Today I’m going to address some of the barriers we have to learning. I see students run up against barriers to learning when they are immersed in courses at the University level. I wrote an article about it on Linked In today, but I decided to adapt it for the Great Maternity Leavers too, because this is such a big topic for us.
On maternity leave we are learning how to be Mums, but I’ve noticed there is an absurd amount of pressure to be perfect and that we cannot make mistakes.
Here’s the messaging:
There are no mistakes in motherhood and there’s expert answers for everything that will apply to all parents and all babies. And that expert advice will fix your problem, because of course, you can control babies and predict them and structure them.
So let’s UNLEARN THAT first before we talk about being a learner. Learning is about unlearning as much as it is about learning.
How many of you had a moment with your baby when you learnt something new and in your mind you silently berated yourself for not knowing better.
Oh hi, yes, I’d like to my hand up about fifteen times on this one?
To truly embrace learning and a path of change as we embrace motherhood, we need to be gentle with ourselves and realize we are constantly learning and growing. We’re not supposed to know it all. So why are we so hard on ourselves when we don’t?!
And then we feel resistance to learning too, because we don’t want to look like an idiot. In parenting we are terrified of not knowing what we are doing – probably because it’s a dependent human in front of us.
We must take an honest look at our obstacles to learning, shine light on them and then choose to tackle them head-on. The fear of judgement and our own egos are an intense hurdle to overcome, especially in the hyper judgemental world that you enter when you become a parent.
EGO is a word I bring up because in this world of learning, it rears its ugly head over and over. Our egos have a strong hold over us – and it is reinforced by our fear of judgement from others (which is the ego’s work too. The ego wants to have everyone love us and think we are amazing, lol.)
There’s an external battle. There are so many moms out there who are SO quick to judge and stand on their high horses, right? Especially on the interwebs. You cannot make any mistakes as a mom. Their egos are running rampant. They spend so much time judging others to make their egos feel good. But when people are judgemental to others, they are equally judgemental of themselves, and secretly they in turn are terrified of being judged.
They are locked in a really bad cycle.
One thing I’ve noticed as I became a mum, is that it feels like all of a sudden I became an item of public interest. The public feels it can comment / judge my mothering and offer their feedback – in the grocery store, at the park, etc.
There’s also the internal battle. The ego convinces us that making mistakes and learning will disadvantage us in life. It throws out all sorts of thinking patterns to avoid the situation.
Did you know our thoughts create a stress response in our body (threat responses) to further convince us not to engage in discomfort?
All of a sudden, it’s making sense that there is so much pressure to be a perfect mum. The pressure comes from two angles – external (society) and internal (ego.)
This specific barrier has a nasty effect – it blocks us from learning, and immersing ourselves in a new experience. It also blocks us from the practice and repetition that allows us to embody and master a new area of learning.
You didn’t walk into your degree thinking you knew it all and that you would be graduating in one month.
I can give you a really good example of learning and practice and how all of the above stuff comes into play in real life.
I love rollerblading, and it’s a key fitness activity for me. I’ve been doing it since I was 6 and am good at it.
When I had my babies, I decided to start rollerblading with the stroller. But, it took a few weeks to get the courage up. I hit a barrier to learning.
Internal barrier: What if a fall and look like an idiot?
External barrier: What if people think it is wrong that I am rollerblading, or worse, what if I fall and people see me falling?
Those two barriers made me procrastinate and procrastinate. Eventually, I got the courage to do it and eventually, each time I went out, the discomfort faded away.
I’ve got to tell you though, I had to face my fears. I have people shake their heads at me (usually mums) – but I also have people say “that is AWESOME! Good for you!” (usually dads.)
And guess what? I DID fall. I wiped out on my rollerblades with the stroller. The fears came true. People jumped out of their cars and ran over, horrified. Babykins was fine, strollers are designed for safety, too.
So uncomfortable. Mistakes. Learning. Inner and outer judgement. But because I learnt to rollerblade with a stroller and faced (and survived) those fears, it means that now, I get amazing exercise, my kids have an absolute blast in the chariot, and I am a happier and healthier mum that gets to be around longer for the kids.
Now, let’s put the story aside, let’s get back to the meaty parts.
A key to overcoming your learning barrier is first becoming aware of when this barrier occurs and how it shows up in your mind. And in what areas of your life is this triggered?
Your awareness will grow. Me? I am always a bit intimidated to participate in meetings or conversations with new people of high intellect. I have worked through acknowledging this discomfort, engaging with it, understanding where it is coming from and choosing to go for it anyways and add my two cents. It has become easier over time, to the point where I have moved from crippling shyness to easy, enthusiastic networking and engaging conversation.
How does it show up for you? What do you think?
I get excited when coaching clients reveal this struggle. This, right here is fertile ground. Their reflection and awareness is the best sign. It is the first stage to growth and overcoming learning barriers.
The next part is what do you do in that moment.
How do you override the ego and biological systems that are conspiring against you?
They want to keep you in a net of security and safety. They don’t want you to learn or grow. They tell you “don’t go rollerblading!” “don’t try to install your carseat you won’t get it right and you’ll get in trouble” “nah, put off figuring out how to unfold your stroller until there’s noone around.”
When you dig in and get uncomfortable often enough, it begins to silence the ego.
This week, choose to do something new with your baby. Something small (figuring out that moby wrap) or maybe something big (figuring out the configurations of your stroller – I cried my first time.)
This is called embodiment. When you practice being uncomfortable enough that the body thinks “ah, I’m familiar with this,” and the ego shifts from a shout, to a whisper.
All of the super mums you know who easily embrace challenges, new baby carriers, going on hikes or just doing really cool things that intimidate the bravest of us – they are so used to getting uncomfortable that it doesn’t phase them anymore.
They still feel uncomfortable, but the ego doesn’t overrule everything with its shouting.
The second technique is to actually put yourself through a thought experiment.
Do you know anyone in your life who never challenges themselves, never learns, who cycles through the same pattern with a fixed mindset, every day in the bubble that they have created for themselves?
Do you know anyone in your life who challenges themselves, is always learning something new, who has a growth mindset and is constantly upgrading and evolving their life?
They are two very different stories, aren’t they?
What if you were too scared to leave the house, try out that new stroller, what if you worried so much about your baby crying in the grocery store you avoided it? What if you used to love hiking and don’t do it anymore because you are afraid of the weather, or stumbling, or the baby crying? What does that feel like in your gut if you imagine giving in to the fear of judgement and your ego? What does your life look like five years from now.
What if you figured out that new stroller (but you definitely cried as you watched youtube over and over) and finally got the hang of it, and your baby got used to it, what if you found a new freedom in going out each day with it? What if you had a nutritious meal, because that time you went to the groceries you took a deep breath and rolled with the baby crying? What if you rediscovered the joy of hiking and rediscovered a way to feel like yourself again? What does your life look like five years from now.
A fork in your road. Two choices.