You Are Not Broken!
When I was ten years old, I watched my grandmother plant her small garden. In one section, she grew gourds which are like squashes. She told me that if I inserted a growing gourd in a jar, over time it would take its shape. Sure enough, when I placed tiny gourds inside a jam jar, pickle jar, or an odd-shaped container, they assumed the same shape.
My memories of that garden kept resurfacing during my forty years as a psychotherapist. When I got to know my clients, I came to understand why they thought, felt, and acted the way they did. I realized that if I had been placed in their glass jar of experiences, given the same family, culture, social conditioning, and genetics, I would have been in the same shape.
Each of us has been placed in life’s container and survived by adapting and accommodating, similar to gourds. Parents, teachers, and ministers expected us to adopt their beliefs and behave in a prescribed manner. As a result, we constructed an identity comprised of beliefs. We each took shape by adopting roles and behavioral patterns, often suppressing our innate desire to learn, grow, and expand.
Over time, we became unconscious of the glass walls and ceilings and began to believe that we were the jam jar, a false self.
I, myself, grew up in a very tight jar where my mother raised four children on her own while she worked at the Campbell Soup factory on the south side of Chicago. Like my mother, I came to believe that life was all about struggle because living in the family container with limited resources was tough. As a result, I survived by developing an identity built on self-sufficiency, independence, and achievement. I learned that life was about struggling and fighting to get ahead. Whenever my life became too comfortable, I gravitated toward problems.
Once I realized that I had developed coping strategies for living only in a jar, I breathed a sigh of relief. I wasn’t broken. However, that’s not what traditional psychotherapy wants us to believe. Therapists love labels so that clients’ problems can be identified and fixed. In fact, no one is broken. A caterpillar isn’t flawed with a narcissistic personality disorder because it believes it’s going to be a butterfly. A tadpole doesn’t have a developmental disorder because it’s not yet a frog.
The only thing that’s wrong is that we’ve been taught to think and believe we should be somebody other than our true self.
Labels, judgments, and an endless exploration of the past can reinforce an identity, a “false self,” instead of setting us free to be who we truly are meant to be.
Once we realize that we’ve developed strategies to cope inside glass jars, we can recognize that emotional and mental symptoms merely tell us we’re constrained by a jar of beliefs that were bent out of shape. Symptoms ask us to become aware of the constraints of our conditioning and return to who we are, just like gourds growing and evolving without jars. Healing is about breaking free of walls that keep us imprisoned so we can be our authentic selves.
Here are 3 Steps to Help You Break Free from Your Jar of False Beliefs:
Acceptance asks you to be mindful of your life, to recognize the glass jar, your survival strategies for living with constraining beliefs, and the patterns that no longer work. This mindful approach offsets any tendency to judge or criticize yourself. Acceptance establishes a connection between you as an observer and that which you’re observing, an important step before any self-correction. For example, if you notice that you’re stuffing yourself with food, you could move into judgment or acceptance. Rather than berating yourself, you can acknowledge the fact that you’re eating too much. You can also acknowledge that craving food is a form of self-soothing. This awareness shines the light on your needs for comfort and love. You can then choose the best way to meet these needs.
Here are some helpful phrases that lead to acceptance:
- “Even though I am experiencing anxiety, I now accept myself.”
- “Even though I feel unloved, I now accept myself.”
- “I accept my feelings.”
Letting go asks you to release judgments, preconceptions, resentments, and guilt. Letting go of limitations or the desire to change the past allows compassion and peace to stream into your life. You can thank yourself for doing your best for surviving in a glass jar and then let go of the jar. Expressing yourself through writing or by talking to trusted friends can help you let go of unwanted feelings or thoughts. Letting go also means acknowledging mistakes so you can take corrective action.
These phrases can help you let go:
- “I express myself easily and effortlessly.”
- “I let go of my anger and resentment (or whatever emotion needs releasing).”
- “I recognize my mistake and now let it go.”
Love can often be the hardest step, for you are asked to love yourself just the way you are, knowing you are growing and evolving. Since love is inherent in all of us as our natural state of being you don’t have to find it. You merely have to access your very essence. That begins in your heart. As you connect to your loving heartbeat, you can nurture your talents and skills and be grateful that you’re evolving as an empowered creative being.
These phrases remind you to stay connected to love:
- “I am loved just the way I am.”
- “I love my life and all that it offers me.”
- “I feel loved and share my love with others.”
I invite you to check out my YouTube video for a more in depth explanation of these 3 steps.
When we accept ourselves as growing and evolving, let go of the limiting beliefs that hold us back, and love ourselves just the way we are, we shatter the glass jar.
We can then proclaim, “I’m not broken; I am free to be me.”