Breaking The Rules

I’m alive!! I am a little embarrassed that I haven’t published anything in over two months (yikes!). As per usual, the voice in my head has been making up stories and conversations – as if preparing myself for an inevitable question from someone as to why I have not blogged in two months. I feel the need to explain my absence – although I realize it’s probably more for myself than for you guys.

Either way – as I’ve been reflecting on why I haven’t published any blog posts, my first argument of defense is that I’ve just been very busy. For the last 8 weeks, I’ve been going on kayak-camping trips every other weekend which, as fun as it has been, has also been quite tiring. I rely on my weekends to relax, catch up on home chores, check-in with myself and also with family and friends back in Ottawa. But as I dig deeper, I am starting to think that keeping so busy has been a bit of a way to avoid my shit – I’ve avoided too much alone, quiet time because I haven’t wanted to sit with what comes up when I turn down the noise in my life.

Our bodies/spirits are wise, though. And this past week, with the help of the Full Moon energy and PMS, a lot of emotions and energy I’ve tried to keep at bay decided to surface – so I had a breakdown … or two or tree (😅). With all the work that I’ve done in the past 18 months, it was easy for me to recognize this as a sign that I was long overdue for some real slowing down to deal with this stuff.

That’s what I’ve done these past few days and this is why I am here now, blogging again because I realize that blogging is a way for me to put my thoughts on “paper” and put it out in the Universe. It’s a way for me to release the weight of my anguish and overwhelm. It’s also a way for me to show up authentically and imperfectly. I often have significant self-doubt about the value of the content of my blog posts. But publishing my ideas despite the self-doubt is like taking tiny leaps towards telling the World: this is me – take it or leave it! (and ultimately moving towards self-acceptance 😉 ).

Alright – now that we have that out of the way!

The ideas for this article have been brewing in my head for some time – I even thought I’d include them in my “confessions of a people-pleaser” series because they tie in very well with that theme. However I’ve decided to make it a stand-alone article because, well just because 🙃.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a stickler for rules. Written rules, but also the many unwritten rules that have been engraved in my subconscious over the course of my life. I was raised with what I believe is a set of solid values. However the expectations (whether explicit or assumed on my part) have been quite high, and have included what is “right” and what is “wrong” in almost all life situations. I’m not sure if it’s because of the way I was parented, or simply my personality (likely a combo of the both), but I’ve always taken following the rules VERY seriously.

And why wouldn’t I? I’ve always been validated and rewarded for following the rules – at school, in sports, at home, at work and in relationships. Again … we can see my people-pleaser personality shine through here. Following the rules is a sure way to make people happy.

Or is it?

At face value, I’d say absolutely. Following the rules ensures order, control and in turn offers rewards to those who follow the rules. I’ve always loved being a law-abiding citizen and even took it in pride. Embarrassingly, I also have to admit that I’ve looked down on those who don’t follow the rules (explicit or implicit). I think these are values/beliefs that have been passed down in my family for generations – those who break the rules and break the law are disturbers of the peace. Delinquents. I’ve always seen it as “bad”, a turn off.

As with many things in my life, over the last 18 months, I’ve started to question my position about abiding by all the rules.

You see, as I’ve grown, and as I’ve done “the work”, I’ve started to realize that to stand too firmly in any position is never good. And abiding by the rules is a position in which I was nearly cemented.

The issue with this is not so much the written rules – the laws, policies, rules at work, etc. Although I’ve come to question some of those too. The biggest problem has been my stance regarding all the “unwritten rules” I’ve had for life – I swear there’s like this massive manual of “dos and don’ts” in my head. And following all those rules is downright exhausting.

As I’ve started to question these rules, I’ve started to break some of them. It sounds fun and exciting … but in reality it’s just been a grueling battle with my subconscious that has triggered immense shame. Slowly, though, I’ve been able to loosen my attachment to being the perfect “good girl” and I’ve realized that it’s okay to do things my way … even if some part of me has been trained to feel like it’s “bad”.

Examples of the rules I’ve broken are:

  • Quitting my job last year without a clear plan about my next steps. And using the money I’d put aside to pay my taxes as a living allowance. To some of you, this may seem benign. But for me, it felt dangerous and crazy. I had to fight against every cell of my body to convince myself that it was okay to do that, and I wasn’t a bad person, or irresponsible, or lazy, or a failure (the list goes on).
  • Rigid structure regarding exercising and dieting. This is a huge one – and a “rule” that I still battle against often times. I’m working hard to break down the belief that I NEED to exercise X number of times per week and I need to eat according to a specific diet to be “healthy” and worthy of love (especially from potential romantic partners).
  • Related – don’t eat in bed. I had a funny conversation with an amazing co-worker of mine about this a few weeks ago. Eating at night, in bed, is something I’ve done for so long and that brings me So! Much! Shame! I’m working on it – but walking up the stairs to my bedroom with a plate of food (even when no one else is around) still feels like a walk of shame.
  • Not arguing or questioning authority. Ahhhh this one is massive and is so deeply rooted. I really struggle to have healthy “arguments” – I’ve never really been shown how to express myself, especially when it is not in accordance with someone else’s point of view. When I am faced with a disagreement – I often get super emotional and start to cry. I’ve come a long way with this – I’ve really made a point to express my point of view at work (regardless of if I think it will be shared or popular), but it remains immensely difficult and uncomfortable.
  • Don’t be too loud, disruptive or bothersome to others. Another huge one. I’ve spent most of my life trying to make myself small and accommodating – so breaking this rule and starting to express myself as been new and scary. I worry that I laugh too loudly. Or that people think I am obnoxious. Or that I am annoying. It’s an uphill battle against many insecurities …
  • Expressing my sexuality. When I look back at my life – I realize that I’ve always been a very physical being. I really feed off physical touch, and I love expressing my sense of femininity and sensuality through touch, dancing and exploring the human body. However, this has often come with a deep sense of shame. I started masturbating at a very young age and had absolutely no idea what I was doing until years later. I was convinced that what I was doing was terribly wrong and although I eventually realized I was not alone and there was nothing “wrong” about it, to this day I carry around some shame when it comes to sexuality and expressing my “wild” side.

I could go on for ever, but I’ll end the list here for now.

I wonder how many of you can relate to the items above, or to your own set of “rules” that you’ve come to adopt.

Becoming aware that I’ve been dominated by these rules was the first step towards freeing myself from them. This really began last year when my therapist pointed out how rigid I was when it came to my self-care routine. I measured my success (and ultimately, my worth) by how closely I could abide by my ideal self-care routine – work out 5 times /week, cheat meal once/week, meditate 2×10 minutes per day, journal every day, get outside every day, etc, etc. If I deviated from my ideal, my self-worth was crushed.

Slowly, with the loving support of my therapist, and a few close friends, I’ve been able to relax into being “imperfect” while still holding on to some sense of worth. There’s still a deep attachment there, and it will probably be a lifetime’s worth of work, but the practice of breaking the rules has been once of the most scary, yet liberating process on this journey of mine!

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