Re-writing the rules

A few months back, I took an online course which encouraged me to own my story. Because it’s easy to feel powerless under the weight of expectation, failure and the wear-and-tear of (sometimes traumatic) life events, the workshop aimed to help participants:

  • identify the beautiful and brutal (bru-tiful) journey they are currently on;
  • identify the various ‘rules’ imposed by family, community or culture which shape behaviour and identity;
  • understand the connection between thoughts, expectations, emotions and behaviours;
  • feel empowered to take control of one’s own struggle, re-writing rules where possible;
  • dare to write an ending (or even the next chapter) which reflects their values, priorities and needs; and
  • see how such changes can be applied to the world’s stage.

With respect to my story, the concept of ‘rules’ was particularly important, as these have shaped my worldview (moral code and understanding of justice), my sense of self (under what circumstances I feel proud or ashamed) and my behaviours, (in both adherence to, and defiance of, said rules).

Most of the time, we operate within these rules with very little awareness that they even exist. This isn’t always a bad thing; rules provide order amongst the chaos and help us navigate our place in our relationships, our workplace and the wider world. However, rules can also restrict growth and fuel shame, especially when they’re contradictory.

Here is a list of some contradictory and restrictive rules that I have experienced and, no doubt, projected onto others:

  • don’t expect too much from others, but be sure not to let them down. Expect a lot from yourself, because others will;
  • others have the right to judge, shame and fix you, based on these expectations. Let them, because this is done with good intentions;
  • mistakes are an important way to learn and grow. Even so, only certain mistakes are acceptable. See above;
  • make sure to find another perspective to every situation. Even if this means invalidating your own perspective in favour of others’;
  • don’t be too sensitive, but don’t be too hard and cynical either;
  • don’t be a push-over, but be prepared to be shut-down if you stand up for yourself;
  • always be grateful. Even if this means minimising your own natural emotional reaction; and finally
  • give, even when you don’t feel you can. It’s better to absorb a bit of discomfort than let others down.

Articulating these was difficult, but also quite liberating. I came away from the course feeling that, after naming the ways in which I felt trapped, I might do better at shedding some of these restrictions and expectations. Likewise, I might do better at not enforcing these onto others. Taken together, these are the ways I can start to take control of my story, rather than constantly reacting.

As 2016 draws to a close, I encourage you to think about what rules have you experienced (or perpetuated). How might changing these help you to write the next chapter of your own story that’s more in line with your values?

Photo credit: UA Business Cloud.

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Melita Caulfield

Melita believes in living mindfully and authentically which is reflected in her writing and artistic expression.

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