not a Good Architect. I could not allow myself to believe otherwise, despite the support and encouragement of others around me, and the good work that I was producing. I did not believe in my heart that I had what it takes to be a Good Architect. And so I never fully committed to doing what it takes to actually become a Good Architect, because I was so totally and completely terrified that I would fail.
I never even gave myself a chance.
But somewhere, deep inside, I knew that I had to stick with it. Something inside of me made me keep showing up, day after day, year after year and learning bit by bit, taking the opportunities that I was given and making the most of them. Piecing it all together in my head and in my heart.
Until one day, sometime in the past year, I finally showed up at work as the Good Architect. Over the past twelve months, with the help, support, mentoring and encouragement of some amazing people, I finally started to let it sink in that maybe I CAN do this. Maybe I do have what it takes.
I was finally able to see that part of myself that had been there all along. I was finally READY to see her.
Do I still have a lot to learn as an architect? Oh hell yes I do! But the difference now is that I trust myself and my ability to handle whatever comes my way. I trust in my instincts, I trust that I'll ask the right questions, I trust that I will figure it out.
So why was I suddenly able to show up as the Good Architect this year, after so many years before? I believe that it is because I finally committed.
I finally faced my fears, admitted my weaknesses, and went all-in.
I finally gave myself a chance.
I see it all the time - in myself and others that I love: we avoid something in our lives that scares us, living permanently in fear and avoidance, rather than facing that thing head on and then moving through it naturally. It's like our fear keeps us frozen in time, standing there motionless, avoiding the very things that make a life worth living, while the rest of the world moves right along without us. Fear does this to us. Fear of failure. Perfectionism. It robs us of the most important life lessons that we can possibly receive - those that come from experience. My thing was being an architect. It scared the crap out of me, I lived in constant terror of failure. The task of being a Good Architect was so overwhelming to me that I shut down at the thought of it. What should I have been doing instead? Acknowledging my fear. Talking about it. Asking for help.
Because when I started doing those three little things over the last year - acknowledging my fear, talking about it, and asking for help - that's when things changed for me. That is when I was able to finally grow into my aspirations for myself and show up at work as the Good Architect.
What about you? Are you avoiding something in your life because it scares you? Do you have self-limiting beliefs that are holding you back? Yours may not be career related like mine, it could be anything - being in a healthy relationship, having a baby, having difficult conversations, etc. If so, is there some way that you can start, right now today, to acknowledge your fear, talk about it, or ask for help?
Let me know how it goes!
Till next time,
© Haley McManigal 2016
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