As a woman, you've been programmed to act, think, and behave in certain ways-and not always to your benefit.Lore-as in "folklore"-challenges women to closely examine the stories that have shaped their lives.Jeanette Schneider, a single mother and the founder of Lore Advocacy, a network of professional women whose goal is to inspire women to change the world, shares love letters women wrote to their younger selves. The lessons in the letters along with the author's own insights will help you:
• change the trajectory of your storyline;
• challenge what you've been led to believe about yourself;
• monitor your thoughts and understand where they come from; and
• enjoy the benefits that accompany forgiveness.
The book includes exercises to assist you through free-writing, visualizations, and reflection points, and as you complete the activities, you may get stuck on specific memories or events. Allow for that, but keep working to find your truth with this guide to smashing self-imposed limitations.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Uncover Your Messaging
The circumstances of our upbringing and others' comments send us messages that get buried deep in our subconscious and affect everything we do. Every woman who has written a love letter to her younger self knows something intrinsic about herself. When I pointedly ask, "What is one thing you've always known about yourself?" there's barely a pause before adjectives fit for warriors and priestesses are issued with a "Dare you to say I'm not" kind of bravado. These women are determined fighters; they know they have a fire within that cannot be extinguished.
One explained that since the age of five, her father had told her that she had great instincts. She learned how to sharpen the tool she was given, and it created a lifelong relationship with her trust of self. Such a powerful message to grow into knowing deeply that your knowingness would lead you.
When I was a little girl, I knew I was smart. I knew I could get through anything life chucked my way simply because I could brainpower my way through it. I didn't grow up with an innate knowledge that I was intelligent; the messages I received from family members and friends taught me that. They called me the "smart" one. Through conversation and their interest in my little mind, they made it clear I had something going on between my ears. Granted, they referred to my sister as the "cute" one, which created a whole host of self-esteem issues for me, but the point was that this was one of my first messages as a child.
There were other messages though.
"You will spend most of your life believing you are unlovable."
That's the opening line to my love letter to my younger self. When I wrote it, I sucked in my breath and lifted my fingers away from the keys. This hurts, I thought. It hung like a moody cloud over my memories. It wasn't as if anyone had said, "Jeanette, you're clearly unlovable." No. Our negative messaging and conditioning are far more insidious. It became baked into my cells as if in a slow roaster, and I didn't notice until it was too late. Had someone plainly told me I was unlovable, it may have been a blessing. I could have decided right then that I didn't believe that and set up boundaries. Instead, as with most messages we receive, a series of events and unfortunately crafted words created an impression or belief that became as much a thread of the fabric of who I am as is my DNA.
Such messages are far harder to combat and many times much more difficult to decipher as we make our way through life. Even when we uncover them and logically realize they are untrue, they don't just go away; they show up in tragedies, conversations, and life events and are recognized and unwound over and over.
The first step forward is to find them.
I wasn't consciously aware of my struggle with these feelings; this unlovableness, this undeserving nature, until I began digging into my own love letter. The exercise of visualizing your life story requires you to mentally scan the big and sometimes seemingly small (but exponentially powerful) events of your life. It's as if story lines rise to the top and a theme begins to emerge.
First come the big moments, the events that sit within you — a death, a marriage, a divorce, an accident, a birth, the day your heart was broken, or even an event that occurred in a locker room in high school that you can't seem to shake. These visuals and flashes of memory are brighter in color and punch. They get you in the heart and in the gut, but as these colors weave together, you realize they have a similar story line. As you continue, you begin to recall some of the more faded memories — those that are a little gray around the edges or that you've shoved down deep. Over time and after reflection, most have agreed that these colors be they bright and loud or gray, or demonic, slowly become distilled to words as opposed to moments. Words like unlovable, unwanted, forgotten.
When I realized I had not been chosen as a child or shown the love I so deserved and thus had not chosen to love myself, I started sifting through the beginnings. What were the threads that wove this tale of rejection of self? I thought of a time when I was a girl and my mother put all photos of me in our tiny house in a stack in my bedroom. A few days later, I quietly placed my school photo in the living room. I thought Mom might have been over whatever I'd done to make her so angry. I reasoned that maybe one photo wouldn't be so offensive. But that evening, I found the photo back in my room. I couldn't understand why other mothers coveted the jackets full of photos from picture day, but my mother seemed almost repulsed by them.
On another occasion, we were singing in church, and my fingers carefully found my way into my mother's hand. She pushed my hand away and gave me a dirty look. Whenever I reached out to her for affection, she shook me off and snarled, "Get off me!" many times through clenched teeth. The only times my mother's hands were ever on me were to hurt me, rarely out of love.
Later, I dated questionable boys simply because they asked. I didn't think I deserved better. Those small moments as a child continued to show up in my adult relationships. I continued to believe I could get only what was meted out, so I would accept the scraps that were offered. Those scraps eventually turned into abusive relationships and a lot of heartache.
One writer shared that as she scanned all the moments in her life, one continually popped up and finally jarred her. Stephanie's father had attempted suicide many times. After the third failed attempt, she locked herself in the car in the parking lot of the hospital for hours and refused to acknowledge her family's pleadings to unlock the door. Throughout the rest of her life, she had been told that she had nerves of steel and was cool under pressure. The shadow side of that, however, was that she shut herself off from emotion and locked love and relationships out of her life.
Her first line in her letter was, "It's okay to come out of the car." She wrote about the emotional purpose and side effects of those locked doors. "Inside the car, you're safe. No one can hurt you. No one can disappoint you. No one can terrify you, like when those ambulances come in the night and paramedics rush up the steps to take your lifeless-looking dad out on a stretcher."
She explained that locking others out emotionally throughout her life caused devastating trauma to her relationships. She learned to say the words "I love you," but she wouldn't allow herself to actually feel them. The locks that kept out fear also kept out love. She recognizes that the realizations in her letter are part of the key to finally allowing herself to feel these emotions and accepting the inherent risks.
Other women struggled with subconscious messaging; in interviews, they felt uncomfortable talking about specifics. They worried that their mothers or grandmothers would feel as if the resulting body dysmorphia or poor self-esteem was their fault. The matriarchs never expected their judgments of others, their standards of beauty, or their cultural obsessions with food would create decades-long struggles with self-worth and image.
As I surveyed women about body image, I discovered a direct correlation between mothers' feelings toward their bodies and their daughters' struggles with the same. One woman remembered her father warning her to "be careful" so she didn't get big hips and thighs like her mother.
These stories rise to the surface as women work through the Love Letters exercise. When the big tragedies are boiled down, we see that the messages we received as children have created our reactions and self-talk. The seemingly small emotional jabs create stories in us that are untrue. Those jagged scars stitch their way into thick scar tissue, and eventually, we realize that many of the battles we have faced were colored by our impressions of ourselves at the hands and hearts (or lack thereof ) of others. Many times, our stories were set in motion much earlier than we thought.
Taking your stories back and unwinding yourself from them offers you the opportunity to change the trajectory of your story line. You get to be creator as opposed to creation, conductor as opposed to note.
You get to step into your power.
Do the Work
What events stand out in your mind as you think back to the messaging you received or what you believe about yourself? There are likely more than one. Take this time to write in your journal as they come to mind.CHAPTER 2
Finding Truth — Belief Systems
The messaging we internalize creates our belief systems. It forms our faith, our impression of gender roles at home and at work, our stance on sexual orientation, and race. They remain in us as baked-in answers and are unwittingly passed along to our children. I didn't realize how lazy I'd become in my own messaging. Enter Olivia.
My daughter, my teacher, has been gifted with a questioning mind, the same one that got me in a ton of trouble as a child. I was considered "willful," but I was never happy with the answers I received. While raised on God and dysfunction by family members who were equal parts godly and alcoholic, I learned to keep myself in check (much more on this in the last chapter, when I share my love letter to my younger self ). Because of this, I celebrate my daughter's need to poke holes and her trademark question, "Is that true?"
Olivia recently came home from school to ask if it was true that boys hit you when they liked you. I thought of all the times I'd been told the same and how we needed to do a better job giving boys words because while it may be true in the physical sense, we are also teaching our daughters that being mistreated is a sign of love.
A few days later, she came home and said, "I don't understand this whole 'sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me' thing. Is that even true?" I had to smile at her sass and explain that no, words can many times hurt you. I thought of all the things we say in a limerick and rhyming fashion and assign clichés and intonations to our conversations hoping they go away without pondering the messaging we are passing down to our children.
So I stole her question and now ask myself often, Is it true? This simple question is a powerful exercise in my workshops; it begins to destabilize negative beliefs. Thanks, Liv. Mom owes you.
Is it true that no one will squeeze your hand back with love? Is it true that unlocking the door only lets in chaos? Is it true that if you have broad hips, you're unworthy?
First, we must mine the messaging by pulling it from our subconscious, holding it, and rolling it around in our fingers from a detached position. We have to know what we're dealing with before we can release, change the story line, reprogram ourselves, and mindfully create a new way forward.
After my daughter made me take note of how quickly I was spewing answers in her direction, I started to pause every time she asked me something that might inform her belief system. Then I started taking the same pause in my adult conversations. It made me realize how many of our interactions are riddled with clichés and easy sentences to keep from truly connecting or uncovering our programming.
I finally dug deeply into the things I believed from the time I was a child or struggled with as an adolescent and young adult. I recalled a Bible study when I was maybe twenty. An elder from my congregation quizzically stopped in the middle of the hour-long session, closed his book, and looked at me pointedly and with great concern. "Jeanette, what do you believe?" I didn't realize that as I answered his questions, I started each sentence with, "I was taught to believe ..." For the first time, I realized I had no idea what I myself thought. I had been told what to believe my whole life. I didn't know the difference between my parents' thoughts and mine. So began a decades-long search to figure out the difference between faith and fable. I found my way to my free-writing practice to uncover the messages that my conscious mind couldn't see.
My writing practice has become an invaluable part of my life. The best gift I was ever given was a copy of The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. Ms. Cameron is an expert in what she refers to as creative unblocking. Her works have changed my life. She recommends her morning pages exercise in which you write three pages free-form every morning. It helps unlock the mysteries within. As she says in The Artist's Way workbook, "Morning pages make us known to ourselves." Free-writing is an excellent way to unlock the curiosity that is you. As we work through exercises, please take Ms. Cameron's advice and allow the words to flow unedited. There's magic in the practice.
I personally began to free-write the answers to the question "Is it true?" as I thought through all the messages of my youth. I wanted to dig through my basic belief system, the one that was woven into the fabric of my person before I could raise my hand and have a say in the matter.
Is it true that God is a jealous God? Does He demand retribution for our sins?
Is it true that a woman is to be submissive to a man?
Is it true that sex outside marriage is a sin?
Is it true that homosexuality is a sin?
Is it true that wealth and success are hallmarks of materialism and ego?
Is it true that I have to be small for God to love me?
Your questions may not look exactly like mine; I challenge you to select the beliefs of your upbringing and lay them out. Ask yourself, "Is it true?" and follow it up with, "Do I believe it?"
It was a big no for me on all the above. After many years of searching, I finally found my faith again, but my God, the God I believe in, is not the God of my childhood. He doesn't allow hate in His name. He loves me as I am. I had to dig through the base beliefs I was raised on before I could get to those that were more subtle and present day.
Do the Work
Ruminate on your beliefs as a child. Start a sentence with "I believe ..." and let the pen take you where it may. You can use the starter sentences below, one or all, and just write. Write a paragraph. Write until you're done writing. Until the words don't come anymore. Don't edit yourself. The point of free-writing is to engage in a stream of consciousness. Whatever hits the page is what is in your subconscious. That's where the gold is hidden.
I believe a man's role in the home is to ...
I believe a woman's role in the home is to ...
I believe children ...
I believe in God/divinity/something bigger ...
I believe in ...
I believe a woman should look ...
I believe it's a woman's job to ...
I believe it's a man's job to ...
I believe that race is ...
I believe that sexuality is ...
After you empty your words onto the page, step back, take a few deep breaths, look over the questions and your responses, and ask yourself, Is this true? Is this what I believe today? And if you believe it, ask yourself, Does it make me feel good?CHAPTER 3
You Got It from Your Mama
Our self-talk is built by a myriad of factors. Some has to do with our mothers' self-talk and how they viewed themselves and their bodies and how they showed up in the world. We received messages from them or our other caregivers very early on in life. They influenced how we see ourselves, take up space, and are viewed by others.
Another factor is how we receive information via advertising, cultural norms, and visual stimulation. A great deal has to do with our self-awareness. Self-talk is the whisper of our otherness. We take it with us wherever we go.
Is yours a friend of foe? I actively try very hard to turn mine into a friend and confront her when she gets all mean-girl on me.
My daughter is usually right under my feet watching my every move. She is often in the bathroom with me when I'm getting ready. One morning as I was putting on my face for the day, she rifled through my makeup drawer and held up my mascara as if it were a treasure. "What is this?" she asked. I caught myself before I said the first thing that came to mind, which was, "It makes Mommy's eyes look pretty. I can't go out in public without it because Mom has no pigment in her face."
Umm, no. Time out, Mom.
There was absolutely no self-love or worthiness coming out of the drawer that holds the paints I hide my face behind each day in the hopes of oddly enough being seen. I wondered if the messages I received about the way I painstakingly prepared for the day were true and how I had gotten to the place where all my pretty is in a drawer. Does my worth lie at the bottom of a bottle of MAC foundation NWA15 so much so that I am scared to leave home without suffocating my pores in the quest for perfection?
Olivia asked me recently, "Mommy, why do you wear makeup every day?" The first thing that came to mind was, "Mommy wants a boyfriend," but I just laughed to myself and took the pause that has become standard for us when I dig through my messaging before I build hers. "Makeup helps make our features stand out a little more. I like to wear mascara because it makes my eyes look even brighter than they are."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Lore"
Copyright © 2018 Jeanette Schneider.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part I: The Past — Forgive,
1. Uncover Your Messaging, 1,
Do the Work - Reflection Point,
2. Finding Truth — Belief Systems, 7,
Do the Work - Belief Systems,
3. You Got It from Your Mama, 13,
Do the Work - Self-Talk,
4. Tragic Life Events, 18,
Do the Work - Self-Care,
5. Forgiveness, 23,
Do the Work - The Intention of Forgiveness,
Do the Work - Hot Letters,
Part I Key Takeaways, 33,
6. The Letters — Forgiving the Past, 34,
Chelli Wolford, 39,
Caroline Heldman, 43,
Camille DiMaio, 48,
Kimberly Derting, 53,
7. Writing Your Love Letter — Getting Started, 56,
Do the Work - Visualizing Your Younger Self,
Do the Work - Going Deeper,
8. Free-Writing, 62,
9. Emotional Writer's Block, 64,
10. Keep Writing — Keep Going, 67,
Part II: The Present — Choose,
11. Choose to Choose, 71,
Do the Work - Deathbed Wishes,
12. The Gut-Check Method, 76,
Do the Work - The Gut Check,
13. Active Orientation, 80,
Do the Work - Active-Choice Orientation,
14. Choice and Self Worth, 83,
Do the Work - Choose Yourself,
15. The Relationships We Choose, 90,
Do the Work - Reflection Point,
16. Love Yourself First, 95,
Do the Work - Love Yourself First,
17. Appropriate Boundaries, 99,
Do the Work - Boundaries,
18. Healthy Conflict and Communication, 104,
Do the Work - Healthy Conflict and Intimacy,
19. External Approval and Choice, 109,
Do the Work - Perceptions,
20. Overcoming Social Influence, 113,
Do the Work - Observing Social Influence,
21. Role Modeling, 118,
Do the Work - Unfollow, Unfriend, Unload,
22. Your Relationship with Self, 121,
Do the Work - Mirror, Mirror,
23. Masculinization vs. Sexualization, 129,
Do the Work - The Feminine Spectrum,
Part II Key Takeaways, 135,
24. The Letters — Making Choices, 136,
Jessica Moore, 137,
Jamie Little, 141,
Amy Jo Martin, 147,
Sadaf Baghbani, 153,
Part III: The Future,
25. Manifesting, 161,
Do the Work - The Wish List,
26. Your Future Self, 166,
Do the Work - Visualizing Your Future (or Higher) Self,
Part III Key Takeaways, 169,
27. The Letters — Manifesting the Future, 170,
Donna Brazile, 172,
Priya Matthew, 178,
Emily Nolan, 182,
Part IV: For the Girls,
28. Your #girltribe, 190,
29. Creating Your Daughter's #girltribe, 192,
Do the Work - Reflection Point,
30. Messaging — Head, Heart, and Health, 196,
Do the Work - Head, Heart, and Health,
31. Mom to Mentor, 201,
32. Purposeful Girl Talk, 205,
Do the Work - Date Night,
Do the Work - For the Girls: Love Letters to My Future Self,
Part IV Key Takeaways, 211,
33. The Letters — To My Future Self, 212,
Aleena Valdez, 213,
34. Conclusion, 217,
Part V: Love, Me,
35. The Author's Love Letter to her Younger Self, 221,
Recommended Reading, 229,