When I was growing up, I was taught that books are to be taken care of – you should never turn the edge on a page, highlight, write or in any other way “spoil” a book. Books are sacred. I remember being told that my feet should never touch a book – even though I was not brought up in a religious house, there are some beliefs that I believe do stem from religion, and this is one of them. In Hinduism, Saraswati is the Goddess of Knowledge, Music, and Art - and by extension, books are her tools. So to show disrespect to books would be a sign of disrespecting Her.
However, most of my classmates (in the international schools I attended) were not brought up with these beliefs. For my entire life, I have seen others highlight or underline phrases that stand out to them. Yet, I have not done it. I just can’t bring myself to do it. I have been tempted to, especially as an adult – but yet, here I am, 37 years old, and still following the beliefs that I was taught.
Now you may think that this is a pretty silly example, but it is a limiting belief for me. I have read a few books where I have picked up a highlighter because I really wanted to highlight a phrase, but could not bring myself to do it – that is how engrained that belief is in me.
Think about it – what beliefs are you holding on to, that you were taught as a child? I am learning the importance of questioning these childhood beliefs to see if they are still valid for you. So I’m going to go through an exercise, using the belief about writing in books as an example.
Step 1: Write it down - think about what the belief is and articulate it. Pay attention to how you feel when you write it down.
Writing in books is disrespectful. If you write in a book you are destroying it.
Step 2: Write down why this belief is true AND why it is not true – pretend you are in a courtroom and play the role of both the prosecutor and defense.
Taking care of the things you cherish is how you show that you value it – by writing in the book – you are taking away from the “new-ness” and thus reducing its value.
When you use things, you show that they add value to your life. By making notes in the books at sections that resonate with you, you are highlighting their importance. In addition, by underlining or highlighting sections you are making sure that they stand out when you pick up the book in the future.
Step 3: Consider the arguments and determine which makes more sense to you. If the belief you previously held is no longer the stronger argument, write a new belief.
Highlighting or underlining select passages in books increases their value and thus the impact of the book in your life.
Step 4: Take 1 small action in the direction of your belief - regardless of if you decided that the original belief has merit or decided to rewrite it.
Do you have suggestions of other tools I can use to get past this roadblock and take another step towards healing? I would love to hear them – please leave a comment!