Gretchen Hydo with the fall wreath she made.I was wrong and being wrong was keeping me small.

All my life, being “creative” was something other people did. Not me. I grew up in a family that considered being creative a little crazy. And what I mean by that is that they thought you were mentally ill and at the very least, that being creative was not a way that “smart” people made money. The most creative person in my family was my grandmother. She was always doing projects, and as a child I helped her cross-stitch, press flowers, and make curtains. We would pick out patterns and she would sew me clothes. It was so much fun and I loved it! But I never believed I was good at it. My mom had a terrible experience with a nun who gave her a bad grade when she was little on her art project. The nun was also really mean to her about a poem that she wrote about a cat. Her ideas about being creative bled over onto me. She didn’t mean for them to, but they did. She believed she wasn’t creative, and I looked up to my mom. She seemed powerful and competent and I wanted to be like that.

Then I grew up. I developed a love of cooking, and writing, and decorating, but again, these were just hobbies, like my grandmother’s flowers. They weren’t things that I could look to and say about myself, “Hey, I’m creative.” They weren’t creative in a way that mattered. And compared to my grandmother, Aunt, and cousin I felt like I had absolutely no skills in this area that really counted. I wasn’t nearly as good at it as them or as natural.

And then, the other day, all of that changed.

I made something. Yep, you heard me. I made a wreath. I came across a video online, went to the dollar store, loaded up on crafting items, and before I knew it, I had a beautiful fall wreath hanging on my door. Just like that. I couldn’t believe it. I felt free, I felt proud, and I felt creative. I’ve even told my husband we have to clear out a cabinet for my crafting items. My crafting items. My grandmother will be so proud when she reads this. I even have my next project all lined up. I’m taking a class where you learn to melt glass, add color to it, and shape it into a vase or a bowl. Me, shaping glass! I can hardly wait.

But besides learning a pleasant lesson in self-discovery, I’ve realized something important about us all: we pick up certain messages about ourselves that we take as gospel truth, when they in fact may just be limiting beliefs. Who could we be or what could we accomplish if we didn’t hold them so close? If we ignored them? Or if we challenged them?

Limiting beliefs serve a purpose – to keep us safe – but they really just keep us stuck. We usually pick them up when we’re children, when being safe seems a lot more important. We take on certain views to stay within the family system. Now that we’re adults, we owe it to ourselves to figure out what these messages are and challenge them. Otherwise we may go through the rest of our lives with seriously skewed perceptions of ourselves.

So, here are 5 tips on how to challenge your limiting beliefs:

    1. First, write down all of the things about yourself that you think are true. Usually these are negatives. Some examples: I’m not organized. I’m not good at numbers. I’m not great at public speaking. I’m bad with money. Write everything down.
    2. One by one, go through the list and ask yourself: is this 100% true? Is it 100% true that I’m not creative? Is it 100% true I can’t cook? Chances are it isn’t.
    3. Now that we’ve established that a belief about yourself isn’t 100% true, ask yourself this next question: what might I try if I allowed myself to believe that I might be able to do this thing after all? Remember, this can be anything: painting, sculpting, writing, taking pictures, tai chi. It can be becoming a “numbers guy” a salesperson, or trying a crossword puzzle. Anything that you’ve crossed off the list because you assumed you just couldn’t do it. (Hint: This is the most important tip. When you allow yourself to actually try something, you are physically moving past a block. It might not feel like much, but this can be massively transformative.)
    4. Who can you try the activity with? Things that are new are always more fun with friends. Find someone you can bring along, or someone you can share your creations with. Obviously, this needs to be someone who makes you feel safe and seen. If it is something like getting good with numbers or becoming in charge of your finances, what support do you need personally and professionally?
    5. Do the activity without self-judgment. Remember that everyone is a beginner at one time. All you need to do is try it. You aren’t the critic here. Maybe later you can be, but not now.

What you may find is that certain beliefs you’ve held about yourself for years may simply fall away. If you’re finding that you need more help with dismantling limiting beliefs, please contact me for your complimentary 30-minute phone session here. It’s time to figure out what you’ve been wrong about and what it’s kept you from.

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