Remember when you first learned to swim? You held onto the side of the pool for dear life, sometimes clinging to a raft and boldly floating over the shallow end of the pool. Your parents probably outfit you with a little life jacket or something. My mom outfit me with swimmies, those cute little blow-up arm cuffs we would wear up under our armpits. I loved my swimmies because I felt like I was really swimming, free to move my arms, not tied down to a raft or a kickboard. Ah, the freedom! The autonomy!
As a kid, you needed all kinds of devices and help to do basic things. A stool to reach the bathroom sink. Training wheels on your bike. Velcro and snaps on your shoes and clothes. And swimmies in the pool.
But now you’re all grown up. You’re tall enough to reach the sink, balanced enough to ride a bicycle, coordinated enough to tie shoelaces and button shirts, and brave enough to swim in the deep end.
You’ve outgrown your need for these aids. You’ve mastered the skills and never looked back. In fact, imagine how uncomfortable it would be if you HAD to step on a stool to brush your teeth. And think of how silly you would feel riding a bike with training wheels. Wearing swimmies would be ridiculous—blood circulation cut off in your arms, range of motion limited—you’d be completely encumbered and inefficient.
Isn’t it funny how things we once NEEDED would now be a HINDERANCE to us?
Yet we often hold on to old habits and behaviors that served us well in the past but aren’t doing us much good now. Think about that. Are you being HELD BACK by strategies that once HELPED you?
Say, for example, you got picked on at school, and every time you spoke up in class, other kids made fun of you. You probably learned to say less, lie low, and try to be as inconspicuous as possible. That strategy may have felt completely necessary for social survival at the time. But if, at 30 years old, you are still doing the same thing, but now you’re doing it at work, you could be missing out on things: promotions, visibility, contribution, and praise. You may not even notice that you’re keeping your opinions to yourself, or you may think that you’re doing it to avoid the backlash that you think is coming. But is it coming? Are you sure? The old threats SEEM like they’re there, but maybe they’re not. Now is a great time to assess your situation and see if the coast is clear for trying something new.
Your behaviors might be linked to assumptions you’ve had for years. If I speak my mind, I’ll get bullied. To be a lady means to acquiesce. Pursuing art as a profession is a sign of immaturity. To be considered a success, I have to be the boss. To be considered a success, I have to have children. To be considered a success, I can’t do what I want.
As Paul wrote in his letter to the school at Corinth, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
Your homework for the week is to identify a behavior, habit, or assumption you have that is not serving you well anymore. See if you can figure out where it came from. Take notice of how much you’ve grown and how far you’ve come since you first adopted that way of acting or thinking. Acknowledge how smart and resourceful you were to employ that strategy at the time. And then: LET IT GO.
Your inner kid will be proud of you, so let her treat you to an ice cream!