Am I immune to change?

Hours before I was due at the Badass Mamas group, I toyed with the idea of just dropping out. I knew we were going to work on the exercise from the book “Immunity to Change: How to Overcome it and Unlock Potential in Yourself and Your Organization.” My brain kept telling me that I am actually immune to change. Joining a support group to try to move what feels like immovable problems was a really nice idea. But, come on, I’d been struggling with this exercise for weeks and felt like I was getting nowhere. I couldn’t really figure out why I was stuck. If I casually dropped out, I could avoid really looking at some truth that felt not so great.

Instead, I walked to group and thought perhaps we wouldn’t work on my exercise. Yes, I’d drink tea and listen. Group would be easy. Jenni’s house glowed with warmth after my brisk stroll and I loved how we started group: drawing tight spirals while music played. Nice and easy, I was going to stick with nice and easy during group, and hold on to my idea that ignorance was bliss.

Then Jenni asked how we were all doing with our immunity to change exercise. It’s hard to explain this 4-part exercise. It’s a very brainy activity that starts with writing down a commitment, something you really want. “It’s where you’re aiming. It should be very important to you, be something that is about you, and that will make a significant difference in your life,” says Jenni.

The catch is we were choosing “stuck” commitments, meaning it was something we want to see happen in our lives but so far we were not having much success with it. This could be anything and to the outside world it could look easy, say take better care of myself, less stress, more time to relax, exercising every day, says Jenni.

Column two is all the counterproductive actions, what we are doing — or not doing — to keep ourselves from getting what we really, really want. So far, the exercise isn’t so hard. I mean, just pop in what I really want: to live with in my family budget and to start earning more money. And column two almost writes itself. It’s even boring: I don’t look at our bank account, I don’t set aside time to look at our budget, yadda, yadda, yadda.

It’s column three that made me want to quit the Badass Mamas circle. This is where we are building our worry box. What if I did everything in column two, what if I looked at our budget every single week and made choices based on my knowledge? What if I looked closely at the income I am making and what I can (can’t) buy with that income? At group, Jenni invited me to talk about my worry box. Here I was, on the spot, looking at what would happen if I looked at how much money I was bringing to our family bank account.

Tears, people, that’s what happens when I look at my income. Because here’s what I said, “When I look at how much money I make, I feel like a failure. I’m not a grown-up. I haven’t earned enough money to be a success. I work so hard for so little. And I love what I do, I love my work. And I’ve failed. People would and do judge me for making so little money. I judge me.”

Holding Jenni’s gaze, I cried and cried. This sounds easy while I type it, but within my salty tears there was decades of grief, of not measuring up to the world’s standards. Because the world’s standards are my standards, too. Even though I’m good at saying that success equals making good money isn’t true, deep inside of me I think it is important. If I were really an adult, I would be making enough money to pay our mortgage. I’d be making enough to take the entire family to Europe. To buy a $300 jacket for myself and not feel guilty. For as many times as my husband has said to me, “You are not the money you make,” part of me actually says the opposite. I am the money I make and therefore I am a failure.

For as much as I’ve been resisting feeling these hard feeling, my tears felt freeing. Holding Jenni’s gaze and the support of the Badass Mamas around me, I felt held and broken and 100 percent relieved. Really feeling why I’m stuck meant I finally could figure out the next part: competing commitments. “Once you identify your 'worries,' which will feel more like worst nightmares, you can begin to see into how fabulously adept you are at protecting yourself from their coming true,” says Jenni. Oh duh: I’m committed to never looking at how much money I make so I don’t feel like a failure. Finally column 4 even made sense: the big assumption is the lens through which we view the world. I believe success is based on how much money I earn. Ah, yes, I know I believe that. Even when I say this shouldn’t be a truth, part of me believes it and I shrink and think, “I don’t earn enough money. I’m not a real grown-up.”

Whoosh. This is why I joined the Badass Mamas circle. The fact is I often think these big assumptions when I’m not in our group. I’ll spout my failures and assumptions to random strangers sometimes. The trouble is I always feel like crap when I tell people I make too little money or when I rail against the idea that success equals how much money I make. But when I share these truths within our circle, I feel supported. When I share these thoughts flippantly out in the world without making space for my very real grief (um, the grocery store does not welcome tears), I feel empty. I feel that thing people call a vulnerability hangover. But after really touching my hurt in a circle of people willing to sit with me in that hurt, I feel a tiny bit stitched up and a whole lotta love. I feel like my brokenness doesn’t need to be fixed, it just is. I’ve decided to stick with the Badass Mamas. I am a Badass Mama, for sure.   

Read more of Nancy on ParentMap.