In this edition of LIFEadvice, life coaches Kim and Nicole share why we let subconscious social rules dictate our thinking and choices and how to create the life you really want.
I got divorced years ago and since then I have been working on my self-confidence and self-worth, and I have become a happier, busier woman. My parents keep asking me if I am ready to find another man. They don't seem to like my answer that I'm happy being single. I'm sick and tired of the online dating and the way it's done now. The bottom line is I'm done with dating and I don't know how to tell my parents that and get them to support me. How would you recommend I tell them (again)?
Before I recommend a way to get your parents support for your choices, I want you to understand how social norms or unwritten cultural rules can drive our thoughts, feelings and behavior, and how we all allow these socially accepted beliefs to create cognitive dissonance and suffering in our lives.
From the moment you were born, you have been gathering data about yourself, others, and the world around you. Everything you saw, heard or experienced helped you create conclusions about the rules in your family and community. You learned which behaviors earned you love, attention or approval. You learned what to do to avoid suffering or rejection. Your whole life you have been creating subconscious policies and procedures about living in your world.
The problem is many of these ideas, policies or rules are just ideas and many of them are not serving you either. Many of these beliefs are not even based in fact or reality: they are simply thoughts that have gained more power than they should. But they have been with you for a long time, and you have followed them simply because you didn't know there was another option.
The following are some examples of these unwritten rules you might have adopted:
Thin people are better than larger people.
If you have money you must be materialistic and shallow.
If you are single, that is lonely and sad, and you can't be complete unless you're partnered with someone else.
Being a taller person is better than being shorter.
You should always be afraid of what others think of you, because their opinions affect your value as a person.
It's safer not to talk too much.
You shouldn't let people walk on you even if it means being mean.
Older women shouldn't date younger men, but older men can date younger women.
Money is the scorecard, and the one with the most toys wins.
You get the idea, and these beliefs might be creating fear, guilt, shame or suffering in your life. It is time for all of us to start questioning these subconscious rules and write a new set of policies and procedures based on truth that would serve you more.
Here are 5 ways to challenges your unwritten policies and start consciously choosing new beliefs:
1. Remember you are the only one entitled to know the path through life that's right for you.
Never let anyone tell you how you should live, what you should want or what you should do next. They are not in the same classroom as you, so their truth isn't going to be your truth. Give yourself permission to explore many mindset options and choose the way that feels right to you.
Own that no one else on the planet will ever get the same journey as you. No one will ever have your genetics, your body, your family, your upbringing and your experiences. We believe this means your perspective and your truth are unique to you, and no one else can see the world the way you see it. This is why you must choose your own way and not let others make your choices.
Trust you have an inner guidance system (an inner GPS) that will always guide you toward your perfect classroom. It will nudge you and pull you toward the experiences you need to grow and learn in the ways you need. If you ask others for advice, do so because you want to research the options, not because you trust their judgment more than your own.
Once you clarify your options, write each one on an index card and place them in front of you on the table. Then one by one take an option off the table and throw it away, listening to your gut about which you should ditch. Do this until there is only one option left. This kind of exercise helps you practice listening to your own inner guidance system.
We all have a tendency to think everyone should see the world the way we see it. "What's wrong with them that they can't see what I see? It's obvious." They can't see the world the way you do, because their unique journey has fashioned a unique perspective that you can't possibly see.
You must give everyone permission to be on their perfect classroom journey. The more you do this, you will also be empowered to claim your journey. Refrain from any judgment about their choices; honor and respect their right to be where they are, and feel what they do.
Remember though, that though we are all very different, we have the exact same intrinsic worth and that cannot change.
5. The amazing and unique souls around you, who choose a vastly different path than yours, are often in your life to teach you tolerance and stretch your ability to love.
It's easy to love people who agree with you and live like you and by your rules, but it's much more challenging to love someone who is different. When you choose to see these people as different, but equal in value, and allow them to even teach you something, there will be an amazing richness in your life. They will give you fresh viewpoints and broader understanding of the human experience. Embrace them as they are and let their different choices teach you something.
Once you claim the right to live by the dictates of your own conscience, values, beliefs and preferences, and allow the people around you to do the same, you can then ask the people in your life to honor you, too.
We recommend you sit down with your parents and ask them some questions about why they feel so strongly about you dating and finding someone to love. Really listen to them and honor their right to think and feel the way they do. Spend some time here, and let them know you can understand why they might feel that way. Then ask if they would be willing to let you share what you feel about it, and if they would be willing to honor and respect your right to choose the right path for you. We think you will be surprised how supportive they will be if you share your feelings and ask them to support you moving forward.
We agree that for many people living as a single person can still be a rich, beautiful, happy and fulfilled life. Happiness does not require marriage or a life partner, though many people find great happiness that way. We think you should focus on building the life you want to live — you only get one shot at this life so be true to yourself and live big.
You can do this.