Personal Growth

Breaking Old Patterns Can Show People Your True Self

Hey everybody. Um… so… my name is Carey and I have a… uh… a problem (and perhaps you do too, since it has to do with breaking old patterns, which… is really… really … hard). 

My problem is not that I binge watch too much TV. 

It’s not that I can’t focus for prolonged periods of time (I actually lovingly embrace my ADD). 

It’s not that I have a vice requiring a 12-step program (unless the amount of chocolate I consume is considered to be borderline addictive).

It’s that I have a hard time speaking up for myself. 

Breaking Old Patterns Can be a Lifelong Pattern

I hate to admit it, but breaking old patterns has been a lifelong challenge of mine. 

Ask my mom. 

With a mixture of dismay and concern, she’d furrow her brow and harangue me as a child for sitting quietly by and letting other kids take my toys. When I was little I hardly ever asserted myself. Instead, I felt a deluge of emotions and just cried. I didn’t go after my toys because it felt mean to take my things back. And I believed that nothing was worse than being mean.

As an adult, this challenge has shown up in my life a little differently. These days I have fewer toys to take and my mom lives a few thousand miles away, so she can’t as easily concern herself with how often I over-share, but she knows I still struggle with breaking these old patterns of not speaking up for myself. 

So rather than being a toy-taking problem, my assertiveness issue manifests in conversations, especially in ones where I have to protect my emotional turf, my needs, or my beliefs. I particularly notice these old patterns of mine in contentious conversations with someone who I believe is a gifted orator, or who can craft an argument in the moment with razor-sharp clarity.

And then, when a conversation feels tense to me, I lose my words. 

It always happens the same way, or at least feels that way, because breaking these old patterns means they are familiar. They happen time and time again, creating a habit within me.

My thoughts and feelings escalate and race. I feel EVERYTHING. I make connections and have an overall sense of clarity, but put on the spot, I have a difficult time putting the words together to say what I believe.

And sure enough, an hour later I have five pages of things I totally should’ve said–and didn’t. You know what they say about hindsight… well… Yep. 

Looking Back with a Plan for Breaking Old Patterns

Looking back, I wish I had been able to tell the person I loved how I felt without being judged. I wish I had been able to tell the client who wanted to come in on Sunday morning that I really just wanted to sleep late that one day. I wish I had been able to tell Aunt Molly that I just really didn’t want to talk about my divorce over desert and tea at the Thanksgiving table.

I wish I had been better at breaking old patterns. I know growth comes through discomfort, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

Does this ever happen to you? Is it hard for you to speak up for yourself? To set boundaries? To ask for your needs to be met without worrying what others will think of you?

Underneath the silence that comes over me in these stressful moments, I truly wish people knew something very specific about me and my intentions. I wish they knew what I wanted deep down to be able to communicate, yet couldn’t find the words for. I wish they knew that all I wanted was for everyone to feel happy, for everyone to have what they needed and to know that we would work together to identify a mutually satisfying solution in time. 

I asked a few of my clients what they wished people knew about them, what it seemed others frequently got wrong about them. Here’s what I learned from them by archetype.

  • Fire – I wish they knew that all I wanted was for everyone to feel happy, for everyone to have what they needed and to know that we would work together to identify a mutually satisfying solution. 
  • Earth – I wish they knew that I felt deeply about a lot of things. I’m not sure it always comes across because I give so much space to others and put so much effort into being a responsible, diligent person that it can come across as if I am muted in my internal reality.
  • Metal – I wish they knew that I’m not so serious. I’m a nice person and I do like to have fun.
  • Water – I wish they knew how much I love things, people, art, beauty – I don’t wear that on my sleeve, you have to know me to know that about me. Most people don’t know. The people who know me intimately know my taste.
  • Wood – I wish they knew that when I’m taking my time thinking about something that I’m not angry. I’m not perturbed. I’m just thinking.

Do any of these examples ring true for you? Are you frequently misunderstood in some way? What do you wish people knew about you? We usually align pretty regularly with our primary archetype, so I’d be curious to hear from you on this. Send me your assessment scores and what you wish people knew about you!