Now that you’ve taken an inventory of some behaviors you’ve developed, let’s consider where they came from. If you missed last week’s letter, you can read it here.
One of the behaviors I used to struggle with was covering my mouth when I smiled.
It started when I was a kid and became a habit. It wasn’t until years later when I realized how uncomfortable it was for me to bear my grin that I asked myself why. Why did that bother me so much? Where did that come from?
Well, when I first started getting adult teeth, kids in elementary school made fun of my smile.
Kids in elementary school.
And then in middle school, kids said I had “big teeth”.
I grew into my adult teeth, but those two little words affected the way I smiled for years afterward.
Isn’t it kind of ridiculous that something a 2nd grader said to me could still have an influence on my behaviors 30 years later?
Words are pretty powerful.
Some of you replied to last week's email and I'm so grateful for that. I know sharing your most insecure thoughts can be scary. Some of your stories were much more serious than someone making fun of your smile. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated your vulnerability and bravery.
Here are some of the responses you shared:
"When I was in middle school a couple guys told me my nose was too big. Called me Pinocchi-mute. Because I was also very quiet. Stuck with me for years. I never wanted to take my photo or have my picture taken. I feel much better about myself these days."
"I identify with slouching because I feel too tall and big. In the ways people talked about my body, I gathered that I was 'pretty for a big girl' and I would be received better if and when I was thinner."
"The biggest one is that I have believed that outward beauty equates to how much I deserve love. Even though I’m learning to expel this lie from my life, I still feel it’s sting. Amazing how ingrained a false belief once believed is hard to destroy so it no longer has a tug on my heart."
"I've heard so many negative things about me...you're too emotional, you're going to embarrass our family in how you dress, you weren't our choice, you were too much for him, you're too much for anyone, why don't you wear a camisole under your tshirt since your breasts hang to your knees, you're nothing but a whore, you talk too much, etc..."
Reading your emails was both heartbreaking and encouraging. Let’s talk about how we can break free from our alignment with these false beliefs.
First, we need to recognize when they are creeping into our psyche. This week, consider one belief you’ve aligned with. It could be something like “I’m not skinny enough.”
Once you’ve recognized this belief and its origin, it’s time to take that thought captive. Each time it starts to creep in…
“I’m not skinny enough…” stop it in its tracks.
Consider a new truth to replace that thought with… “No, actually, I’m just right.”
Each and every time. Do not relent. Do not give in to its deception. You were made in the image of God and you are just right, right now.
Some beliefs may have created synapses that have deepened over years and are tougher to redirect. Be patient with yourself.
It took months (maybe even a year or two) for me to fully break the habit of covering my smile. I do still have a big smile, but now I love it. And I can’t believe I ever hid my smile away for years and years. Worse, I hid my joy. I can’t count the times I stifled a smile or didn’t laugh as hard as I wanted. I grieve those moments, but I’m also thankful for the growth and freedom I’ve experienced since.
As always, feel free to reply to this email and share your journey with me. Next week, we'll talk about one thing you can do to take away tons of power from a false belief that wants to stick around.
A little word of caution:
Sometimes beliefs are a result of trauma and so painful that you shouldn’t go it alone. Consider talking with a therapist to help guide you. Even if you’re on a tight budget, there are many free counseling resources available. If you’re in crisis, there are options available to help you cope. You can also call the Lifeline at any time to speak to someone and get support. For confidential support available 24/7 for everyone in the United States, call 1-800-273-8255.