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Are your safe choices limiting your growth in life?

In a recent story* on NPR about Michelle Obama, she tells us:

"...her guidance counselor at Whitney Young told her she wasn't 'good enough for the place [Princeton].' Obama calls that 'planting the seeds for failure,' which she describes as 'a feeling before it is an actual result.' She says that happens often with women, and underrepresented minorities. 'It's just that little seed of doubt that somebody says you're not quite ready.'"

Seeds of doubt have likely been planted by your own teachers, employers, the environment you lived in, friends and family leading us to make "safe" or even devaluing choices in our lives. Over time, you may notice that you tend to make less risky choices about your college major, career, relationships, purchases, appearances and more. Many of us grew up in some condition of insecurity due to: economics, immigration status, race, culture, gender, family trauma and more. As Obama states, "...her box-checking was in part because she was somebody 'that was staying on the safe course,' and also 'I couldn't afford not to.'"*

Making safe choices is an essential part of life, a great skill to have and in some ways a privilege. But when it starts to over-function, it can show up as actually harming us by limiting our choices and engagement with life, diminishing our self-worth and inducing fear, anger and sadness. We can feel stiff, inflexible and stuck. We have in effect lost sight of our whole self. Our internalized critical authority hijacks our rational and logical thinking mind and self-appoints itself as the leader, devaluing our emotional mind and experiences.

Take heart and know you are not alone in this phenomena. There are reasons this has happened to you and that's part of what we unpack in therapy together. When we give ourselves the space to deeply reflect on what has influenced our choices, we increase our empathy and compassion not just for ourselves but everyone around us. We are then able to restore the balance of our rational and emotional mind so we can be our healthier whole selves. We are then able to take more risks, afford ourselves more choices, have healthier relationships and be better allies and advocates for others.


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