What if the stuff that really matters to you; the stuff you consider to be essential, was actually not important at all?
I’m talking about the stuff you have based your life on … your value system, essentially.
Let me explain. From a very early age I knew that school grades were important. A+ (if not A+++) was my expected grade at all things academic, although a plus-less A was passable. Not ideal, of course, but the main thing was it was an A. Receiving a B was something that was very very rare for me and it simply was NOT acceptable. And the numbers beyond B? They didn’t exist. They were not an option.
Of course if you were to ever see my school sports reports, that was another matter. I don’t remember every getting a B or an A in sports, that’s for sure. I don’t remember because it wasn’t important. Academics was what mattered, and come hell or high water I would be the best in the class in that area. When I ended year twelve only third out of the year level, I was pretty annoyed. I won’t say I was devastated, because the truth is that I barely studied at all in Year 11 and 12. I’d figured out that it was pretty easy for me to put a minimum effort in academically and still bring home an A. My big exams for my end of school subjects (I think they were called CATs?) were done over a 24-72 hour period before their due date rather than from 3 months out, and it worked well. Matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I received better marks on work done under massive time pressure rather than on work spaced out!
It’s a reassuring theory, anyway 🙂
When it came to exams, I recall doing 20 minutes or so of quote memorisation for my English exam, and not much more effort for any other exam. So although I am actually still annoyed at coming third of the school not first, I know I should only be annoyed at myself. I could have tried harder.
Perhaps this was an early sign of some of the self-sabotage patterns I’ve seen show up in my life in other areas over the past decade or so. A thought for another time I think!
The point I’m trying to make; the point I’m facing for honestly the very first time ever, is what if all that concern and nearly 14 years now of being annoyed for not being top of the school in Year 12 actually doesn’t matter. At all.
Now of course you might say that’s obvious. That of course I shouldn’t hold onto something that happened so long ago. But that’s not what I mean. I meant what if my entire belief that being academics and grades are important is – unnecessary.
A few weeks back I was speaking with the doctor/psychologist who helped me to overcome bulimia all those years ago (I still see her several times a year) and it somehow came up that I would be devastated if my children grew up as ‘average’ students. Devastated.
‘Even if they were happy, healthy, content?’, she asked.
‘Yes. They should get good grades’.
‘Because they’re my kids’.
Isn’t that enough?
Well, no. Apparently it’s not.
Apparently being happy and healthy and content overall is more important.
To me this concept was flabbergasting. I can honestly say that I have never never even considered the idea that being academically smart is not important. Never never NEVER. Shows how deep-set our belief systems can be, doesn’t it?!
Perhaps on a logical level I can see this, but deep deep deep down, where values and beliefs are so firmly ingrained in childhood? I don’t believe it for a SECOND. And I’m not even sure I want to. It’s something I admit I need help working on; of course I can see that it’s important for me not to project all of my own stuff onto my kids, but how the heck do you not do that? I mean, it’s natural to expect your children to have similar values to your own isn’t it? Isn’t it?
Anyway, maybe right now you’re gasping at how black and white my future parenting style seems to be or possibly, just possibly, you’re nodding your head in recognition at some equally stubborn mindset of your own.
Maybe it’s the idea that you can never eat a certain food if you want to be lean (despite the little voice reminding you about all the people you know who do eat it regularly).
Perhaps it’s the firm ‘knowledge’ that no matter how hard you try you just don’t quite get the results you want.
Perhaps it’s even being so gee-darn set on the idea that you have to look a certain way in order to feel happy with yourself; in order to be an okay or deserving person.
Another long-time belief of mine is that I’m not good at managing money, despite the fact that I equally firmly believe I am very good at making it.
How about this one? The idea that you ‘need’ a job, or even regular income in order to be secure or to enjoy life.
I think for most people I’m pushing things too far with that last point, but really, this is what it all comes down to; this is the point I want to make –
If your values are not causing you to live a life of happiness then maybe they’re simply not important. Important enough, at least.
if only it were that simple
It’s no mean feat to undo years of firm resolve. Mind you, me thinking it’s tough to create new values is no doubt just another ingrained belief that I could learn to let go of!
For me, it isn’t as though I’m living in happiness or upset due to my beliefs that academics are practically the most important thing in a otherwise well-balance child’s life. But I’m not so blind to my own foibles that I can’t see where this could end up. And frankly, I’d rather deal with it now than when I have kids at school who may or may not be straight A students. Aside from what I might end up doing to them psychologically I’d rather avoid the anxiety for myself should my expectations not be met.
But that’s just my example, or one of them. How about you?
Are there things in your life that you keep push push pushing away at despite the fact that (if you’re truthful with yourself about it) they haven’t in fact had a desired outcome?
And how about your beliefs? What do you tell yourself is true and right that other people don’t care about at all, or perhaps are not even aware of?
It’s something to think about, isn’t it? Not because I mean to imply that if a thing doesn’t matter to others that it shouldn’t matter to you. No, it’s more the idea that it was possible for other people not to rate highly something I considered to be absolutely irrefutable. The idea that maybe some people don’t care about grades is as incomprehensible to me as if you would suggest health and fitness is not important. But that again, is just my belief, isn’t it?
letting go of values
There are certain values and beliefs I have that I don’t intend to change ever.
Health would be just one of those. But health and fitness? Well, it depends upon how you define fitness and whether aesthetics come into that. Which they do, don’t they? And regardless of what I may think of the matter for myself, it is absolutely not my place to impart to my daughter (or anyone else) the idea that you have to look a certain way in order to be happy.
And if I believe that?
Well then how deep of a value is it for me on a personal level, really? I pride myself now on staying a certain shape, but I know that shape is going to change drastically again with pregnancy, with age, and with events unforeseen perhaps as well. Which makes it pretty darn important that I learn to value and accept myself regardless of how I look.
It’s a tough one, isn’t it?
Letting go of deep-set values and beliefs is something I’ve really just started to think about in the past few years, but it’s very important to me to learn to do so. The money one for example; that’s a belief I’m simply not willing to stick with or accept as true. And I’m working on changing my perception of myself in that area.
It’s a process and a journey, this ‘understanding life’ thing. Thanks for letting me share some of mine with you 🙂
Life is Now. Press Play.