This post is part of my cornerstone content, written years ago, updated for today, and still inspiring wisdom and deep understanding.
I remember being taunted on the playground in the first grade. I’d made the mistake of telling a classmate of my recent adoption with my little sister. She shared that little nugget of information with a group of her friends, then during recess, they all proceeded to skip in a circle around me, chanting in a sing-song voice over and over again, “Poor little Pamela…Poor little Pamela.”
I don’t know how I responded at the time, but I do remember feeling ashamed, hurt, and absolutely shattered right down to my core. When I told my new Mom what had happened, she suggested I keep the adoption story to myself because “Sometimes, kids can just be really mean.”
From then on, especially throughout the rest of my school years, I kept our adoption story hidden from everyone but trusted friends. For years, I saw myself as a victim of circumstances, as if what I had been through somehow made me broken and less valuable than everyone else. For a long time, I believed I didn’t deserve to be fully seen. I didn’t dare stretch out past my comfort zone for fear of being shamed and publicly humiliated again. Instead, I focused on keeping a low profile and trying to fit in.
Stories have power.
I’m sharing this with you not because I want you to feel sorry for me (don’t you dare!) but because it illustrates the power our stories have over us. We all have stories that hold us back and keeps us small. The lizard (the ancient part of our brain) uses these stories to fabricate why we can’t or shouldn’t expand ourselves. The soundtrack of fear playing loudly in our heads can distract us from the quiet truth of our soul’s purpose.
Although yours may sound a bit different, mine sounded something like this:
“Getting a little big for your britches, huh?!”
“Oh, you think you’re smart enough to figure that out?! Yeah, as if!”
“They’ll never want to be friends with you. Who do you think you are?!”
It’s hard to see yourself as anything but small and scared with messages like these going through your head.
While watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding one weekend, this quote made me tell my darling husband Blake to stop the movie and rewind so I could write it down.
“Don’t let your past dictate who you are. Let it be a part of who you become.”Nick Portokalos quoting Dear Abby
Instead of staying small and scared, what if, like Toula, the main character in the movie, we decide we want a better life for ourselves? What would happen if we choose to break out of our shells and take a step toward the unknown?
Transformation takes time, tools, and intention.
The Boat analogy is an excellent tool for helping us see ourselves beyond the stories going through our minds. For example, in the Guidance system, the Bridge (referring to our mind) contains, among other things, the Maps and the Captain’s log. These are the memories, stories, and ideas that help make you unique and valuable. They can also get in your way and hold you back.
In the book, I talk about being miserably married to my ex-husband and our verbally abusive relationship. Going through that experience and avoiding it again taught me to appreciate and speak kindly to my current husband. You can read about it in greater detail in the Mercy blog post.
Around and around we go
I’ve heard it said somewhere that spiritual transformation isn’t linear; it’s a spiral. As we go about living life, our old habits will continue to show up, although they may evolve and look slightly different.
For example, it took me a year and a half to write the Boat, and it was one of the hardest things I’d ever done. Although my Captain was telling me to get the word out and share this idea with the world, when it came time to launch the boat/book in 2012, I struggled with anxiety and worry, especially when some of my friends asked me to please stop talking about it. “You can still hang out, but don’t talk about the Boat, okay?”
My son was pretty sick of hearing about it, too, reflected by the fact he rolled his eyes and sometimes left the room whenever I dared to bring up the analogy.
Again, my lizard showed up, as loud as ever, but this time he sounded different than before.
“Nobody wants to read this. Look at that awful binding. It makes you look cheap, like an amateur who doesn’t know what she’s doing.”
“Don’t bother people. They have better things to do than listen to your ridiculous analogy.”
“You missed some parts of the Boat. Guess you’re not as smart as you want people to think.”
Spiritual development isn’t an easy topic of discussion. With over ten years of experience talking about my life as a Boat, I’ll admit that I have annoyed people over the years. Fortunately, their eye-rolling didn’t kill me, and eventually, I realized that beating myself was a trap keeping me “going in circles.” and distracting me from the lessons I needed to learn.
Lessons like paying attention to my Ship’s Bell. The voice of the Ship, the Bell, refers to how you communicate with your crew and how you speak to and about yourself. It also happens to reflect my last name, Belding. Truth be told, it’s taken me years to get past the shame of missing something so obvious when I was rushing to publish my book in 2012. However, by sharing the Boat analogy and speaking my truth, I hope to show we are all more than just the stories going through our heads. When we choose to face them with compassion and curiosity, our mistakes give us opportunities to learn, grow, and evolve. By showing you my mistakes, I hope you will be more compassionate with yourself when it comes to yours.
“Mistakes are portals for discovery.”James Joyce
Recognizing my desire to help others feel better, I joined the National Speakers Association and Toastmaster’s International to gain confidence and polish my message. Although I don’t plan to hit the road on a speaking tour any time soon, the experience helped me develop my story and recognize it’s not my place to fix or change anyone else.
My job is to keep my attitude adjusted appropriately, stay tuned with my Captain, and be clear as a bell when I share my story to resonate with other people on a path of spiritual growth and discovery. I’m here to inspire others to recognize the gift of their presence by showing mine. If you’re one of those people, I’d love to chat with you! Leave me a comment at the end of this post, and I’ll respond ASAP. You’ll be happy to know you can download a pdf of the Boat for free (look in the library at the top of the page), plus there’s a sequel to the Boat coming soon.
You are a gift.
It’s been a long time since that playground in California. If I could deliver a message to my younger self and anyone else who’s suffering from the slings and arrows of others, it would be “love yourself anyway.” Despite what anyone else says or does, your presence in this world is a gift, a Divine source of love offered by the hand of the Creator.
“We are made of star stuff. We are a way for the Cosmos to know itself. We are here to explore the Cosmos on a ship of the imagination.”Carl Sagan
In the meantime, imagine standing upon the ship’s deck of your awareness. With your hands upon the ship’s wheel of your heart and your Captain by your side, take a look at the relationships you’re navigating in your life. Are you heading in the direction you want to go? How are you getting along with the members of your Crew? What’s the story you’re telling yourself?*
Remember, you still have amazing adventures to look forward to! You have loving, supportive people to meet and experiences that will eventually reveal the truth behind why you faced your challenges in the first place.
“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”President Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Who knows, it could inspire you to write a story about it! 🙂
Be true to yourself.
Go ahead, be weird, dark, and vulnerable or be bright, bold, and inspiring! Most importantly, be true to yourself! You deserve a beautiful life and relationships worth sharing. Be loyal to your crew, but never let anyone drill holes in you—know your boundaries and practice excellent self-care. Don’t listen to the Lizard! Stay connected to your Captain and trust yourself to make the best decision within each moment. Enjoy watching your life unfold as you stretch yourself toward new circumstances and chart a course toward a life worth living.
Thank you for reading my story. I hope it helps you. Feel free to share it with anyone else you think will enjoy it.
What do you think, my friendly blog reader?
I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.
p.s. Curious about the four systems of your ship? You can find You’re the Boat on Amazon or download the pdf from the library tab at the top of this page.
*I’d be happy to chat if you want to look at your life and talk about your story.