Editor’s note: These posts were written back when my brand name was Remodel Fitness. I’ve decided to include them here without editing them, in the interest of…well… transparency. 😉
I was always that kid who questioned literally everything.
Why is the sky blue? Where do babies come from? What happens after you die? How come boys don’t wear dresses?
I didn’t just want to hear the answer though, I had to explore the answer. I needed to hear all the evidence for why the answer was true, and then come to my own conclusion that yes in fact, the earth DOES probably orbit around the sun. You could argue that made me a stubborn pain in the ass (it did), but that was the key for me- coming to my own conclusion.
Sometimes I would come across answers that didn’t add up, answers I couldn’t wrap my head around. I refused to accept these answers until I had properly explored the different aspects that confused me. Usually this meant asking a bunch of different adults to explain it a bunch of different ways, and breaking down the nitty gritty details that adults just took for granted.
It was the philosophical equivalent of taking a toy apart so you could learn how it worked.
This habit didn’t stop when I grew up though. As a teenager I dragged my parents into long and complex conversations about why my boyfriend couldn’t stay the night. What were they afraid of? What old-but-no-longer-true cultural beliefs were they allowing to determine their behavior? Aren’t we supposed to march to beat of our own drums?
This is how I discovered feminism. I’d always been baffled that anyone could think girls were less capable than boys, but it wasn’t until high school that I became aware of the massive difference in how men and women were expected to spend their time and energy, and it felt like I was the only one who cared.. Boys and men were expected to disregard rules, care about sports and blowing things up, do stuff that makes for great stories, aspire to greatness, and be generally kind of disgusting. Girls and women were expected to follow the rules, care about their own appearance, aspire to getting married and have babies, and be generally well behaved, polite, and “nice.”
I started questioning this, in a million different ways. As I dug back and back into the belief system that created this double standard asking “why?” I found that the answer was often “because it’s traditional.”
Boy, did that make me hate anything traditional. “Because it’s traditional” is not a fucking reason, I’d say, making my sweet traditional friends very uncomfortable. If everyone challenged this shit for themselves, wouldn’t we ALL come to the same conclusion?!
(It turns out that no, we wouldn’t. Trust me, I’ve tried. Some really smart, amazing people still conclude that traditions are beautiful and valuable. It’s even been argued that traditions and traditional “rules” are vital to our sense of cultural identity, and crucial for social bonding and connection to our roots. I can see the truth in all these ideas, after spending 20 years exploring it for myself, but I still don’t like it.)
The thing is, each of us has a unique set of personal experiences, and a unique set of values. Which means that even when we dig deep, each of us is going to come to our own conclusions about whether something is beautiful and valuable, or repulsive and offensive. Take olives, for example. Or girls with muscles. Or Donald Trump.
Some people find this kind of digging, challenging, and questioning distasteful, or boring. They might say “if it was good enough for my parents/the church/whatever, then it’s good enough for me.” They might assume there’s probably a good reason certain beliefs have been around so long, and feel like it’s not their business to start challenging it now.
But it is your business. It’s each of our business.
Challenging and questioning our own belief systems is literally the most “our business” thing that exists!
Each of us has a personal belief system based on tons of various influences, many of which were solidified in our childhoods. Most people are not even aware of their own belief systems, because they just see it as objectively true facts. Jesus died for our sins, for example. Or America is the greatest country in the world. Or how about if she doesn’t want to get raped she shouldn’t dress that way, or marriage is between a man and a woman, or being fat is bad and unhealthy? These beliefs, and so many more, are examples of unchallenged and unquestioned “facts.” How true are they, really? Can you be sure?
Where did your beliefs came from? Are they really yours, or have they been passed down to you from your family or from society? How are those beliefs serving you?
If you’re someone who is already in the habit of questioning and challenging everything, then you probably already know this exploration has a tendency to take you to some scary, bizarre, frustrating, and existential places. Once you start challenging social norms, you uncover a whole big can of worms about the life you’re living.
It’s much safer never to challenge anything. If you never challenge anything, you’re “done.” You have the beliefs you have, and that’s that. But once you start challenging, you’ll never have the luxury of being “done” again. The more layers you peel back, the more layers you’ll find. And you have to be ok with that.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot, especially in light of the extraordinary anger and passion and hatred on both sides of the upcoming presidential election. So I want to share a few tips for anyone who is starting to dig deeper, challenge more, and ask a lot of questions.
It’s all subjective. Embrace the fact that we will all have different subjective truths about any given subject. Your truth and my truth will never be the same, because we are both informed by our personal, unique experiences and values. That’s ok. That’s actually how it’s supposed to be! We can never know the objective Truth about most things, so we shouldn’t bother try to find it. Instead, focus on finding your own subjective truth/opinion, and acknowledge that everyone else is doing the same. Nobody is “right,” because there is no objectively right answer about anything.
Your ego wants to be right. Remember that “learning the answer” is not the same as “deciding for yourself.” If you set out to try to learn the answer rather than discover it for yourself, you’re still working under the assumption that there is one objectively “right” answer, which is appealing because it means your sweet protective ego gets to feel “right.” You must let go of that idea in order to actually explore and discover how you feel or think about something.
Question your judgements. Why do you think one thing is good and another bad? Why do you think one thing is right and another wrong? Question every single thing you use the word “should” about. See if you can find the fear that hides underneath every judgement.
Use Specific & Vivid language when naming your beliefs, judgements, fear, and questions. Write your answers down or speak them out loud. Force yourself to use detailed, accurate words (lots of them!) when exploring this stuff. Fear, judgement, and ignorance thrive on ambiguity.
Let your triggers be your guide. When you have a strong judgemental/angry reaction to something or someone, that’s a big red flag that there is work to be done on yourself. It’s never about them, it’s always about you. In this week’s blog post How to Use Your Triggers to Get Free, I show you exactly how to use your own resistance as a “way in” to explore the work that needs to be done.
That’s it. Go forth my darlings, and challenge the absolute shit out of everything. I’ll be here, supporting you all the way.
Please come on over to my private facebook community Women Who Empower Other Women, Unite! To post your thoughts about this, share your experiences, or ask questions!
<3 Jessi Kneeland Get strong. Feel confident. Look amazing.
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