This I Believe

Barbara - Tucson, Arizona
Entered on May 30, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe in the power of giving up what I think I know.

It’s a potent life-changing strategy, and it was delivered by a friend tired of my complaints.

After my divorce in 1977, my relationships with men were woefully intermittent. I believed happiness would not arrive until the Right Man did, and loneliness often clouded my life. Whenever a relationship failed, I launched into my sad litany: Why can’t I find anyone to love me? I’d fall into the doldrums, and my complaints got old, even to my ears, but I didn’t know any other way to be.

In early 2000, when yet another relationship imploded, Dee looked at me and said, “Maybe you should give up what you think you know.” I must have been wide open to receiving wisdom that day because Dee’s words struck me with their utter truth, surprising me like a shooting star on a moonless night.

It’s so obvious, but it hadn’t occurred to me before: believing I needed a man to be happy was only that—a belief, a thought. Even though I loved my work and it supported me well, even though I had talent, intelligence, and good health, and even though lots of people loved me, I was creating my own unhappiness with my thoughts. So, I could change them.

I realized two things: one, the only common factor in all my failed relationships was me—that was tough to admit—and, two, since I was making myself unhappy by choosing poor relationships, I could decide not to do that. Instead, I could choose either to be happy on my own or to pick good relationships. Given my lousy track record, I picked the first option. I gave up my old way of thinking and set about consciously creating new, happier thoughts about living on my own.

Amazingly, I grew more content. The undercurrent of misery vanished, and when it threatened occasionally, I remembered to be grateful for all the good things in my life. I changed nothing except my belief, and that changed everything.

Within months of Dee’s comment, I met Ken, and we fell in love. For the first time, I loved a man without feeling desperate to keep him. I wanted to stay together, but if we didn’t, I knew I’d be fine. I could feel that down to my bones, so my old pattern of anxiety did not worm its way between us. We’ve now been married for three years, and our relationship is growing sweeter all the time. That’s due, at least in part, to both of us knowing when to give up what we think we know.

It’s not always easy, and it doesn’t always work. Some beliefs are too ingrained or too precious to release. But after lots of positive experience with the power of giving up what I think I know, this is one belief I won’t give up.