Humans are such funny animals. We are born these wildly curious creatures who put literally everything we can reach into our mouths. We explore the world with this passion and excitement. We are born soooo curious, so comfortable in not knowing anything. Curiosity is powerful. It helps us live with a big open heart, trust and live in our truth.
Nerd alert, you know I love science. The core of science being curious. It is recognizing how little we do know, so we can ask curious questions, can posit a new hypothesis and can learn what else there is to know.
The difference between scientific inquiry and codependent thinking is that in our mindset, from codependency, we assume we know the answer.
That we’re right in believing that we’re terrible, that our opinion doesn’t matter, that people take advantage of us, that we’re selfish and bad if we have boundaries.
In my coaching work, I invite my clients to step into the scientist role. To put their lab coats and goggles on and to get curious about their own thoughts and feels. To hypothesize—the cornerstone of the scientific method—which is based in not-knowing and being curious about what might happen next
As humans looking to overcome the habit of out-sourcing or externalizing our self-worth—the habits of codependent, perfectionist, and people-pleasing thinking—we need to learn to get curious about our own minds, our conditioning, our socialization.
How we learned to have these habits and how they’re showing up. How we learned to not believe in ourselves without someone else validating us, to push ourselves to the brink and beyond to get that A+ all the time no matter how exhausting it is. To put other people’s needs ahead of our own, to go with the flow because conflict even small tiny conflict feels… just not okay, so we don’t speak our wants and needs.
Getting curious about our out-sourcing or externalizing thoughts is so key to changing them, to learning to live in a different way.
Curiosity allows us to see the realities of our life so we can change them. When you are a fish and you have only ever lived in water, you don’t realize you live in water because it’s all you know – right? I mean, there are some wild assumptions about fish psychology in there but anyway… the point holds.
When you are raised in the patriarchy, white-settler colonialism and capitalism, especially if you are socialized as a girl, patriarchal thinking is the water you swim in. Judging your body, wanting it to be smaller or look a specific way, thinking you need to be quiet or not speak up or create conflict by having an opinion may be the lessons you learned. Thinking there is something wrong with you if you haven’t met societal norms like being married or having kids or some specific career by some specific age.
If you grew up with family who modelled codependent ways of living:
- that cared more about what the neighbors might think than what you actually think
- that pushed you get the A+s and made your being lovable feel contingent on your performance
- if you didn’t get the love care and attunement children need
- if you grew up learning to do the dishes instead of going to play, to put the family above your own joy
Those are all lessons you need to get curious about if you’re going to change them.
So you can imagine other ways of living and thinking and being, so you can decolonize your relationship to your body and your mind.
Curiosity is magical. I mean that. Magic happens when we are in that space of not knowing and wondering and being open to possibility, to being wrong, to getting taught, to learning, and my nerds, what do we love more than learning?
Curiosity is about staying present and presently interested in what’s in front of you, not future-planning, not ruminating on the past, not asking “what’s next,” not half-listening and planning your retort or reply. Curiosity is about being where you are, WHEN you are. And given that this present moment is the only one we are promised..
Could there be a more beautiful way to live than here, in this moment, heart open and curious?
Curiosity allows us to show up to life and to ask questions like:
- How can I make this simple?
- How can I make this fun?
- How can I learn here?
- How can I move forward in the most self-loving way?
- What other way of moving, thinking, relating is possible?
- What assumptions am I making and what could being assumption-less look like?
Curiosity is wide-eyed playfulness and imagination. Curiosity leads to creativity, to finding creative solutions and new ways to move forward. Through that process, we can release our expectations, our stories about how things should be so we can explore what is possible and can create new possibilities that might not have existed had we stayed in the energy of KNOWING.
When you show up from knowing, from believing you know the right way, the best way, you lose out on so much possibility, the possibility that curious creativity brings.
Sometimes not knowing and accepting and honoring that energy leads us to the most astounding outcomes—from curious questions and curious interest.
When we are truly being the scientist in curiosity, we are not in judgement, we are in openness. It’s an open hearted place to be. The grounding principle of my work and of this healing work is to be our own watcher, to think about our thoughts and feel our feels. Which means getting curious about our own minds, our own bodily responses, to be open to learning and thus, growing.
In my coaching work we use two modalities – a top down cognitive process through the think-feel-act cycle, the Thought Work Protocol and a bottom-up somatic process to get to know ourselves, to grow intimacy with ourselves, so we can understand and love ourselves and make decisions that serve our wellness overall.
Somatics is all about curiosity – about asking your body what it wants and needs and knows, learning to listen to and honor our bodily intelligence
In thought work we have to get curious if we are to understand what our socialization and conditioning have instilled in us.
What the message to be a good girl, good daughter, sister, partner, wife, parent, employee, good person have led to in our lives. From curiosity we can ask ourselves – is this thought in my mind right now actually mine or is this an old cassette tape that doesn’t serve me anymore?
Curiosity can be the most potent path to integration, to finding deeper healing, by asking open-hearted questions and seeing what comes.
Versus staying in the defensive stance that comes from thinking you need to protect your tenderness against the world.
For us emotional externalizers, getting curious about our habitual reactions to life lets us see, for example, where we jump to people-please others, to chameleon and shape-shift ourselves to try to make them happy.
Curiosity allows us to shift to noticing someone is upset and checking in, grounding ourselves in loving kindness for them and ourselves, instead of just jumping to do the thing you think they want you to do to save them from having their own human feelings.
Curiosity allows us to ask: what’s up for you my love? Versus jumping to getting defensive which comes from the codependent/people-pleasing impulse to protect and defend ourselves because we take everything personally. We do that because we are not anchored in ourselves and our self-worth, so we believe we need to make everything about ourselves to stay safe.
Curiosity allows you to shift:
- From scared that they another person might be having a feeling that is uncomfortable to wondering what’s up and how we can learn
- From jumping to people pleasing to asking ourselves what is right for us in that moment
- From presuming someone won’t like your choice to getting curious about what you really want and need
- From assuming someone is mad or annoyed at you to asking them what’s up for them with an open, loving heart, knowing you have your own back
- From that fear driven story that we NEED TO KNOW to curiously wondering what’s up and staying open to possibilities
When our responses are curiosity based we can depersonalize the situation and can be open to learning – how can I do this differently? What is this person thinking and feeling and how do I want to respond? Does it serve me to make this about my worthiness or can it just be about my behavior and their thoughts about that behavior?
Curiosity necessitates that we pause when big, high energy sympathetic-driven reactions arise, like being worried, scared, angry, frustrated.
Curiosity is present when we are in ventral vagal, the safe and social part of our nervous system. Being in ventral vagal opens up the possibility of curiosity. In sympathetic or dorsal there is no space for curiosity. You can start to invite curiosity in by grounding yourself, by orienting yourself to time and space.
Curiosity is an emotion as well as an energetic state. It’s one we can cultivate using the think-feel-act cycle, because we create it with our thoughts, which is so beautiful and empowering.
We cultivate it with practice, by choosing to get curious and to put Knowing aside for our own growth, for our own internal peace.
I know my nerds love homework, so I want to invite you to get really curious throughout your day and to ask yourself “what if I didn’t know the answer here and got curious?”
Some other guiding questions for you to practice asking yourself are:
- Why am I getting defensive here?
- What am I trying to prove?
- Why do I chronically put others first? How do I believe that will serve me?
- Why don’t I speak up when you’re upset or hurt?
- What feelings am I chronically buffering against and how could I slowly allow myself to feel those feelings in a way that won’t overwhelm me and my nervous system?
- Why do you placate others and do what they want to do when it’s not what you want to do?
- Why do you choose resentment instead of saying no or stating and holding your boundaries?
- Why do you make assumptions about what other people are thinking or needing instead of asking and getting clarity?
When we aren’t in curiosity and asking these questions it’s so easy to believe that you’re broken, that there is something inherently wrong with you.
But nothing could be further from the truth. You’re just not getting curious.
That may be because your inner children, your protector parts, think it’s safer to believe that you know the answers, and you were conditioned by our society, by schooling, by the patriarchy not to ask curious questions.
But rather, to walk in lock-step with what you were taught makes you a good girl, a good wife or partner, a good employee, good parent. To go with the flow by not asking questions, not rocking the boat.
I’ll invite you to get curious about what that way of thinking and acting has created for you and your life. Is it a life you love and are excited to live, an intentional life? Or are you on auto-pilot, just moving through life the way you were taught to?
I get it, asking these questions can be so uncomfortable! I think we don’t ask these questions because we’re scared to hear the answers, scared to change, scared to hear that maybe some ties need severed and I get that. Totally. And.
My love. Is your status quo enough? Aren’t you curious what life could be like on the other side of your habitual externalization of your self-worth?
We also don’t ask the curious questions because we’re scared of what others my think of us. That someone will tell us we’re dumb for asking that question, that the answer is obvious, that we totally should know that already.
That’s evidence of perfectionist thinking at play. Perfectionism is the bs story that you should already know absolutely everything and that there’s something wrong with you for being a human, ever-growing, ever-learning, and not a walking encyclopedia.
The truth is, it’s hard to make change when we don’t have curiosity, because we can’t see what our habits are and how they are impacting our lives. That’s what we walk through in the Thought Work Protocol. Literally writing down our habitual thoughts and seeing what comes from thinking mean thoughts about ourselves, or buffering against our emotions instead of holding space for them, when we believe that our circumstances cause our feelings, which they don’t.
The Thought Work Protocol is an amazing tool of curious inquiry because it helps us to see our own minds on paper, in black and white, so we can decide if we want to make other choices.
This is where working with an experienced and knowledgeable coach comes in because this work is challenging to do just on your own. Which is why I have a coach and always will, in addition to my daily self-coaching, because it’s challenging to see the truth behind the thoughts you’ve been thinking for 20, 30, 40 years.
It is the job of a skilled coach to help you ease into greater curiosity, to support you in posing a hypothesis and then running the experiment to see what comes of it, to help you to see what your mind is habitually doing so you can get curious about other ways of thinking, feelings and acting, to create different results for yourself and your life.
This is the power of coaching, and it’s the power of curiosity – to help you to imagine a new life, a new world, in which you put yourself and your wellness first, others second, with love.
I’ll close with the words of the great poet, Mary Oliver, and her poem The Summer Day, an ode to deep and powerful curiosity:
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
Thank you for taking the time to read Feminist Wellness. I’m excited to be here and to help you take back your health!
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