I used to own a cat named Imogen. She had many unique quirks. For example, she was afraid of indentations in carpet. Yes, you read that right. Anytime we moved furniture around the house, it freaked her out.
Imogen hated those divots in the carpet. She would tap at it tentatively with her paw and then run away. She probably thought that we had opened up portals of doom throughout the house. No amount of coaxing or bribery would get her to cross that imaginary threat.
My cats irrational fear reminded me of the limits and barriers we all put up. Usually, they’re perceived requirements that have been set up and they can come in many forms.
“I will be happy when I stop eating a certain food.” “When my house looks like my neighbor’s, then life will be good.” “Once I have the perfect loving relationship in my life, then everything else will fall into place.” There is always this sense that these things alone will create joy. It also insinuates that we can’t be happy until those things are taken care of or out of the way.
Unfortunately, these limitations are insidious and pervasive. According to a statistic from an internal Hewlett-Packard Report, men are more likely to apply for a job when they only reach 60% of the qualifications, while the majority of women apply when they reach 100% of the same standards.
Why is this? According to the findings in the article, “Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless they are 100% Qualified,” Tara Mohr pointed out that it was wasn’t about confidence. The main reason came from this idea that they were supposed to follow all of the guidelines. They didn’t want to waste their time if an employer wouldn’t hire them unless they met all of the guidelines.
It wasn’t about feeling confident. It was a perception that these qualifications were hard and fast rules. This misconception is as limiting as worrying about fake indentations in the carpet.
For over ten years I wanted to be a group fitness instructor. Exercising was fun for me. I wanted to teach it to others to show that movement and exercise were about so much more than trying to burn calories.
There were certain qualifications required to become a group fitness instructor. Before I even looked at this, I also created my own set of rules. These involved how I presented myself, both in knowledge and physical appearance.
I didn’t want my future clients to worry about the same things I was using to limit myself. The first step to becoming an instructor was to apply for and complete an accredited certification. For years I wouldn’t let myself apply though because of my self-imposed limits. Some of them came from things other people had said or that I had heard. No where they came from, I had chosen to believe them and so they all became mine.
Have you noticed yourself holding onto rules? You might have picked them up as you grew up as a way to survive. There might be someone who has downplayed your dream by saying that you’re not good enough. It might have even come from a well-meaning family member who wanted you to be careful.
Look back at your passions and dreams. Are there check off lists or qualifications you haven’t met? Why do you think that these things are so important? If you really do need them, like in the case of my certification, then what’s holding you back from applying or starting that process?
You have unique qualities and gifts to share with the world. There’s no reason to play safe and wait. The inner critic or eating disorder voice works hard to limit people. An addiction is better served when it can make you feel small. That doesn’t mean that it has to win, though.
Find one small way in which you can take a step toward your dream today. How are you going to break away from the limiting beliefs and be the person that you were meant to be? Being this person is not about invisible barriers or the way you look. It’s about connecting to those around you and being a part of something bigger than yourself.
What does it look like to break the rules and diving in? For me, it involved applying for more education. It could also look like setting up time to write or draw, rather than waiting for someone to give you permission. You might start creating a resume for that job you have been eyeing. It may come in the form of taking a class or creating a website.
The possibilities are as open-ended as your unique and creative nature.
If you don’t know where to start or are in the early stages of recovery, let your support team know. They will be able to help you with your goals. It’s always important to make sure they are in line with your true path and not with the eating disorder voice.
When you start to throw out those imaginary barriers, it helps to light the way. One by one the barriers will dissolve. No matter how obnoxious the doubts are, you are ultimately stronger. Eventually, those old rules will seem just as silly as indents in the carpet. You’ll still be aware of them from time to time, but the power behind them will be gone.
You don’t have to wait for them all to be cleared away. Failure is not the ultimate fear, it’s being stagnant and refusing to try.
Challenge those rules and take a leap of faith. You will see that you are more skilled, ready or confident than you thought.
Last year, I realized that the barriers were in my head. It was terrifying to take those steps, but it was even more scary to think of wasting more time waiting. There was no guarantee that I would succeed. It was possible that people wouldn’t think I was qualified enough. However, I knew one thing for certain. If I didn’t at least try, then a year from then I wouldn’t be any closer to achieving my goal. The only difference would be that I would be another year older and more frustrated.
I took the leap of faith. I spent the money and took the course to become a group fitness instructor. Now I work at a facility close to home. It is a wonderful job where I get to continue to learn and teach. The shape of my body and my weight didn’t change. Instead, the change came in my mind. It happened when I saw that I was stronger than my barriers.