One of the core premises of the most recent (self-help) book I am reading is that your current life challenges are based in belief systems established in your formative years. While I had never ascribed to the premise that your childhood defines you, there is something to be said for how this book has recently played out in my life-learning.
Thinking about childhood and personal belief systems, I looked more deeply at both mine and hubby’s to see if there was something real about understanding childhood better in this way could help us in our retirement transitions.
First me: Because of an early heart health scare, doctor’s encouraged my parents to limit my physical exertion. I was not allowed to take dance lessons but rather encouraged to take piano. It was before Title Nine came to really impact girl sports, so there wasn’t a lot of sport to not be engaged in, but summers for me were still more about reading than swimming and running around outside. I became “the smart one” – possibly because of some innate talent or possibly because of all the book reading. I wasn’t ever the athletic one, the active one, or the outdoorsy one. And so, even today, I don’t consider myself “physically capable” and getting into situations where I need to be physical scares me. Yes, I have realized that one of my biggest fears started in childhood and continues, to this day – I do not believe I have the physical ability and strength to do “that” – “that” being anything physically active. So I avoid it, procrastinate; I don’t even try for fear of failing, because I’m not the active one. Yet, being more physically active is a huge element of my retirement life vision.
So why does this blog have Zip-lining in the title and picture? This past weekend, I went zip-lining (that is me in the picture!). We ended up having a free afternoon in Northern Ohio, the leaf color was amazing, and there was a zip-lining activity near our hotel called a “Canopy Tour”- a guided tour through the tree-tops on a combination of zip-lines and rope-bridges. Zip-line had been on my bucket list, for years; and I had procrastinated doing it, for years. I did it this weekend – I climbed up, zip-lined, hung off trees, and rappelled down – shaking inside for almost the entire 3 hours in the tree-tops. (And with very patient Canopy Tour guides!)
Will breaking through the fear here help me break through it for other activities that require physicality? Will other physically active things on my Possibilities List become less scary? Will I become a physically active individual I vision in retirement? Not overnight for sure. Recognition of the childhood beliefs and doing things to modify those beliefs takes time. So the fact I’m doing Zumba regularly (no longer “no, you can’t take dance lessons”) and trying things like zip-lining and stand-up paddle-boarding are all elements that are slowly changing me.
Now onto hubby’s childhood belief system: He was never “the smart one”. His siblings were better in schoolwork than he was and even to this day, he often talks about how he’s not smart. He turned instead, with some innate athletic ability, to individual sports – running and biking and sailing. He became the “active one”. The fact that I have seen him hold his own in conversations with PhD rocket scientists, medical doctors, CPAs, and lawyers has not changed his opinion that he’s stupid. (Yes, we know a PhD rocket scientist.) Hubby is amazing at so many things and is the one I rely on to fix and repair lots of our household stuff, even if I’m the engineer. Even telling him the smartest thing he ever did was marry me doesn’t modify his firmly held childhood belief system!
So, do our childhood beliefs define us and hold us back still today? Surprisingly, yes. But, I think you can change them by being aware and challenging yourself, slowly. Maybe someday I’ll be referred to as the active one and he’ll be the smart one. One day at a time.
What belief systems of who you think you are might be holding you back?