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Divorced Moms: Dial Down Those Self-Limiting Beliefs

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Mom & daughter atop Mt. Princeton

Life after divorce has been pretty darn good these past few months. Despite the comings and goings of family and friends, and the many transitions I’m experiencing (youngest left for college, oldest moved back home, long-time neighbors moved away, aging parents needing more active support, etc.) I do a good job these days of maintaining my peace of mind. It’s a surprising gift that came out of my divorce.

So I was surprised to find an old belief show up while I was hiking with my daughter, disguised though it was in a fact: “I’m too slow.” The underlying belief is one I bet many divorced moms can relate to: “not good enough.”

I wanted to address this self-limiting belief that was robbing my peace of mind before it took away my joy in hiking. While seemingly minor, it was sticking in my brain, both when I was hiking and back at home.

The specifics of my recent situation are that when I am climbing mountains I am slow on the downhill and over rocky terrain. Not just a little slow, but slower than most everyone else I see on the trail. When I hike by myself it hadn’t bothered me, but it became a big issue when I hiked with my daughter and saw that she would have completed the climb at least 45 minutes or an hour sooner if she hadn’t kept waiting for me.

Despite trying to put a positive face on my situation, I default back to self-judgment. My internal monologue says things like:

  • You’re so slow.
  • You’re holding everyone up.
  • What’s the matter with you that you can’t go faster?
  • You thought you were so fit, but you’re just an old wannabe.
  • No one will ever want to hike with you.
  • You’ll never be able to climb all the 14ers.

Because I knew that I didn’t want to stay in this negative state of mind and let these self-limiting beliefs keep me from something that has brought me great joy in life after divorce, I took a few actions that I’ve found helpful over the years:

  • Prayer and meditation
  • Talking to a trusted friend
  • Surrender and accept
  • Ask for help in changing my attitude

In prayer and meditation, and in some reading that I was “coincidentally” doing at the same time, I came to see that my ego and pride were in high gear. The ego likes to compare and judge, and at first it had me one-up (doing what I’m doing at my age, etc.) and then one-down (everyone else is faster, even the older guys). Pride didn’t like to be last; it wanted me to be mistaken for someone younger.

In talking to a couple of trusted friends about the situation, I gained a healthier perspective and some practical suggestions. One friend observed that I excel at most everything I do, but I’m relatively new to this kind of hiking and I needed to cut myself some slack. With time and practice I will continue to improve. She also observed that I am carrying a lot of responsibility (and probably some fear), both on the trail and, if something happened to me, on the impact to my family at home. And my friend noted that my daughter is one lucky, blessed young woman to have a mother who can hike with her. (My daughter knows this and tells me so. She also points out that she probably wouldn’t go if I wasn’t driving and going with her, and that she doesn’t mind waiting for me as long as she knows I’m okay.)

Another friend and coach was the one who helped me see that this limiting belief was really just a version of “not good enough” – an old, familiar “friend.”

Surrender and acceptance included the admission that I am powerless to change my hiking speed and ability, at least right this minute. This may mean that I won’t ever do all of Colorado’s 14ers, but it doesn’t have to mean I won’t do any.

Acceptance also means listening to and internalizing other perspectives besides my own internal voice. One my last hike, three young women passed me, and one of them said how great it was to see strong women out on the mountain.

I said, “Well, this is a slow woman.”

She said, “No matter, you’re still strong. Keep it up.”

So perhaps I’m strong, and I can ask for help in seeing myself that way. The underlying cause of my limiting belief may never completely come to the surface, but if my attitude about myself doesn’t shift, I may lose the desire or, worse yet, the ability to enjoy the journey. Which leads to asking for help in changing my attitude.

So I ask my higher power, the inner source, to give me new eyes and to rekindle my joy in hiking. So what if I’m slow? I’m the only one who really cares. The women on the path saw strength; I was the one focused on weakness.

This belief may not go away completely or immediately. But I can turn down the volume, with help and willingness, to a level that doesn’t block out the good.

This reminds me of something a counselor told me when I first became aware of having that “not good enough” belief, over 20 years ago. You probably won’t ever eliminate it, but you can turn down the dial just like you can turn down the volume on the radio.

The best way to do that is to replace those negative, limiting beliefs with true, positive thoughts. For me this means focusing on strength and endurance (not speed) and joy in the beauty of where I am, not how fast I get there and back.

So if you have limiting beliefs, divorced moms (and we all do), turn down the dial and enjoy the good in life after divorce.

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