1 — I must get my way.
There is a part of us that suffers deeply whenever we don’t get our way. We have a wilful side of us that demands the world behave as we say it should. We want to bend the world to our wishes. We feel threatened and upset if things don’t go our way.
Every time we plead for special treatment, every time we try to manipulate people to act in our favour, that’s us being wilful. If we notice ourselves thinking, “it should be like this”, that’s also being wilful. We think other people should give way to us, that our situation is somehow unique, that we deserve special treatment.
It’s almost as if we believe that the rules of the universe can and should be bent in our favour. When we demand that situations and people bend to our will, without us putting in the necessary effort, we set ourselves up for failure and disappointment.
Letting go of wilfulness is not the same as resignation. We still seek to be effective in what we do by mastering the mechanics and laws of the world. We become effective by putting in the necessary effort.
2 — I am unlovable.
We may have the unconscious belief that deep down we are unlovable. So we do all kinds of things to prove that we are lovable. We also do things for the sake of appearances, because we want acceptance / recognition / approval. We want esteem in the eyes of others. Even when they give us the praise we crave, we are unable to accept it.
We also need others, specifically our partners, to keep proving that they love us through overt displays of affection or constant verbal reassurances that they do indeed love us. We play the game with our other halves where we ask them why they love us, and have them list reasons. We keep requiring their gifts or attention or sacrifice to show us they love us.
If we truly believed we could be loved, we would accept love from others, without putting up artificial barriers around us.
3 — I cannot get what I want.
At some level, while we strive to achieve things we want, we also deep down believe that we cannot get what we truly want. So sometimes we withdraw into fantasy worlds like computer games in which our desires can be fulfilled. The fantasy world, while not real, provides us simulation of our dreams, satisfying enough to keep us in our own heads, as opposed to working in the real world to fulfil our wishes. At some level we have already given up.
For example, we may say we want a relationship, but then we stay at home all day and refuse to go out and meet people. Or we say we want love, yet reject anyone who shows us affection. Or the wannabe dancer who works as an accountant. This is because deep down, we’ve already decided that what we want is impossible. So we don’t even try to go for our dreams.
We say we want something and then sabotage our own efforts at happiness and success, because deep down we have already condemned ourselves.
4 — I hurt myself before other people hurt me.
This is a very subtle belief but it exists nonetheless, without us being conscious of it.
For example, if we fear rejection, we are terrified of being rejected by other people. So when we want something, we do not ask. We do not even dare to approach the other person. We first reject ourselves before they can reject us.
You may see this as us not even trying to succeed at what we want. We believe that if we hold ourselves back, silence ourselves, reject ourselves, then we will be safe from the pain of meeting the reality in which we have the chance of both success and failure. So in many ways we stop ourselves.
We choose the suffering we’re familiar with, rather than face the unknown and risk a chance of really getting hurt by the world or by someone else.
5 — It’s better to remain a child.
There is a part of us that wants to remain a child. We seek to be protected and saved. We don’t want the responsibility, independence, and hardship of adulthood. We want an authority figure to tell us what to do and provide us assurance of a good life.
Each time we expect an authority figure to provide us the acceptance, approval, attention, or love we need, we are being a child. Because we hope that by abdicating our own power to another, we can attain success through obedience instead of effort.
Any time we give away our power to another, we feel helpless and blame the other for not fulfilling our needs. The truth is that we are the only ones that can save ourselves. We are the only ones that can give us the love and freedom we desire.
Letting go is hard
I have always had a fear of authority figures and yet a deep need to gain their favour and please them. One time I had a boss who was male and older than me, so naturally I felt that he reminded me of my father. I would always do whatever he asked and expect him to praise me as a reward for my efforts. I expected that if I were simply to obey and be good, I would be loved.
That didn’t happen. The more I tried to please him, the more I lost my self-confidence, the worse I performed at my tasks. He would point out to me how I was messing up, and I would resent him for not seeing how hard I had tried.
Eventually I realised what was happening and I decided to stop trying so hard to please him. I felt the rug being pulled from under my feet. Without someone telling me what to do, how was I to feel valued? Who would validate my existence? I felt empty and adrift, not knowing what to do with myself.
But, once I stopped listening to someone else, I started listening to myself. I started trusting myself and knowing what I wanted to do. I started doing things I loved. I began to walk my own journey, instead of living in the shadows of others.
But let go anyway
It’s scary at first, feeling like our crutches are gone. But if we have the courage to face the pain, we will overcome it and find our own strength. We will find our own confidence and freedom.
In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger — something better, pushing right back. – Albert Camus
That will be a beautiful day.