On Belief Systems and Why We Punish Ourselves

 photo by  @j  ulieK

photo by @julieK

Last week I blogged about self-care and how run-down I was feeling. Well, wouldn’t ya flippin’ know it, I’ve actually been sick for three weeks. Remember when I was voiceless over Valentine’s Day? Yeah, I’ve been slowly deteriorating since then and boyyyy was I the last to admit it.

My unwillingness to admit I, the Great Rachel Lightfoot was capable of getting sick came to a head yesterday. I left the office around 3:30, had my husband drive me home and slithered away to bed where I awoke ten hours later, drenched in sweat.

I was off to Urgent Care the next morning (because for some reason if you need to see a doctor after business hours, they want you to feel *especially alarmed* about your situation), where I sat in the waiting room for 45 minutes documenting my boredom and self-loathing for all to see on IG-Stories. Most notably, I proclaimed I felt “subhuman”, “to blame”, and worst of all, I was an “asshole” — all because I caught the same flu everyone else has suffered through already. Yep, go ahead, queue the tiny violin.


When more than a few people began replying to my snippets with, “geez, please be kind to yourself” I was aghast. AGHAST! Yes, of course, I needed to be kinder to myself. I tell other people this all the time. I *literally* did not see myself participating in the very behaviour I coach others to avoid. That is how powerful negative self-talk can be.

Don Miguel Ruiz writes: “In your whole life nobody has ever abused you more than you have abused yourself.”

I would NEVER tolerate another person telling me being sick was my fault. Nor would I ever say something like that to another person. So why was I being so ugly to myself at this moment? Why didn’t I see myself doing? It got me thinking.

It got me thinking about another thing Ruiz taught me on Belief Systems.

Everyone has their own Belief System which is comprised of things you learned from your parents, your religion, and society. Somewhere along the lines, I was taught (and I believed) that being sick was a sign of weakness. That people who fell sick often were inferior and had probably done something to deserve it.

Now, let’s give that Belief some air.

Because wow. I’m actually crying as I read this back.

I’ve believed this since I was a child and never realized it. How awful. How untrue. And how sad. I’ve allowed this Belief to dictate how I feel about myself and how I place judgment on others all my life.

If I had to trace back where this Belief originated, my adult brain knows it was a likely a flippant comment from my dad. As a child though, I took it very seriously. I took it literally. I internalized it and looking back, I can almost feel how proud of me my dad was that I did not get sick often, never broke a bone, never a cavity… I was the epitome of health. I’m now smiling—glowing— imagining this and feeling his pride. To imagine the pride, we must also acknowledge the fear and the shame I must have experienced as well, when inevitably I didn't always have perfect health.

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We are all walking around with things we Believed as children. Real things, unreal things, prejudices, rituals, opinions. Did someone tell you that you were a shy kid? That you weren’t a great artist? Or that you were no good at math? Did someone tell you that you were the prettiest girl in the whole world? That you could run fast? Or that you loved reading? If you Believed these things, they became your truth.
Becoming conscious of your unique Belief System is SO POWERFUL.
What I hope you take away from this post is two things:

1. Challenge your Belief System. Are there things you believed as a kid that may not even be true? Things that you internalized and still unknowingly use to judge yourself and to judge others? You can absolutely re-write your Belief System. If everyone did this, there would be no racism, no class system, no religious wars. It’s not easy...but it’s worth trying.

2. If you’re a parent, like I am— consider this a wake up call. It sure was for me. Our children are listening, they’re Believing the small things we say in passing. They’re watching us doubt ourselves, watching us talk poorly about ourselves, and watching us pass judgment on others. We are helping our children write their own Belief System every single day. This is a privilege and we must be more careful.

If you’re not familiar with the work of Don Miguel Ruiz, I highly recommend his most notable book, The Four Agreements. My incredibly strong and brave mother bought everyone a copy for Christmas this year and it’s truly changed our family.

My mother, who lost everything in the Northern California firestorm last year is rebuilding her life, and she’s digging deep. Deepak Chopra and Don Miguel are her gurus, and she is mine. Thank you, Mom.

And thank you, dear friends. This wasn’t an easy one for me to write but if it helps one other person, it was worth it. If you’re willing to dig deep with me today, I’d love to know— what’s something you Believed as a child that may have held you back in life? I’ve got a long list, my friends…

Until next time

Rachel