My Story: How Shifting My Mindset Took Me From 0 to Hero
Updated: Aug 17, 2022
I am the poster child for getting stuck in life. Or at least I was. I spent my first five decades treading water in all the big categories – relationships, money, career, and health. There were times I felt like I was drowning. My beliefs kept me in lack and loneliness – until I figured out it didn’t have to be that way. And it changed my life.
Mindset is just the set of beliefs about ourselves and the world that we function from. Like everyone my parents were the first and greatest influence on those beliefs. I grew up in a solidly middle class, white, religiously and politically conservative family. The youngest of my three siblings was 14 years old when I was born. Needless to say, I was a surprise.
Although I never had the fear of missing a meal - or anything else for that matter, the vast majority of my childhood memories are laced with a general sense of unease. I was never quite relaxed. My mom had several chronic health issues and was almost always in physical pain. That expressed itself through irritation, anger, and criticism. As the years went by it also manifested in what today would be diagnosed as Hoarding Disorder. The result was a mother that even as she was trying her very best was inadvertently emotionally abusive. My dad, also doing his best was the classic enabler. Keeping a low profile and sacrificing his own needs and wellbeing to keep the peace.
As an adult I have a much greater understanding and empathy for what my parents were going through - including the thought of having a child at 42. I can see in hindsight how much they loved me. And of course, there was much more to their lives than these few narrow perspectives. But my parents were constantly sending spoken and unspoken messages – positive and negative. I absorbed a set of beliefs that formed the basis of my life for many years.
My parents were good people who loved me and each other deeply and treated others honestly and with respect. We were very active in our church and had a loving circle of friends and family. I was supported and taken care of. And at the same time, everyday life was generally full of strife, my mom's disappointment of unmet expectations, and loneliness. From a very early age I had already internalized that I was not lovable, that I was powerless, and that life was a mixed bag of happy moments and general unpleasantness.
I witnessed a poor relationship model where there were no tools to communicate, share feelings in a healthy way, or move past blocks.
What showed up in my life was a string of dysfunctional relationships starting at age 14, a toxic ten-year marriage, and two divorces. Few close friends. And long-term relationships that were emotionally unsatisfying.
Money was a complicated subject. I had trouble earning money as a teen. I did some babysitting and odd jobs, but always felt like money was elusive.
At home I often heard the phrase, “We can’t afford it.” And yet we seemed to be able to buy things. My mom relayed a mixture of pleasure and shame about buying things that grew as the hoarding increased.
Some of the beliefs about money I took away from my childhood and teen years were that it was hard to make money and that there would never be enough. That somehow it was wrong to have something you admired and wanted. Like you didn’t deserve it.
What I experienced for the next forty years – I never had extra money. Only enough to meet my immediate needs and often barely that. Any savings I had ever accrued ended up being needed for a repair or something unforeseen – or I spent it.
There were mixed messages about my place in the world. Both my parents worked and had successes. They had made their own way in life. My mom even had her own business. There were times of prosperity and lack, new ventures both attempted and failed but things always seemed to work out. They were both admired by their colleagues and I was proud of them for it.
My parents supported the idea of college and generously paid for it, but I had no idea what I wanted to do. There wasn’t much discussion about career choices or even what I would be good at. My dad just counseled me to get a teaching degree so I’d always have a job.
There were two big beliefs that stayed with me for many years. One was that somehow things always worked out, and that I would be sustained.
The second was that I would never make a lot of money because I wouldn’t be in a high-paying profession. That just wasn’t for me.
And, that’s what played out. Decades of gig jobs sometimes five at a time and living paycheck to paycheck. Never really seeing all the things I might be capable of or appreciating my entire skill set.
Mental and Physical Health
The cluttered house was a daily unspoken message about mental health. On the rare occasion we had guests, my mom would try to hide the clutter. My dad and I had to help. It was stressful and impossible.
And yet every year more and more came into the house. It was a constant source of irritation for my dad. My mom couldn’t seem to make a change. I watched her take on a shame about it. There was never a way to discuss it without her feeling judged and defensive.
Going to a counselor was a complete non-starter for both my parents. For their generation and because of their own family histories there was just too much stigma around therapy or even discussing your personal issues. So, it never changed.
My biggest takeaway from living with my mom and dad was that I was powerless to control my own experience. Life just happened to me. Basically, I learned victim mode.
And, of course watching a parent’s health problems constantly increase with no remedy in sight lead to the feeling that the future only brings decline.
That mindset manifested in the inability to set my own boundaries. Fear and reluctance to seek help. Being stuck for years in negative and destructive patterns. And the beginning of my own health issues.
So what changed?
I have always been a spiritual person even from childhood. To this day it is the most important aspect of my life. But I found that my prayers were not really working. I kept waiting for God to rescue me. I waited a long time.
My first marriage at age 22 seemed perfect on the outside, but soon became toxic and debilitating. Because of my Evangelical background I believed that I was in it for life, no exceptions. I chose to trust that somehow God would make it right, would fix it. Months went by before I confided in anyone. When I finally did reach out for help from the church I was met with well-meaning but awkward and non-helpful responses of “just keep trusting”. As things continued into years eight and nine I began to resent a God that would be silent in the midst of such grief and depression.
One day I just couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t care if it was a sin to leave, I was gone. It is to this day the greatest watershed moment of my life. A flood of peace that I cannot adequately explain came over me as I heard the words, “I never asked you to stay.” I realized in that moment that everything I had been through the past ten years had been of my own making. My own lack of agency to act was because of what I had believed about myself and my role in the world. A cocktail of beliefs from my parents, the church, and society.
From that point on I began to question all my beliefs. If I was wrong about that one, what else was I wrong about? It’s hard to explain, but I didn’t even know I COULD question anything.
I made the powerful decision to go to counseling. It was the beginning of the change. Understanding why I had gathered up all these thoughts opened the door to my healing. Just having a safe space to ask questions was so valuable.
One counselor in particular introduced me to the idea that we have the power to change our lives by choosing our thoughts. Once during a session when I was complaining from my victim mode she said, “Just choose joy. You can choose it right now.” I didn’t get it. I couldn’t hear it at the time, but the seed was planted.
I continued therapy for several years, and I did a lot of energy work. Things began to shift as I gained new insights and began to see and love myself in a different way. But in many ways I was still in chronic lack, mediocre career successes, and dysfunctional relationships.
I knew there was more to me, to this life than what I was experiencing. I could feel that life was supposed to be good and that the Universe had my back. But my life was not reflecting that in the fullness that it could.
It wasn’t until I really internalized that my thoughts and beliefs were creating my life experience that things began to change.
A New Journey
Over the months and years that followed new resources and methods for growth came to me. I put together a tool kit that helped me let go of so many of those thoughts and beliefs around people and money and the world that were holding me back. I began to envision what my life could look like. To dream and not just hope it would happen, but to really know it would. I was empowered.
Mindfulness practices that helped me focus my thoughts like meditation, affirmations, and visualization became a regular part of my days. Integrating the mind/body connection was especially helpful for me. I found qi gong and tai chi to be my most powerful tools on the journey.
Since those days of awakening in my thirties God has evolved from a remote father figure to something much bigger and intimate and powerful. It is a sweeter more precious relationship than I could ever have imagined. Source and I now co-create my life and it’s wonderful.
My life has changed in so many ways since those early days. I understand now the mental and emotional process that creates a healthy mindset and how to apply it in my daily life. There will always be unwanted experiences, but I now respond to negative situations from a different place. I'm still a work in progress, but I'm loving the journey!
What I've Created
I've got some pretty great evidence that changing your beliefs changes your reality.
In my career:
• I have created a successful business and career from scratch.
• I make a good sustainable living with the ability to scale as I please.
• I work in a profession that perfectly fits my skillset and gifts.
• I have a wonderful schedule that allows me freedom to pursue my interests and take time for myself.
• I love what I do.
• I make a real difference in the lives of others.
In my personal life:
• I have meaningful relationships.
• I am in great health and physically active.
• I have eagerness and expectancy for the future and what life holds for me.
• There is genuine pleasure and fun in most days.
There is no way I could have predicted this professional organizing career path for myself in my old mindset. One of the greatest things I've learned is to focus on what I want and leave the how to the Universe. All these positive experiences have been a direct reflection of the change in my beliefs. Of embracing the power to moment by moment choose the thoughts that create the life I want.
Love is abundant. I am worthy to receive it and joyful in giving it.
It’s easy to make money and there is always enough. Money is my friend.
I am uniquely talented, and capable of accomplishing anything I desire.
Life just keeps getting better and better.
Things work out. I kept that positive message from my parents, and it has sustained me many a time. I was loved and taken care of. Those were also good ones to keep. The greatest joy is in knowing I can let go of all the others.