If you’re as old as me, you’ll remember commercials “back in the day” for Snuggies. Snuggies are still around (I just Googled that to make sure) but if you haven’t seen one before, imagine a big hoodie and a blanket having a baby. Yes, a Snuggie is basically a wearable blanket with sleeves.
The idea is to barricade yourself in the house, cue up something to binge watch and wrap yourself up in your Snuggie where you’ll be super warm and cozy in your own little world of comfort.
I can see how the original Snuggie was a beautiful thing (fashion “don’t” aside), but there’s another kind of Snuggie I want to talk about.
Today I’m going to teach you all about something I call Belief Snuggies. These are rules, attitudes, principles, truths and thoughts that have become part of the fabric of your life. They’re so omnipresent that you don’t even realize that these beliefs aren’t facts. They’re so embedded that you don’t question them, even though you end up basing many of your actions and decisions on these subconscious drives.
These Snuggies are basically faulty beliefs that get in the way of you having a rich and satisfying relationship with yourself and everyone around you. Belief Snuggies create disconnection, dissatisfaction and unhappiness in your life.
All of your Belief Snuggies are comforting in the moment. You wrap yourself up in them and hunker down, blissfully burrowing in to a world where you’re right but not happy.
It’s understandable why you have them. In fact, the most ancient part of your brain (the amygdala) has adopted them to keep you “safe.” The issue is that your brain is wrong when it comes to your safety in our modern world.
Your amygdala is all about scanning the environment for threats. Threats a few millennia ago were things that would kill us like wild animals, not having food or water, and strangers coming to take our resources.
These are not things you have to worry about on a daily basis in 2020 but your amygdala is still on high alert. Things that your amygdala interprets as life or death threats today include fights with your partner, potential conflicts, projects due at work, a bill coming in the mail, your dog pooping on the carpet and a bunch of other routine and unavoidable factors that are not a threat to your actual life but that your amygdala treats like one.
Enter your Belief Snuggies. These are your ancient brain’s way of keeping you emotionally safe. You wrap yourself in these to feel better and reassured and they do work well in the very short-term.
The problem is that these beliefs completely undermine our feelings of personal power. These “facts” will leave you feeling like you don’t have choices, influence or options.
Belief Snuggies will trick you, toy with you and ultimately leave you dissatisfied, miserable, and feeling very alone.
If you’re routinely feeling dissatisfied, resentful, wanting or disconnected then it’s time to throw off those Belief Snuggies and find a new way.
Here are the four Belief Snuggies and effective ways to throw them off!
Belief Snuggie #1: The Victim-Blame Snuggie
Terrible things happen to people on a daily basis. You might have your own painful experience that you believe defines you in some way. Maybe you were molested as a child, have an alcoholic father, had a partner cheat on you, or lost a job unfairly. Many people are victimized at some point in their lives and it sucks, pure and simple.
However, being victimized and being a victim are two different things. If something unfair or horrible has happened to you, by all means deal with those feelings attached to whatever it was. And then it’s time to move forward.
Don’t let a terrible event or difficult time in your life define who you are now and what you’re capable of now. I don’t mean you should deny something happened or just forget about it. It’s important to lick your wounds, feel sorry for yourself, feel enraged or cry. Giving yourself this initial comfort and time to make sense of things is healthy.
But wrapping yourself up in this hurt, constantly reliving it, fearing the future and grieving the past, is a big problem.
All the talking and “hashing it out” in the world isn’t going to change a bad memory into a happy one – it’s only going to make you feel like crap. Endlessly exploring, processing, and mulling over the past doesn’t help your present or your future.
Maybe nothing particularly horrible happened to you, but you still act like a victim in your life. Maybe you can’t seem to lose weight or stop smoking. Maybe you and your partner fight all the time, but they won’t change their ways. Maybe your father talks down to you every time you see him.
When others won’t change and we feel they’re negatively impacting our lives, it’s easy to slip into victim mode.
It’s time to cut that shit out (yeah, I said it).
It’s time to stop blaming anyone else for anything in your life. It’s your life and your responsibility. Acting like a victim and blaming others gets you nowhere except burrowed further into that Snuggie.
Understanding that you always have choices is the first step.
Partner won’t go to couples counseling and says it’s all your fault? You have a bunch of choices! You can stay and do nothing different, stay and work on yourself and what you can change, leave and be done with the relationship or leave and work on the relationship (which might be easier with a little distance). But complaining about your partner doesn’t change a thing and gives your partner all the power in your relationship.
Boss is a total asshole? You’ve got lots of choices! You could update your resume and start looking for a new job, enroll yourself in night school to get out of your current industry, you could confront them, complain to their supervisor or quit when you go in today. Complaining about your boss doesn’t change a thing and gives your boss all the power at your job.
Unless you are being forcibly held against your will, you ALWAYS have choices. You might not like the other choices, but it doesn’t mean you don’t have them.
There are definitely appropriate times to feel sad, mad, or even a little depressed. Life throws curve balls and we might wallow for a bit. There’s nothing wrong with that. The problem is thinking that you have no choice. You ALWAYS have a choice in how you feel and how you react to situations. Realizing you have that choice gives you power even in your darkest moments.
What do you do if you’re using a Victim-Blame Belief Snuggie?
Stop blaming and start taking full responsibility for your life and everything in it.
When you’re blaming others, there’s no responsibility; there’s just fault, resentment, guilt, and shame. The antidote here is taking responsibility. Responsibility is about using your personal power and making changes in your life and the world.
If you don’t like something, you’ve got to figure out a way to change it. This often means that you’ve got to be patient. Changing your relationship if you’re the only one working on it isn’t going to happen overnight. But, you absolutely can change it if you consistently take action, no matter how small.
Maybe you need to leave your job but can’t afford to right now. That means you’ve got to work on what you can change and create a plan to get you to where you want to be.
I always start these types of things with my strengths and resources. What do I have working for me right now? What do I have control over? (Sadly, that answer never includes other people no matter how hard I try!)
What resources can you bring into the situation? Maybe it’s buying a book, finding a therapist, networking, or getting to the gym (you’ve had that membership for how long now without using it?).
Take responsibility actively. To do this, you’ve got to notice your thoughts and language. It might be something very small – maybe you trip over one of your kid’s toys and you blame them for leaving them out. Where’s your responsibility here? Do they get consequences when they leave things out or do you just complain to them about it? Were you watching where you were going or were you trying to do too much (again) and rushing?
If you find yourself blaming your boss, friend, partner, brother or anyone else for anything at all, stop and ask yourself this simple question: “What’s my responsibility in this?” Then focus on how to clean up your side of the street.
It’s time to build on your strengths. Appreciating yourself and building on your assets and potencies is the way to move forward. When you come from this place of personal power, efficacy and strength your mood shifts and you start to feel happier and more energized (the opposite of those victim feelings) and your world starts to change.
Belief Snuggie #2: The Avoidance Snuggie
Some people spend the majority of their time avoiding any kind of conflict or discomfort and tell themselves that it’s just too scary to confront other people.
Maybe your belief is that you’re being mean if you tell someone what you really feel. Maybe you tell yourself it’s just not worth it and don’t allow yourself to see the positive impact speaking directly can have. Instead of having a dialogue, you wrap yourself in your avoidance Belief Snuggie and burrow in for the winter.
Folks who avoid find many forms of escape so they don’t have to look at their lives or deal with their relationships. Ultimately, they’re left feeling resentful and alone as they look in on a world they’re not connected to. If you never have a struggle with another person, how can you feel truly connected? To feel intimacy with others, you need to have some skin in the game. You need to put in a piece of yourself and not hide behind beliefs that tell you it’s OK to evade or dodge.
What do you do if you’re using an Avoidance Belief Snuggie?
Make a commitment to invest in yourself and your relationships and promise yourself that you won’t hide or run away any more.
Become familiar with that bodily feeling when you want to avoid someone or a conversation. Does your stomach hurt, your chest feel tight or your throat get constricted? Knowing your body’s reaction will help you identify when you’re being avoidant.
Practice mindfulness so you can be in your moments and notice when your brain starts to shut down or retreat.
Once you notice the avoidant feeling, act immediately. Say the thing or out yourself in some way so you have to have the conversation.
As much as I’m super direct in my professional relationships, I’ve always leaned towards being avoidant in my personal ones. One of my best tools is to notice when I don’t want to say something and then say something like, “I’m having a hard time with X, can we make time to talk about it before dinner tonight?” Outing myself and setting up a time to talk helps to keep me accountable and to stop avoiding.
Belief Snuggie #3: The Mind-Reading Snuggie
Don’t ever assume that anyone can read your mind. I can’t tell you how many people I work with who say things like, “Well, he should know what I want for my birthday,” or the dreaded, “I know what she’s going to say, so I’m not going to say anything.”
This issue seems to come up most in romantic relationships (although I’ve seen it between siblings and in work situations also). The answer I often hear to “Why not just ask for what you want?” is, “If I have to say what I want, then he’s not really thinking of me and then if he buys it for me or does it for me, it doesn’t mean anything.”
Really? Are you kidding me?!?!? Why the hell not?! Think of this for yourself. Your partner says to you, “You know honey, I’ve never mentioned this before (or, I’ve mentioned this before but I’m not sure if you heard how important it is to me), it would mean a lot to me if you would (insert item here – buy me a new sweater for my birthday – I emailed you the link; picked up my dry cleaning; came with me to the office Holiday Party; made time for us to go out to dinner this weekend). If you were approached in this loving and clear manner, would you say, “No way loser!” Or would you take a minute and think, “Wow! My partner’s communicating with me and I want to give them what they want.” Is it fake because they asked?
What do you do if you’re using a Mind-Reading Belief Snuggie?
Say what you need and what you want in a kind and compassionate way. Repeat yourself if necessary but don’t expect anyone to “just know.”
In the same vein, don’t try and read anyone else’s mind. Don’t be afraid to ask your boss for a raise because you “know what he’s going to say.” Don’t assume you know what everyone else is thinking.
Assume that you have no idea what others are thinking or what their motivations are and instead, operate in the here and now in all your relationships.
Belief Snuggie #4: The Outside Comfort Snuggie
It’s a very common practice to look outside ourselves for comfort This is a particularly dangerous Belief Snuggie as it can lead to addiction, health problems, and debt.
Looking outside ourselves for comfort includes using drugs, alcohol, food, money, relationships, work or sex (to name a few) to make ourselves feel better in the moment and to distract us from the real work we need to do.
It’s soooo much easier to have a glass of beer (or three) after you get home from work than talk to your partner about what feels like their constant nagging. The problem is that our relationships with others don’t improve when we don’t talk to them and our relationship with ourselves also worsens when we cop out of the hard conversations. When we don’t discuss how we feel with others, we don’t build trust and, after awhile, the focus becomes the food or drugs instead of our relationships.
We look outside of ourselves for soothing at a very early age – just look at any baby crying to be changed, looking for a bottle or putting his thumb in his mouth. And don’t tell me you don’t have some war stories about trying to find the pacifier or that special blanket in a heated moment if you’re a parent.
As babies, of course, we can’t change our own diapers or feed ourselves and need to look outside to soothe. As we get older, some of these patterns stay with us although we do have more and more power to care for ourselves.
As we become teenagers, we use different things to self-soothe such as drugs and alcohol, food, or buying new “toys” or clothing. A teen might say to herself, “If I just had those designer jeans, I’d be cool” (or whatever the kids are saying nowadays). This is self-soothing by looking outside ourselves to get what we need inside. There’s a reason it’s called retail therapy. The issue is that we need solutions that are more lasting.
These days, video games, social media and our obsessions with our cell phones are the other main ways we look outside of ourselves for comfort. Cell phones are just like cigarettes these days. People have a moment in between things, standing in line or waiting for something and, instead of having a smoke (which isn’t allowed anywhere anymore), they jump on their phones to distract themselves for even a few seconds.
It’s amazing to me how avoidant people have become. I was out to dinner the other night and there were five people sitting at a table next to us and all of them were on their phones for the entire meal. It’s bizarre to have almost no interaction with those around you while you’re interacting with people who aren’t there (via social media, emails or texting) or you’re staying in your own little world (via games on your phone).
It’s become so common we’ve stopped noticing. I see parents pushing a stroller while on their phone. Not only is it dangerous, but what about interacting with your child or making eye contact with passersby while you walk?
What do you do if you’re using an Outside Comfort Belief Snuggie?
What you focus on, you can improve. What’s your main Outside Comfort Snuggie? Is it drinking, Facebook, food, shopping or video games?
Start to pay attention to those ways that you check out. Are you hanging out with your kids but everyone is on their phones? Are you drinking alone every night once everyone else is in bed? Did you eat that whole bag of potato chips at your desk today?
Keep a journal or log noting when you have an urge or craving to put on your Outside Comfort Snuggie. Then note the time of day and your feelings. Take a minute and journal. Evaluate your thoughts and emotions. And here’s the big question I want you to answer:
Is what you’re doing in alignment with your deepest values?
If you’re allowing everyone to be on their phones at the dinner table ask yourself if this is in alignment with your deepest values.
If you’re putting something else on your almost-maxed credit card ask yourself if this is in alignment with your deepest values.
If you’re drinking yourself to sleep most nights ask yourself if this is in alignment with your deepest values.
This isn’t about judging yourself or being critical. It’s about taking behaviors off autopilot and bringing them into the light.
It’s easy to get caught up in our Belief Snuggies, but they’re not in alignment with a happy, connected and fulfilling life. Take the time to get “woke” to these unconscious drives and start deliberately choosing how you interact with yourself and those around you.