You Are a Badass
Short Summary of the Book:
MY SUBCONSCIOUS MADE ME DO IT
You are a victim of the rules you
—Jenny Holzer; artist,
thinker, blurter of brilliance
Many years ago I was in a terrible bowling accident. My friends and I were
at the tail end of a heated tiebreaker, and I was so focused on making a great show
of my final shot—leaping into action, loudly declaring my impending victory,
dancing and twirling my way through my approach—that I didn’t realize where
my feet were when I let go of the ball. This was the moment I was to learn
how serious the bowling community is about penalizing those who roll with one
toe over the line. They pour oil or wax or lube or something unimaginably
slippery all over the alley, and should someone accidentally slide out of
bounds while attempting the perfect hook shot, she will find her feet flying out
from under her and her ass crashing down onto a surface that even an
airborne bowling ball can’t crack. A few weeks later whilst lolling
about in bed with this guy I met at Macy’s, I explained that ever since my
accident, I’m now woken up in the middle of the night with excruciating
pain in my feet. According to my acupuncturist, this is from the nerves in
my back getting slammed when I fell, and in order to sleep through the night
I’d need a new, firmer mattress.
“I have pains in my feet when I sleep
too!” He said, raising himself up for an unreciprocated high five.
It’s not just because I’m not into the whole high-five thing that I left him
hanging, but also because I was annoyed with him. I already find mattress
shopping to be totally bizarre and embarrassing—lying on your side with a
pillow between your thighs for all to see like it’s anyone’s business—but the fact
that I had to do it with my salesman lying next to me, begging for a high-fiver, was
more than I could handle.
I couldn’t help but notice that all the other salesmen simply stood at the end
of the bed, rattling off mattress facts while their clients tested out a myriad of
positions, but not mine. He’d lower down next to me on his back, arms
crossed over his chest, and thoughtfully chat away, staring at the ceiling like we
were at summer camp. I mean, he was nice enough and incredibly
knowledgeable about coils and latex and memory foam, but I was scared to roll
over for fear he’d start spooning me. Was I too friendly? Should I not have
asked him where he was from? Did he think I meant something else when I
patted the empty space next to me to test the pillow top?
I obviously should have asked Freak
Show Bob to get off the damn bed, or found someone else to help me, instead
of sneaking out the door and blowing my only opportunity that week to go mattress
shopping, but I didn’t want to embarrass him.
I didn’t want to embarrass him!
This is pretty much how my family was trained to deal with any sort of
potentially uncomfortable interaction. Along with the fail-safe method of
running in the opposite direction, other tools in our confrontation toolbox also
included: freeze, talk about the weather, go blank, and burst into tears the moment
you’re out of earshot. Our lack of confrontation management skills was no great surprise considering the fact that my mother comes from a long lineage of WASPs.
Her parents were the types who believed that children were to be seen
and not heard, and who looked upon any sort of emotional display with the same,
horrified disdain usually reserved for cheap scotch and non–Ivy League educations.
And even though my mother went on to create a household for us that was as
warm, loving, and laughter-filled as they come, it took years for me to finally
learn how to form a sentence when presented with the blood-chilling
the phrase, “We need to talk.”
All this is to say that it’s not your
fault that you’re fucked up. It’s your fault if you stay fucked up, but the foundation
of your fuckedupedness is something that’s been passed down through
generations of your family, like a coat of arms or a killer cornbread recipe, or in
my case, equating confrontation with heart failure.
When you came screaming onto this planet you were truly a bundle of joy, a
wide-eyed creature incapable of doing anything but being in the moment. You
had no idea that you had a body, let alone that you should be ashamed of it.
When you looked around, everything just was. There was nothing about your
world that was scary or too expensive or so last year as far as you were
concerned. If something came near your mouth, you stuck it in, if it came near
your hand, you grabbed it. You were simply a human . . . being.
While you explored and expanded into your new world, you also received
messages from the people around you about the way things are. From the
moment you could take it in, they started filling you up with a lifetime’s worth of
beliefs, many of which have nothing to do with who you actually are or what is
necessarily true (e.g. the world is a dangerous place, you’re too fat,
homosexuality is a curse, size matters, hair shouldn’t grow there, going to
college is important, being a musician or an artist isn’t a real career, etc.).
The main source of this information was, of course, your parents, assisted by
society at large. When they were raising you, your parents, in a genuine effort to
protect you and educate you and love you with all their hearts (hopefully),
passed on the beliefs they learned from
their parents, who learned them from
their parents, who learned them from
their parents. . . .
The trouble is, many of these beliefs have nothing to do with who they
actually are/were or what is actually true. I realize I’m making it sound like
we’re all crazy, but that’s because we kind of are.
Most people are living
in an illusion based on
someone else’s beliefs.
Until they wake up. Which is what this book will hopefully help you do.
Here’s how it works: We as humans have a conscious mind and a
subconscious mind. Most of us are only aware of our conscious minds, however,
because that’s where we process all our information. It’s where we figure things
out, judge, obsess, analyze, criticize, worry that our ears are too big, decide
once and for all to stop eating fried food, grasp that 2 + 2 = 4, try to remember
where the hell we left the car keys, etc. The conscious mind is like a
relentless overachiever, incessantly spinning around from thought to thought,
stopping only when we sleep, and then starting up again the second we open our
eyes. Our conscious mind, otherwise known as our frontal lobe, doesn’t fully
develop until sometime around puberty. Our subconscious mind, on the other
hand, is the non-analytical part of our brain that’s fully developed the moment
we arrive here on earth. It’s all about feelings and instincts and erupting into
ear-piercing temper tantrums in the middle of supermarkets. It’s also where
we store all the early, outside information we get.
The subconscious mind believes everything because it has no filter, it
doesn’t know the difference between what’s true and what’s not true. If our
parents tell us that nobody in our family knows how to make money, we believe
them. If they show us that marriage means punching each other in the face,
we believe them. We believe them when they tell us that some fat guy in a red suit
is going to climb down the chimney and bring us presents—why wouldn’t we
believe any of the other garbage they feed us?
Our subconscious mind is like a little kid who doesn’t know any better and,
not coincidentally, receives most of its information when we’re little kids and
don’t know any better (because our frontal lobes, the conscious part of our brains, hasn’t fully formed yet). We take in information via the words, smiles,
frowns, heavy sighs, raised eyebrows, tears, laughter, etc., of the people
surrounding us with zero ability to filter any of it, and it all gets lodged in our
squishy little subconscious minds as the “truth” (otherwise known as our
“beliefs”) where it lives, undisturbed and unanalyzed, until we’re on the
therapy couch decades later or checking ourselves into rehab, again.
I can pretty much guarantee that every time you tearfully ask yourself the
question, “WTF is my problem?!” the answer lies in some lame, limiting, and
false subconscious belief that you’ve been dragging around without even
realizing it. Which means that understanding this is majorly important.
So let’s review, shall we?
1) Our subconscious mind contains
the blueprint for our lives. It’s running the show based on the
unfiltered information it gathered when we were kids, otherwise
known as our “beliefs.”
2) We are, for the most part, completely oblivious to these
subconscious beliefs that run our lives.
3) When our conscious minds finally develop and show up for work, no
matter how big and smart and highfalutin they grow to be, they’re
still being controlled by the beliefs we’re carrying around in our subconscious minds.
Our conscious mind thinks it’s in control,
but it isn’t. Our subconscious mind doesn’t think about
anything but is in control.
This is why so many of us stumble through life doing everything we know in
our conscious minds to do, yet remain mystified by what’s keeping us from
creating the excellent lives we want. For example, let’s say you were
raised by a father who was constantly struggling financially, who walked
around kicking the furniture and grumbling about how money doesn’t
grow on trees, and who neglected you because he was always off trying, and
for the most part failing, to make a living. Your subconscious took this in at
face value and might have developed beliefs such as:
• Money = struggle
• Money is unavailable.
• It’s money’s fault that I was abandoned by my father.
• Money sucks and causes pain.
Cut to you as an adult who, in your conscious mind, would love nothing
more than to be raking in the dough, but who is subconsciously mistrusting of
money, believes it’s unavailable to you and who worries that if you make it,
you’ll be abandoned by someone you love. You may then manifest these
subconscious beliefs by staying broke no matter how hard you consciously try to
make money, or by repeatedly making tons of money and then losing it in order
to avoid being abandoned, or in a plethora of other, frustrating ways.
No matter what you say you want, if you’ve got an underlying subconscious belief that
it’s going to cause you pain or isn’t available to you,
you either A) Won’t let yourself have it,
or B) You will let
yourself have it, but you’ll be rill fucked up
about it. And then you’ll go off and lose it anyway.
We don’t realize that by eating that fourth doughnut or by ignoring our
intuition and marrying that guy who’s an awful lot like our low-down, cheatin’
daddy, that we’re being driven by our subconscious minds, not our conscious
minds. And that when our subconscious beliefs are out of alignment with the
things and experiences we want in our conscious minds (and hearts), it creates
confusing conflicts between what we’re trying to create and what we’re actually
creating. It’s like we’re driving with one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake.
(Obviously, we all have awesome subconscious beliefs as well, but we’re
not talking about those right now.)
Here are some other scenarios that may or may not ring a bell:
Conscious Mind: I long to find and marry my soul mate.
Subconscious Mind: Intimacy leads to pain and suffering.
Conscious Mind: I want to lose 25 pounds.
Subconscious Mind: People aren’t safe; I must build a shield to protect
Body: A fortress of flab
Conscious Mind: I’m hot and sexy and want to get it on.
Subconscious Mind: Physical pleasure is shameful.
Sex Life: Yawn
Conscious Mind: I want to travel the world.
Subconscious Mind: Fun = irresponsible = I won’t be loved
It’s sort of like not being able to enjoy sitting on your front porch
anymore because it totally reeks of something foul out there. You can come
up with all these brilliant ways to deal with the problem—light incense, set up
fans, blame it on the dog—but until you realize that something has crawled under
your house and died, your problems will linger on, stinking up your life.
The first key to ridding yourself of limiting subconscious beliefs is to
become aware of them. Because until you’re aware of what’s really going on,
you’ll keep working with your conscious mind (think you need to paint the porch)
to solve a problem that’s buried far beneath it (dead skunk removal) in your
subconscious, which is an exercise in futility.
Take a minute to look at some of the less-than-impressive areas of your life
and think about the underlying beliefs that could have created them. Let’s take
the old crowd-pleaser, lack of money, for example. Are you making far less
money than you know you’re capable of earning? Have you reached a certain
income level that, no matter what you do, you can’t seem to go above? Does
generating an abundance of money consistently seem like something you’re
not even physically capable of? If so, write down the first five things that come
to your mind when you think about money. Is your list full of hope and
bravado or fear and loathing? What are your parents’ beliefs about money? What
are the beliefs of the other people you grew up around? What was their
relationship with money like? Do you see any connection between their money
beliefs and yours? Later on in this book I’m going to give you tools to go much deeper with
your subconscious beliefs and fix whatever’s blocking you from living the
kind of life you’d love to live, but for now, practice stepping aside, notice
what’s happening in the dysfunctional areas of your life and strengthen your
almighty awareness muscle. Start waking up to the stories you’re working
with in your subconscious (I’ll have to do things I hate in order to make money,
I’ll feel trapped if I get into an intimate relationship, if I go on a diet I’ll never
get to eat anything fun again, if I enjoy sex I’ll burn in Hell with the rest of the
dirty sinners, etc.). Because once you see what’s really going on, you can start
to drag out the stinky carcasses of your limiting subconscious beliefs and give
them the heave-ho, thereby opening up the space to invite the fresh, new,
awesome beliefs and experiences that you’d love to have, into your life.