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Self-sabotage explained as a child wanting cake.
When I was a teenaged queer woman living in Kamloops, British Colombia, I had the pleasure of befriending a woman and her family. In fact, I lived in a room in their basement for some time. She told me a story about a little boy and his mother going to the bakery to pick up his birthday cake. This story really changed my life. The story is as follows:
Boy and his mom arrive at the bakery. The mom is waiting in line to pick up the cake she already ordered. The little boy is looking through the display glass at all these beautiful and cool looking cakes. Sitting in the corner of the display case is the most amazing looking cake he has ever seen. It is perfect; his favourite colours, fancy icing – this cake was the bomb.
The little boy walks up to his mom, “I want THAT cake” he exclaims as he points.
The mom says, “I have already ordered a cake, we are picking it up.”
The little boy grew frustrated quickly, as small children do. “I don’t want that cake, I want thaaaaat cake!!!”
The mom stays calm, probably because she had her coffee that morning and is generally good at being a mom,
“Just wait for the cake we are picking up.” The little boy freaks out, having a full-on fit.
“But this is the best cake I have ever seen in my life!” The little boy pouts, mom picks up the pre-ordered cake and they head home.
When they get home, the boy still being a grumpy kid is still mad about the loss of the perfect cake. They get in the house, mom notices this kid is not cooling down about this cake. She places the cake on the table and opens the box. “This is your cake” she says with a smile. Skeptical, the little boy peers in, THIS cake is the most amazing cake he has ever seen. And this cake is his.
Life is kind of like that. We get caught up in what we are exposed to and fixate on the things we *think* we want, and *think* we can have. In this story, this little kid had a mom to order an amazing cake. As such, the little boy just wanted what he seen was a possibility of cake and fixated on that to the point it never occurred to him that there was anything better than what he decided he wanted. We do this every day in our lives, and not just on things like cake. On big things like your life, love, and career.
In our own lives we are both the child and the parent. Everyone has this inside them: the needy child that can’t regulate their own emotions, and the wise chill parent overseeing the whole thing. Fun example: Having a job you hate, maybe a job that even makes you ill. Let’s say this kid and their parent lives in your head (pick your preferred genders for the kid and the parent, its 2018.) The kid and the parent are you inside your head, the conversation may go like this:
Parent: I see this job is making you unhappy and fussy.
Child: Yeah but this is the best thing right now.
Parent: Are you sure? I think you can do something way better. In fact, I can see it!
Child: *kicks and screams at idea of change, because apparently this is good enough*
Then, for our fun example sake, let’s say you chose to leave that job to focus on finding something else.
Parent: Nice! There is so many opportunities, we can soak this up and do something amaz--
Child: I’M SCARED! I want this job *points*.
Parent: But that is almost exactly like your last job.
Child: Well, its slightly different.
Parent: But this isn’t why we left the last job. Just to do the same thing somewhere else?
Child: AHH! But I can’t do any better than this, this seems good enough.
Now before I get too far from my point, I want to focus on the attitude of the child. Which if you haven’t picked this up yet is symbolic of negative self-talk. We limit ourselves all the time to what we can have or do. Sometimes this limitation is related to our sense of identity. In my fun example relating to career, the child/self-talk becomes this narrative:
“I can’t do something different in my career because its too risky. I know I said I wanted change, but I don’t really want to be uncomfortable or risk failing.” Playing it safe becomes a part of your identity.
Nothing keeps you in a rut like negative self-talk. But! Everyone is blessed with an inner parent. If you don’t know what I am talking about; the last time you wanted to try something new and didn’t, your parent is the “I really wish I would have just tried it!” voice in your head. The last time you did something you did not want to do and succeeded it was the “Nice! I am so proud of me! Can’t believe I did it!!” that too is your parent voice.
Don’t let your life be sabotaged by the child in your head. If I can continue with this metaphor; kids are new at life, they get scared easy. Because of this child-like narrative, I did not try sushi until I was in my 20’s, and holy was I ever missing out. Weirdly, not trying sushi/being ignorant about new foods, was part of how I seen myself.
Additionally, this metaphor works because kids are often resistant to trying things, but when they try things and they like it, it opens up a whole new world for them. And I almost always want sushi now. Parents who shelter children raise kids who are afraid and self-conscious. These are people who refuse to dance at weddings despite the fact everyone else is dancing. Children who never get to try new things become people who eat plain toast and potatoes with nothing on them. These children grow into people who see others taking risks and remark how irresponsible those people are, as they drive a crappy car to their boring job, not even able to go for sushi because they are “too broke” or whatever.
Because life has a lot of great cakes, so don’t settle for rice cakes with nothing on it just because it is there. Go find your amazing cake, its better than you can ever imagine.