Just last week, while doing the dishes, I was scrubbing one of the pans that we cook in often and started to really notice the buildup on the outside of the pan. I know you know what I am talking about if you like to cook - the places where the oil dripped down the side while it was hot, or the sauce bubbled over, leaving its mark. Honestly, some of the stains and marks signify well-loved, well-used kitchenware and I can see it from that perspective (and honestly choose that perspective most times!)
Yet, on this particular night, I decided to drag out the Bar Keeper's Friend and soak the pan to strip away the build-up and it struck me that it was a physical act that was reflecting mental actions I have been going through too. The idea that we can often allow so much to build up around us that we forget what our core is and while the buildup is not necessarily harming anything, and can often be ignored without creating problems, sometimes we have to strip it all away so that we can re-focus on our core.
Stripping away the buildup is hard work - it requires being honest with ourselves about what is needed and what is not (hint: the list of what is needed is never as long as we first think it is!) I decided to apply the strategy I used for the pan to what I am working on stripping down in my own head.
First, I had to decide what my goal was - or to use one of my favorite Stephen Covey principles, I had to decide with the end in mind. Sure, I could just go for a mental reset, dumping all my thoughts and then filtering through them to see what I was going to add to my clean slate, but was that my goal? I realized by taking a few minutes to really ask myself what I wanted my end result to be that I took action differently.
Second, I had to think of judgment and shame differently - I explored them from a place of curiosity and it allowed me to seek to understand why they were happening, versus just trying to avoid them and push them away. This approach really made me laugh when thinking about the pan because honestly, do I really think someone else is deciding what they think of me because I don't have perfectly unblemished, never used pans? And, if they are deciding to think anything about me because of that, why do I have to make it mean something in my own head? Sometimes, we have to play out scenarios that may seem far-fetched or ridiculous, so we can recognize our power in managing our responses to them.
I think that one of my biggest revelations in applying the stripping down process to my brain is that I get to decide what goes and what stays and learning to do that while recognizing the influence of shame and judgment on my process allowed me to take back control.
Third, I had to recognize progress and celebrate B- work. I get stuck here often and use two thoughts to help break through the stuck moment. The one I use regularly is that I did not get here overnight so why would I expect things to change overnight? In a world where we are bombarded with stories and reels and curated insights, it can feel like things happen much faster around you than for you, and that is why that first thought is so powerful for me. It does not require me to get over the thoughts and feelings I have, but it does empower me to take back my story of achievement and outcomes.
The other thought is one my coach offered me and I have been using with a little more frequency as I embrace it more and that is what if I am not a project to be fixed, but a journey to experience and celebrate and explore? This thought has helped me to see the value in all of me, allowing me to strip down my thoughts and beliefs, not from judgment and shame, but from curiosity and open-heartedness.
The best part of the connection my brain made that day washing dishes? Sometimes we need to strip down our armor and our coats of thoughts and beliefs, and sometimes we just need to see ourselves exactly as we are and loving that version just as much as the sparkling clean version. How can you strip out what is not working for you and find the space that lets you create the results you want?