I started a new job a couple of years ago, which turned out to be the perfect opportunity to update my wardrobe. Since some of the clothes I was wearing at that time had survived since college and maybe even high school, Dan agreed wholeheartedly with this idea, so we went shopping. We shopped for hours. I selected a huge pile of slacks and suits and blouses and sweaters to try on. After seeing a few outfits, Dan asked "Honey, why didn't you pick any dresses or skirts?"
I stared at him as if he had two heads. "Um, because I have never worn dresses or skirts to school or work." I said matter-of-factly. "Well maybe you should start" he shot back. I glared at him. Apparently he did not remember the story.
Yes. There is a reason that I did not wear dresses or skirts to school or work for nearly 20 years. And a darn good one.
When I was in elementary school, I was in a Brownie troop. Brownies are like junior Girl Scouts or something. They get together in troops and do fun stuff.
I don't remember much about being a Brownie, except for the God-awful brown uniform that I had to wear on meeting days. The uniform consisted of a brown jumpsuit/dress, a button up shirt and necktie, and a sash to display all of your badges or "flair". I despised this brown uniform - not because I didn't like being a Brownie, but because it was uncomfortable. And I had to wear tights with the uniform, and most of my tights were about two sizes too small, which intensified the situation. It was just not a pleasant experience.
I will never forget one particular day when I wore my Brownie uniform to school. It was a beautiful, sunny day in 1986. I was in first grade. I distinctly remember being stressed out all morning during class, worried about how I was going to play on the playground at recess in a SKIRT. It was awkward and uncomfortable, and I didn't know what to do about it.
When recess finally rolled around, I decided to suck it up and go about my business as usual. I loved the slide, so I went for it. I climbed up to the top, swung my legs over onto the big metal chute, grabbed the rails, and pushed myself off. Immediately, I heard a loud squeaking noise, and then I felt the burn. My heart sank and my face flushed as I realized what had happened: my brown polyester Brownie skirt had slid up, while my too-small white tights had rolled down in the opposite direction, leaving my bare butt in contact with the slide. As I hobbled off the bottom of the slide, wincing from the pain, pulling down my skirt, and trying to re-gain my composure, I vowed through gritted teeth to never wear that stupid Brownie uniform again.
That dreadful day scarred me so much that it also marked the last time that I would wear a skirt or a dress to school or work for nearly two decades. It just wasn't worth the risk.
As I tell this story, I realize that it sounds dramatic and a bit ridiculous to let one tiny little incident on the slide in first grade keep me from enjoying the simple pleasure of wearing skirts and dresses for most of my life. Yes, it IS ridiculous to allow silly little incidents from our past to influence how we behave years later. But WE ALL DO IT.
We all allow experiences from our past to shape our ideas and our opinions and beliefs about this world and our experience of it. We all allow past experiences to shadow how we see ourselves and others. We all had difficult or embarrassing or overwhelming experiences in childhood that we weren't equipped to handle properly or understand clearly. And we all did the best we could to deal with them and move on with our lives. But things are different now. We don't have to face the dangers of the playground anymore, so why are we still protecting ourselves from them?
But sometimes these limiting beliefs and the experience that inspired them are difficult for us to see. Sometimes, we are so identified with them, and so accustomed to behaving a certain way because of them that we don't even know they are there. Sometimes it takes someone else to help us see them. Sometimes they create so much pain and suffering that we go in search of them, we learn to dig deep and uncover them as we are ready and able.
And when we are ready, we begin to ask ourselves what is really going on here? Why do I react in that same way every time X happens? Why do I avoid Y at all costs? Why do I get angry every time someone brings up Z? We start to notice patterns and automatic behaviors that we had never been aware of before. We start to see how we've been reacting to a pre-conceived idea of a certain situation all these years, instead of being present in the reality of the situation and reacting accordingly. And this awareness helps us grow. It helps us to stop the next time we are in the situation, and change our behavior. It helps us to see what is really happening, what the reality of a situation is, rather than what we've been conditioned to experience.
And as we stay with this long enough, and look at it closely enough, we usually discover that a single event from our past has been influencing our decisions and behaviors today. And we realize that we have the power to challenge these long-held beliefs. We have the power to look at each of them, shine the light of awareness into them and see what they are all about, what they are trying to tell us.
Sadly, because of that one unfortunate experience on the playground, I didn't allow myself the pleasure of wearing skirts, which I have recently discovered has numerous benefits. First and foremost, they are COMFORTABLE. (given you have the proper undergarments, of course). Secondly, they make me feel feminine and ladylike, and of course, thirdly, they are super convenient, just slip one on and go. Also, they instantly diversified my stale wardrobe. I tripled my outfit selections just by adding a few skirts and dresses in the mix.
It's sad to think about all the years that we missed out on because of our blind beliefs. But that should motivate us to look closely to see what else we may be missing out on due to other misinformed and limiting beliefs. It's our job as humans to evolve and learn and grow in awareness, and it we commit to living life to the fullest, our limiting beliefs will reveal themselves to us when we are ready to see them. We just have to keep the faith and stay the course.
What limiting beliefs are you holding onto that are no longer serving you? What painful experiences from your past may be influencing how you behave today? Please share your thoughts in the comments, I'd love to hear from you!
Till next time,
© Haley McManigal 2016
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