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I say this with no hyperbole: I have spent far too many hours, days, months, over my lifetime, spinning my wheels, doing the “laundry.”
Now, I’m not talking about literal laundry. I’m talking about the things we do in avoidance. In distraction. In busying ourselves to feel we’ve accomplished. To focus on something, anything, rather than the fear that’s hidden inside of us, sitting in our unconscious. Anything but face the discomfort of whatever we may be feeling.
I recently watched something so insightful. So triggering and so resonating, that I have never felt so called out, so seen, in all my life. It was one of those moments in life that I was rooted to the spot. Captivated by an awareness that this was me. I am this person. I was this person. But no more.
I’ve always loved writing. Yet I stopped writing for years, decades. My excuse was: I was busy, busy with life. Work. Kids. In reality, I was busy doing the “laundry.”
Because the truth is I did have time. I just needed to make a choice to dedicate time to my writing. I never really understood why I didn’t make the choice to write, until recently. It dawned on me: I was scared. And here’s the lightening bolt of realisation, I was scared, because I didn’t believe I was good enough. I didn’t believe my words would have meaning. I didn’t believe I had anything to offer. I didn’t believe in me.
Today as I’m in the process of building my business to serve and support people, logically I know I have so much to offer, and the clients I’ve supported, am supporting, are confirmation of that. But again, I find myself doing the “laundry,” and I’ve only just recognised it.
You see, I have achieved my Masters in Holistic Counselling and Coaching, yet I always have this niggling undercurrent of not being educated enough. So I studied and achieved my certification to practise Emotional Mind Integration and support people with inner child and deep trauma work. Then I wanted to continue my work with loss and grief, so I studied to be an end of life doula. Add to that my volunteer work as a crisis supporter on a suicide prevention line.
My need to learn more is helpful, but it doesn’t need to hold me back. My need to learn is me doing the “laundry,” because again, I am scared. What if I don’t know enough? What do I offer that’s different? What if I try things like YouTube and a podcast and it doesn’t work? What if? What if? What if? Again, underpinned by that snarky little voice, questioning am I enough? Will I be enough?
In steps the rescuer. Yep that too was me. Helping people and feeling needed was at the core of my worth. What better way to distract myself from my own feelings, or from stepping out of my comfort zone and pursuing what I desire? Always the person who’s there, and there’s nothing wrong with that, if—and it’s a big if—you are not doing so to avoid dealing with your own stuff. Or busying yourself so you don’t have to address your feelings, or so to keep you in your comfort zone.
Turning this around and understanding my need to rescue was a huge revelation, and it’s taken a lot of effort and work to take me out of this role and utilise my abilities to support in a completely different way.
If we’re honest, we all do this. The “laundry.” And even though I’ve done a lot of work on myself, the truth is, we always need to be working on ourselves. We need to understand ourselves. Our triggers. We need to develop an awareness of what it is we are doing to avoid and distract and why?
Every day, I see people wasting their time doing the “laundry.” Doing anything and everything to avoid the hard stuff, or the stuff that scares them. That keeps them comfortable and reinforces those limiting beliefs we all have.
What doing the “laundry” can look like:
>> The need to always be around other people because when you are alone and it’s quiet, the feelings and thoughts can be uncomfortable.
>> The need to be in a relationship, even if that relationship doesn’t serve you, because if you leave, it triggers your unworthiness, and being alone terrifies you.
>> Martyrdom. Sacrificing your time, your needs, and your desires to be everything to everyone else but yourself. It provides an excuse for you to not achieve what you want.
>> Using education, training, more courses, more learning to avoid diving in. Yes, many things require training or education, but many of us still believe we need more.
>> Escaping the hard stuff. Creating a life that’s so hectic that there’s clearly no time for anything else. It’s far easier to sit in your comfort zone and avoid what may come up than actually stop and allow yourself to feel.
Many go through life like this, never understanding what they are doing. I get it; it can be bloody uncomfortable, painful, and frightening to just stop doing the “laundry” and actually feel, see, and do. The realisation of this and my own “laundry” distractions have been both a welcome breakthrough and an unsettling epiphany. It’s made me deeply understand I have more work to do around some limiting beliefs. There’s always a reason we continue doing the “laundry.”
So what limiting beliefs keep us stuck in “laundry” mode?
>> Not feeling like you’re enough
>> Imposter syndrome, not feeling credible, or having enough experience
>> Not feeling smart enough
>> Feeling too old or even too young
>> Feeling you never have enough money
>> Not feeling worthy of love
>> Not feeling deserving of good things
>> Thinking you can’t change
>> Never feeling ready regardless of being ready
Now here’s the thing: whilst the “laundry” may seem harmless, it’s actually toxic. It keeps us from fulfilling our potential. It keeps us in workplaces, spaces, and relationships that are unhealthy for us. It gives us a sense of achievement that we are so busy, yet we can’t see how damaging this is, because this busyness is simply a way to stop us from feeling and dealing with things. Of actually changing and addressing stuff. It gives us a false sense of worth because the truth is, it’s distracting us from creating a life that we truly desire. Why? Because the reality is we are scared.
Those pesky limiting beliefs are feeding all those insecurities into our everyday lives. Telling us we will fail. Telling us it’s better to stay in this sh*tty job because we need the money more then job satisfaction. Telling us the idea of the person we are with is better than being alone, even if the idea of them is not the reality of who they really are. Telling us we need more because without more—money, material items, followers, likes, and validation—we are unworthy. Telling us we aren’t smart enough. Creative enough. Experienced enough. Or good enough to pursue our dreams. Telling us being alone is a failure. Telling us we are too old to change or start new things. Keeping us forever stuck in repeating cycles and patterns.
I’m flipping it all. The only “laundry” I’ll be doing is washing my actual clothes.
Realising I still had some of these residual belief patterns, allows me to flip them. Get underneath them. Replace them. Because wasting my time on all this “laundry” is exhausting.
The beauty is we don’t have to stay in this space if we’re prepared to work. My choice as a therapist to share my lightbulb moments, my vulnerabilities, and continued self-work is to hopefully inspire others to check in on their own inner world.
How many of you recognise yourself here? How many of you feel seen and called out? How many of you have been spinning your wheels doing the “laundry”? It’s great if this is an awareness you now have because you can take action. You can sort the “laundry” into piles and discard what you don’t need. You can identify what limiting belief has created each pile and make a choice to flip it. You can start to see your patterns and change them.
The “laundry” is a metaphor for everything that keeps us in an energy of fear, caused by unhealthy limiting beliefs. But we don’t want to feel that fear. See that fear. Listen to that fear. Or address that fear. So we do anything to avoid it. Distract ourselves from it. Busy ourselves. And we use these things to give us that sense of accomplishment. That sense of control. That sense of comfort. And we tell ourselves we are achieving things, when in reality, all we are doing is the “laundry.” The never-ending pile of “laundry” that we create so we never have to step outside our comfort zone and face the things our nagging inner voice tells us we are not good enough for and that we will fail.
Don’t let the “laundry” be your excuse to avoid your reality.