I was walking past the church at the end of my block the other day, and marveling at how gorgeous the two giant entry doors are. They were restained earlier in the year, and they are so rich and welcoming. As my mind took in the two doors, I began to think about how there are always two doors in front of us, metaphorically, with regard to personal choice. From there my mind came to the understanding that each choice we make is either to victimize ourselves, or empower ourselves.

I tested my theory as I continued on my dog walks. Every choice of food we consume, we choose either to love and nourish our body, or punish it with disease causing processed junk. We are choosing if our reactions will be conscious and empowered, or reactionary and victimizing. Every choice I could think of seemed to fit with these results. But beyond that, I also see it as though we are choosing to love ourselves, our dreams, our life, or punish ourselves for something we’ve done, or feel we don’t deserve, or aren’t worthy of, or can’t have. The continuous choices we make, all revealing either empowerment or victimization.

Curiously, I believe no one is fully black and white with their choices, but rather there are areas of our life where we continuously choose to empower ourselves, and other areas where we routinely choose to victimize ourselves. Consider a person who gets up early each morning to go for a walk around their neighborhood, getting in a little cardio and enjoying the quietness. Each day they are choosing to ease their soul into the day. Then perhaps they go in, eat a complete breakfast, and proceed to veg out in front of Netflix for the next few hours while their dream career is put on hold. How can this person have such drive for health and peace, and be willing to make a daily commitment to it, but yet be stalled and fearful with another vital area of their life? The answer is beliefs.

The beliefs we hold about ourselves, others, and the world, dictate what we will allow in or out of our lives. Often, we are guided by what has brought us pain, and what has brought us pleasure. Perhaps a young child who really doesn’t want to try on a sweater in the store realizes that if he misbehaves, while he may get scolded, the situation he was being asked to participate in has ended. Pleasure was the outcome of misbehaving. That’s incentive to continue the pattern of misbehaving.

The early morning walker has found pleasure in rising early, breathing deeply, and spending time alone in the morning chill. However, they have concluded that pushing for their dream life is painful to them. It’s too scary, too uncertain, that they are not worthy, that they are afraid of overwhelm or uncertainty… it is ultimately painful. Our beliefs shape what brings us pleasure and what brings us pain, and all of our choices are based around gaining pleasure and avoiding pain.

It’s the situations we perceive as painful that we will find ourselves making choices that victimize ourselves. Victimization ensures us a way to avoid pain, and thus it is pleasurable to victimize ourselves… hence the pattern continues. For example: I have a friend who hates his job. His company has been bought and sold, and all of the people he revered, that he had spent years with, were all let go. When I asked him why he stayed, he just shrugged his shoulders. When I dug deeper, he revealed that he was raised in abuse and that he just really didn’t ever care to put up a fight and look for another job. It’s very easy to empathize with this beloved soul. In fact, he has completely empathized with the young child who was abused, and insisted he continue to have a loss in his life, just to ensure the abuses impact never be forgotten. He has chosen to remain the child who was victimized.

As you continue through the week, see if you can notice where you hear yourself making excuses for yourself, or you become defensive about a decision to be made. Likely this is linked to a belief created years earlier. What’s most important to ask yourself, is if holding this belief brings you genuine pleasure in your life.

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