Hello again! After a short absence, I’m excited to get back into the swing of things and bring some more posts to you all. Today I’m excited to introduce Dr. Ann LeFevre author of the the book “Live Your Life: 14 Days to the Best You.” She is here today to share some knowledge from her book. Enjoy!
This blog is based on Chapter 1, Silence the Voices, in Live Your Life: 14 Days to the Best You.
As a young child, I was pushed to excel and succeed. I was read to for hours as a toddler to develop my love of reading. I started piano lessons at age 3 to hone my skills during my early years. I was treasured by my parents and valued by teachers and adults at church. By the time I entered elementary school, I was confident, kind, trusting, and I believed the world was safe.
Towards the end of first grade, as track and field day approached, we prepared by running laps around a grassy field, in the soaring heat, sweat running down our backs. I was miserable, but I did my best, because that’s how I was raised. I knew how to practice a skill even when I didn’t feel like it; I had been practicing piano daily for several years by this point, even when I would’ve rather been playing outside. Unfortunately, my gym teacher, who tended to bark and yell instead of talk and teach, pulled me aside one day in the middle of my sweaty run. She roared in my face, “What if you played piano the way you run? What would your piano teacher say?”
It’s amazing how fast we learn things as children. In minutes, as I processed what just happened, I learned that I not only wasn’t great at everything I did, but that I was a lousy runner. Teachers knew everything, so my 6-year-old self never questioned her criticism. Sadly, those few moments set the stage for an internalized belief that lasted for decades:
“I’m not an athlete and I will embarrass myself and others if I try anything physical.”
I did my best to avoid participating during recess and PE class, never tried out for a sport, and for decades I stayed away from anything athletic – gyms, lifting weights, yoga, Pilates…anything where I could have embarrassed myself. Whenever a physical opportunity was presented, either by entering my mind or by someone inviting me to do something, I felt anxious and sick and said no as fast as I possibly could. After saying no, I felt instant relief, like I had dodged a bullet, followed by a cocktail of disappointment, shame, frustration, hopelessness, and whatever else happened to pop up that day.
The interesting thing about core beliefs is that we often don’t recognize them, because they are simply ‘the truth.’
As a social worker and psychotherapist, my job is to help others question and challenge their self-talk, and how they view themselves and the world. To learn my professional skills, I practice them on myself, which is how I eventually uncovered this belief that had not only been holding me back for nearly my entire life, but that had also led me to devalue and criticize my body when I looked in the mirror. I was surprised to trace such a deep-seeded truth back to something said to me by a miserable elementary school gym teacher.
Do you ever hear a voice in your head, an automatic thought or even a physical response telling you that you can’t do something? “I’m not good enough, strong enough, smart enough, pretty
or handsome enough, thin enough, fit enough, _____ enough.” Perhaps you don’t hear those exact words, but you turn down invitations without giving them a second thought, or you don’t apply for promotions or entertain opportunities that might challenge you or move you forward in your career or personal life. When something doesn’t go as you desired or planned, do you beat yourself up, calling yourself names and pointing out a thousand negative things about what you did and how awful you are?
If you can relate, congratulations, you are totally normal. Having some negative core beliefs is part of being human. Most of us don’t live in a bubble of rainbows and kittens, and we’ve been the recipient of negative messages during our upbringings, middle and high school years, and as adults in the workplace. You don’t necessarily need to seek out the assistance of a therapist, or even dig into your past to find the root of the negativity that is holding you back (although that can be helpful for many people). If you want to move forward, consider trying something that helped me, and that helps my clients:
When you hear that negative voice saying, “I can’t,” or “I’m not ____ enough,” or you see a negative image of yourself in your mind, literally turn your head and look in the opposite direction. Say the opposite statement to yourself, out loud if possible. Change the image, just like a movie director would change a movie scene, and see yourself as strong, confident, and accomplished. You might not believe your words or the new image, especially if the negative belief has been your truth for a long time, but do it anyway. Write down your challenging phrase (“I am strong enough, good enough”) in a place where you can see it often. Continue making the changes in your head, and soon your heart will follow.
One final note. Although you may feel instant relief in the short term by saying no to something because of that negative voice or image in your head (like I did!), remember that, in the long term, you are only solidifying that unhelpful belief and will only feel worse. When an opportunity presents itself, take a moment to weigh out the short-term versus long-term benefits of saying yes or no, and make an informed decision based on your values and goals, not the voice of your old gym teacher.
Note from MillennialLeader – Thanks again for Dr. Ann LeFevre’s contribution to the site and I hope you all enjoyed the article. You can find my review/recommendation of her book here. I’ll have more post coming out this month so please subscribe if you want notification. Thanks!
Dr. Ann LeFevre is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Massage Therapist, and a Certified Acupressurist. She is the founder of Restore Body and Soul, a health and wellness enterprise designed to meet the therapeutic needs of the whole person using research-backed Western and time-tested Eastern techniques. Restore Body and Soul offers counseling for concerns such as depression, anxiety, insomnia and PTSD, as well as therapeutic and acupressure massage, workshops on self-acupressure and other health and wellness topics, and hand-blended bath and body products created to enhance wellness and relaxation. After working as a psychotherapist for nearly 20 years, Dr. LeFevre has decided to share a series of lessons in her book, Live Your Life: 14 Days to the Best You, that have inspired countless clients to take control of their lives, manage stress naturally and holistically, enjoy lives filled with meaning and value, and to start living the lives they always dreamed of.