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Reclaiming Joy: Breaking Free from Outdated Self-Perceptions

"Don't surrender all your joy for an idea you used to have about yourself that isn't true anymore."

These insightful words come from Cheryl Strayed's book, Brave Enough, and they encapsulate a couple of powerful messages that warrant exploring… If you’re into this whole self-discovery and personal growth thing that is. First, that our thoughts, ideas, and beliefs have the ability to impact our emotions and emotional states. Secondly, that just because we were programmed or conditioned to think a certain way, we are humans and our brains are mutable and changeable which means we can upgrade our ideas and beliefs anytime!

Story Time

Before we dive in though, let me share an experience that reminded me of the profound truth behind this quote. I was raised within a cult that imposed strict limitations on my self-expression, particularly when it came to dancing. For years, I believed that I was incapable of dancing, convinced that my body lacked the rhythm and grace to move fluidly. I also believed that while it was ok for others to dance, it was somehow a sin or wrong for me to move that way. These beliefs became deeply ingrained in my psyche, shaping my identity as a “white girl who can’t and shouldn’t dance.”

However, the Universe led me to a local ecstatic dance session, an event that would forever change my perception of myself and the joy that resides within me. This space provided a safe haven for self-expression, where dancing and moving my body became a liberating and transformative experience. There were no predefined steps or restrictions; it was a free-flowing dance of spirit, guided only by the music and the emotions that stirred within me. I discovered that my innate dance moves were indeed unique and perhaps a bit unconventional. Yet, what truly mattered was the sheer joy that coursed through my body as I surrendered to the music and allowed it to guide my movements.

I made the conscious decision a few years ago to take a look at every area of life and what I believed about it. Both for me and for others. If I had continued to cling to the belief that I couldn't and shouldn’t dance, I would have missed out on this incredible experience of self-discovery and liberation.

Yes I could have spent years brute forcing myself to dance and move my body in the hope I’d learn to let the music move me (to be honest, I tried this method too…). Instead I decided that it didn’t have to be hard and chose to work on the belief instead which then made the behavior change (going to the dance and letting the music do its work) an easier and incredibly fun experience.

Change and growth doesn’t have to be hard and a slog!

Our thoughts influence our emotions

Now circling back to that first message from the quote — our thoughts, ideas, and beliefs have the ability to impact our emotions and emotional states. For most of us, it’s pretty apparent that our thoughts influence our emotions and how we feel. For example, we can be sitting here reading this blog and be in a neutral state of emotions.

However, if I then begin to talk about how my dog is dying, your thoughts of relating to yourself and your own dog might cause you to feel a certain way such as sadness or grief. Or you think about how I must feel and you’ll start to feel things yourself on my behalf. When I then tell you that I was just kidding, my dog is just fine, you might feel a sense of relief or a “don’t play with my emotions so much! Not cool!” It’s easy to correlate what we think about to how we feel with situations like this. Where we get stuck though is when we’ve internalized the thoughts and they transform into a belief.

Beliefs & Our Identities are the root of our thoughts

Coming to our second point is that our beliefs can and often need to shift as we grow and change. Thankfully, just because I’ve always believed I couldn't dance, doesn't mean I’m stuck with that idea! For my own wellbeing and health, I needed to shift the belief so I can begin harness the power of my body for processing my emotions.

Looking at a different example, if you take the thoughts of “I can’t be consistent with saving money”, you’ll probably automatically feel some shame, guilt, fear, lack, etc. There we go again with our thoughts influencing our emotions. However, that thought is actually the product of what you actually believe about yourself, the “I can’t” coupled with the societal programming of “must be consistent or YOU as a person are a failure” which you’ve then internalized.

Our brains are like computers

I think of our brains to like super computers and we have a bajillion apps and programs running all at the same time. I’ve never had a computer that didn’t need updates and our thinking is the same way. I don’t know about you, but I do know I’m in no way shape or form the same Joy of five years so why would my thinking and beliefs stay the same? If I was a computer program, i’d be screaming “UPDATE ME!!!!”.

The beauty of all this is though that if we first shift the belief from “i cant” to “i can and I will” then suddenly we are working with ourselves instead of against ourselves. When we shift the belief from “if I don’t I’m a failure” to “if I don’t, it doesn’t mean anything”, we are releasing ourselves from the shame and fear of what might happen and thus release so much resistance to doing the dang thing. By shifting these two things, suddenly you’ll find saving easier and the journey way more enjoyable.

We can see this illustrated in Robert Dilt’s Levels of Change where he determined that if we try to change our behaviors (ie. buckle down and save money) without changing the beliefs (”i cant” or “if i don’t i’m a failure”) the behavior change (dancing, saving money, etc) is like pushing a boulder up a hill and the boulder grows in size as you try to push it.

Now that our brain’s know our thoughts impact our emotions and our beliefs impact our thoughts, are you ready to take the next step in shifting a belief for you thats been stealing your joy? Yes? Great let’s do this with the contemplations below! If not, no worries. Just let this information sink in and come back to it when you’re ready!

Contemplations for changing a belief

When was the last time you felt the tug of your heart to do something and then your mind piped up about how you can’t or shouldn’t do it? What was it?

In that moment, what belief felt true and had you agreeing with your mind that “yeah I have no business doing xyz”?

Is that belief still true for the version of you today? Why or why not? If it is no longer true, decide today that you’re letting that go! What do you want to believe instead? Affirm that daily until it feels like a no brainer to you!

By choosing to release this belief that’s no longer serving you, you open yourself up to new experiences, opportunities, and a deeper connection with your true self.

Please note, if you’re still feeling some kinda way about this belief and its not as simple as just “deciding” — know that you’re not alone and this is where I believe that having a coach or someone to support you as you work through the emotions and energy of this belief. It can take time and sometimes other modalities to help shift long help beliefs.

What now?

Our thoughts, ideas, and beliefs impact our emotions and emotional states and thankfully, just because we were programmed or conditioned to think a certain way, doesn’t mean we have to continue that forever!

I invite you to share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. Let's create a supportive community where we can encourage and uplift one another on our journeys of self-discovery and growth. Together, we can let go of the outdated beliefs that no longer serve us and embrace the boundless potential that lies within.

If you'd rather have supportive community in a more private space, check out the Radically You Community!


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