GUEST POST: Three Reasons to Stop Using the “if” Word
GUEST POST by Melissa Johnston
One of first movies to grace the Disney vault was the classic tale of Cinderella. If your family has not yet partaken of this vintage gem, do them a favor and download it, or dust off your VHS player and get ready to be dazzled once again. The stellar cast includes a beautiful young woman turned house slave, her evil controlling step-mother, and two obnoxious step-sisters with rumps that bounced like oversized beach balls behind them.
The dynamic between these four pre-dated Dr. Phil, but gave us a peek inside early dysfunctional family life at its traditional worse. Our childlike minds witnessed how a parent and siblings could so easily sabotage their innocent family member’s dreams and keep them enslaved, tucked away, and far from their true potential. So wrong, yet so entertaining! Popcorn please…
At Cinderella’s request to attend the upcoming royal ball, her step-mother appears to be kind and civil. Her response went something like “Well of course you can go to the ball Cinderella, no problem… If you (insert infinite list of chores) and have something suitable to wear (time to shine up those wooden clogs). Sounds reasonable, right? Ah, yes, but once Cinderella makes her exit, and the door is closed, the step-mother’s true intentions are revealed.
This mother knows her daughters don’t have a chance up against beautiful good-charactered Cinderella at the ball. More importantly, she realizes that giving their full-time housemaid a taste of life outside the four walls of her confinement could open her eyes to a life of possibilities. She may be picked up by the prince and even gasp…discover her potential! This of course, would ruin everything, and so to keep control of Cinderella, she strategically plays her weapon, the “if” word when agreeing to Cinderella’s request.
“Mother! Do you realize what you just said?” cry Anastasia and Druzilla in unbelief.
“Of course,” their mother says with a sneer, looking scandalous as ever.
“I said IF.”
The sisters are instantly pacified and cackling happily as their simple minds realize their mother’s plan all along. Sabotage.
Fortunately for Cinderella, she has a fairy godmother waiting in the wings who uses her magic to have her on her way to the ball, and with much more class and fashion then what those woodland could muster up.
By this time, audience’s hearts are filled with warm fuzzies. She’s going to the ball! But what about when this plays out in real life? What about our desires and dreams and how do we keep them from being sabotaged?
Because we too have these “royal balls” in our lives, these desired destinations, things that we want so badly for ourselves. It could involve losing weight, growing a business, expanding our talents, completing a 5K or just being more fulfilled right where you are.
Underneath that layer, is what we really want: the the feelings that we believe will come along with those results. It could be a dreamy dance with self-love, confidence, success, value, worthiness and so on. Of course, we want these feelings! They are such positive emotions and have us functioning at our very best.
But, as we move to acknowledge our desires, dreams and goals, another side of our brain will always make its presence known (cue cold draft, creaking of a heavy door, and dark shadows moving on stage). This part of our mind is very much like the step-mother and step-sisters in the fairy tale. They see our desires, are filled with fear and horror at the potential loss, and frantically plaster “ifs” all over them.
At this point, it’s important to recognize that this part of our mind isn’t intending to be evil at all. On the contrary, our brain’s goal is to keep us safe and protect us from harm, which is necessary and good to continue the human species. But sometimes our brains go too far and begin finding danger where there really is none.
These “Steps” see your plan to do something new or different, which then sound multiple *danger* alarms in your brain, and flash warning signs of potential failure, embarrassment, or shame. To offset this “danger” they begin throwing in qualifiers, and not just small simple ones, but big sometimes nearly impossible ones.
It goes something like this:
“So, you want to love and accept yourself?”
“Ok, yes, for sure, you totally can…….
if you lose twenty pounds by Monday, if you are having a good hair day, if you look more like that mom on Instagram, if you bring in money like that mom in your neighborhood does and if you are talented like that person at church. Then, and only then do you have permission to feel love towards yourself. Ok…bye”
At this point you may be telling yourself that it makes logical sense that things like dressing to modern trends, finding a way to get better at brush lettering, or earning more money will give us those feelings. That is just what needs to happen, and yes your lower brain will totally agree. It could give you so much evidence that this is true. Just try scrolling Instagram for five seconds. But none of this is accurate, and this is where the “IF” word has you stuck.
FUELED BY LACK
You see, throwing “IF” into your goal’s equation will have you operating from a place of lack.
It’s like motivating your child to try to ride a bike with no training wheels, by telling them to focus on the fact that they’ve never done this before and will most likely fall and get hurt several times.
You may have a desire to expand your talents through your business. Your thought may look like: I’ll start investing more time and money into my photography business If I get 100 more followers, have a more expensive camera, get more jobs, and receive more positive reviews from customers.
By focusing on the “lack” of followers, fancy equipment and praise, you are setting yourself up to fail from the get go.
You might as well tell yourself “Hey self, you’ve got nothing to offer, nada in the talent department, and your resources are outdated… now go and do some great work with our business!”
How well are you going to work on your business when all you can think about is how little interest others are showing in it? How much time and effort are you going to want to put into it when you are feeling worthless, hopeless and lacking? You are going to want to stop, two seconds in, and erase the idea of touching another photography themed item, because it feels terrible living and being fueled by lack.
FUEL WITH ABUNDANCE
Instead, we want you fueled by abundance. Repeat after me.
Self, you are so talented, and so capable! You have all that you need in this moment to begin contributing to your business RIGHT NOW. No need to wait for anyone else to offer you acknowledgment or “like” your business page. A number, a review, a fancier photo contraption, none of it deciphers what you can do and how high you can take your work. You’ve got this!
THE PERFECT EXCUSE
“IF” gives us the perfect excuse to not be taking action. It almost feels like a safety net keeping us from getting hurt, when really, it’s just keeping us from doing anything productive, like those horrible playpens in Rugrats.
Example: “I’ll sign up for the 5K IF I can get my mile down to 10 minutes.”
You might as well just be honest with yourself when you make these statements. As soon as you are feeling unsure or overwhelmed at the idea of the 5K, this “if” allows you the perfect cop out. “Of course I can’t sign up for it, I haven’t gotten my ten-minute mile down yet.” It’s more of an excuse then a goal, a reason to stop even trying, or starting.
JUST DO IT
This is a great place to do a little word-play yourself. Two can play this sabotage game, right? Let’s give those “steps” in your brain a little run for their money. Right before that sneaky “IF” lay down the word “Even,” and reverse the qualifier.
“I’ll sign up for the 5K, IF I can get my mile down to 10 minutes”
“I’ll sign up for the 5K, EVEN if I can’t get my mile down to 10 minutes.”
You give that nagging chatter a clear signal that you aren’t operating under their restrictions anymore. You are moving to action, whether or not they give you permission. That part of your brain can continue to be scared, and continue sending warnings your way. This to be expected, but you can decide it’s not going to stop you from your goal.
Like I said earlier, whatever it is we are working towards is really because we desire the feeling that we think it will bring to us. When we use “if,” we are telling ourselves that the result will equal the feeling.
Losing 10 pounds + getting those new pair of jeans = me feeling self-love
Sorry my friends, this equation is false. The commercials and mall posters lie. Results never create the feeling, it’s our thoughts that have this power. The only thing keeping us from feeling self-love for ourselves before we lose the weight and before we get those acid washed BONGO jeans that I hope are back in style are the sentences in our mind.
FEEL BETTER NOW
Those sentences can be changed right now, without any new circumstance or outside changes necessary.
“My body doesn’t deserve new jeans”
Many of us have been there. If you’re not quite ready to dedicate a love song to your body, just move to something neutral.
“I have a body, and it deserves to feel comfortable in clothing right now”
Tell that sister what’s up.
Simple thought changes will affect how we feel about ourselves and move us closer to self-love then those ten pounds ever will. Then we can choose right then to get those new jeans, not because we saw a new number on the scale, but because we already recognize our worth, without needing to change a single thing. It’s our thoughts that bring us there, not our actions.
Your “royal ball” is on the horizon. What will you do to move towards it and what kind of fuel will you choose to get you there? What will you do when those well-meaning but limiting “Steps” come into play and stick their “ifs” all over the equation?
Expect the “ifs” to show up and to get torn down a time or two Cinderella-style. This is part of the human experience! And while you may not have a fairy godmother ready with a bunch of rhyming nonsense words that somehow make all your dreams come true, you’ve got something even better. You have the most powerful resource available to man at your disposal right this very second. It’s your mind, and depending on the words you allow into it, you will find yourself stuck and far from your potential, or moving forward even closer to your heart’s desires.
Come visit me on my blog/website Lady Bee here > http://www.ladybee.co/
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About the author:
Hi, I’m Missy. I’m a wife, mom of five and a human being determined to make the most of life and become the best version of me. I’m a member of the LDS faith, a self-help junkie, avid thrift store shopper, dancer and lover of cheesecake. Writing gives me an opportunity to use my grown-up voice, connect with others and share what gems of wisdom I’m learning along the way.
THANK YOU MELISSA (Missy)! You are awesome and we so appreciate you sharing your unique voice and perspective with all of us!
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Cinderella art – property of FranMang – DeviantArt