I am sitting on his couch, emotionally exhausted, when I hear myself say the words ‘I can’t be your cheerleader anymore.’
I was breaking up with the man I had been dating for the last three months and he didn’t see it coming. Looking back, it wasn’t very fair of me because my inner people pleaser kept me smiling and pushing through, giving him chance after chance after chance to treat me the way I deserved.
I thought if I just kept pushing through, kept forgiving him, and kept trying to make him happy, then everything would work out. But it didn’t.
And he didn’t see it coming because I was still holding onto the belief that I would be loved and accepted just as long as I put others first. This has been ingrained in me with ‘good girl syndrome’, the patriarchy and through organized religion. It was said to me over and over again – and I listened.
I’m a very good listener.
But there was (and is) a voice inside of me that has a line that can’t be crossed. And once someone crossed that line they met a new version of me: the assertive version of me that is done bending over backwards.
Spoiler alert – it’s the version of me that you’re getting to know now.
This ex-boyfriend was the last person I dated before I stopped trying to just push through and figure it all out.
This was the turning point for me when I truly stopped ignoring my past, my history, my trauma – and faced it to stop allowing it to keep getting in the way. No I didn’t face it head on or jump right into the deep end. It took about 6 years before I was ready to do more than just dip my toe in the water and peel back the superficial layers of my trauma onion – more on that later. But these initial steps I took to heal my past so I could move forward were essential for me to become who I am today.
I get it though if the first thought that pops into your head when you think about doing this is ‘I don’t wanna.’
I hear it a lot on the initial few client calls with a new person that they’re tired of talking about the past. They just want to push through, leave it all behind them and forget about it.
And sometimes that works.
But more often than not those life experiences aren’t that easy to let go of. Those life experiences form anchors that will keep weighing you down and holding you back. These anchors show up as self sabotage, limiting beliefs, unhelpful beliefs and behaviors that you know aren’t serving you but you don’t know how to let go of.
Things someone said to you years ago that you can’t get out of your head.
Labels people have applied to you and given meaning to keep you in a box.
The beliefs we have about ourselves, life, the universe and everything.
All of these things have the potential to become anchors. And we need to make the choice to either drag those anchors behind us as we keep moving forward in life, or we can learn how to release them and free ourselves from their burden. The exciting part is that once we’ve released those anchors, life starts to align itself, opportunities start presenting themselves more and we feel like a lot of what we’d been waiting for starts to happen – fast. Where do you begin? How do you release your anchors? There are three steps.
Become aware of your anchors
The first layer of our anchors are the memories of experiences that took a little bit of us with them. These can both be painful memories, or even happy memories that we’re holding on very tightly to.
When we experience struggle or suffering, we can inadvertently hold onto that suffering until it becomes a part of us. “I have chronic pain” “I have childhood trauma” or “I am an abuse survivor” for example. It’s only natural to wear these experiences like a badge of honor (society and social media encourage us to do so).
Absolutely these experiences shape us and influence who we are as our current adult self. However, there is a difference between holding onto the weight of the experience (the anchor) and holding onto the life experience and learning.
An aspect of the Vedic principle of Aparigraha comes into play here – letting go and having non-attachment to experiences that don’t serve us.
Now what about positive experiences? Those happy memories – surely that must be a good thing to hold onto, right?
As with so many things, my answer is “it depends”.
If you’re living in the past, always reminiscing about the good old days, and staying stuck in the previous versions of you when things were easier or more carefree, you’re just being dragged back by a different kind of anchor.
Both holding onto suffering, and trying to avoid suffering by doing your best to stay in the past when things were “better” – both of those choices create and hold onto anchors that prevent you from becoming your best self.
I have a free meditation for you that helps you bring all these anchors together and let them go and I’ll tell you more about that at the end because it brings together the next two steps of releasing these anchors, the next of which is to decide what part of the anchor is serving versus sabotaging.
Decide what is sabotaging you and what is serving you
We talk about this concept of our beliefs, thoughts, emotions, and/or actions serving or sabotaging us in the Recover, Optimize and Elevate programs, but basically each of the beliefs, thoughts, emotions and/or actions have the ability to serve or sabotage.
A clear example of this is the emotion of jealousy. Typically we’d think of jealousy as a negative emotion, and yes it can sabotage us when we sit in resentment and a feeling of lack. However, jealousy can serve us by guiding us to understand what we want to work towards and give us the opportunity to figure out those first few steps to achieving that.
Looking back at the anchor experience you’ve identified, how has this sabotaged you in your current time of life? How has this experience shaped you in a way that is not serving the goals you have and the life you want to live?
Then, look at that anchor experience and see what is serving you. What did you learn that has been helpful from this experience? We’re not looking for silver linings here, necessarily.
That experience I shared earlier with the breakup served me because it shone the light on how my inner people pleaser set someone up to be more hurt by a situation than if I had been more open all along. The experience served me by guiding me to do more of the inner work to continue to strengthen my ability to be assertive. It’s not easy, and doesn’t make that situation any better, but it will help serve me in the future.
Again, I have a meditation and a worksheet that walks you through this process if you’re interested in giving it a try and I’ll tell you about it in a minute. Finally, the last step of this process to releasing your anchors is going to sound a little strange, but stick with me.
Befriend your self-saboteur
I remember a call with a client a few weeks back when I asked this question: “Which parts of you that you’ve ostracized do you need to befriend?”
Right away he felt resistance saying he didn’t want to befriend this part of himself, he wanted to just push it out, get rid of it, and never have to deal with it again. He wanted to keep pushing through pushing forward, and not dig into where this self-sabotaging anchor was created.
And maybe you’re thinking the same thing. Why should you befriend a part of you that you wish wasn’t there in the first place?
To that I said to him, and to you, “How has it been working so far to try and ignore and shun this part of you?”
All the habits that this self-saboteur follows have just disappeared have they?
I didn’t think so.
The truth is as I said in a previous episode, that all parts of us, even the parts of us we wish weren’t there, deserve love and compassion.
So when you think back to the anchor that we’ve been working through so far, and the way holding onto this anchor sabotages you – can you meet this part of you with compassion? Can you treat it as if you would treat a child that is hurt and scared and in need of love?
You don’t have to agree with this part of you in order to love it (that’s the secret to compassion – and more on that in another episode). But once you can show this part of you, this anchor, some compassion – it gets less heavy to hold. Each time you revisit this anchor and show it just a little more compassion and understanding, it gets lighter and lighter until it doesn’t hold you back anymore.
Interested in trying it out? I have part of the lesson in the Elevate program available for you for free, you just have to go to becomingavery.com/anchor and follow the steps to get it. There will be a short worksheet and a guided meditation to help you work through these three steps of letting go of the past and moving forward with your life from a space of healing and wholeness.
As for that client that resisted the idea of befriending this part of themselves they had tried to ostracize, they trusted in the process and gave the exercise a try. A few days later I got a message from them saying that they experienced a massive shift because of trying to befriend this part of themselves. They found that they were much less distracted, procrastinated a lot less, and even felt more in control of their emotions.
It’s not a quick fix magic wand, but it’s as close as you can get to one. I encourage you to give it a try and let me know how it goes for you.
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