Fashion forward.

“The discomfort I feel in my body is a result of a negative belief.”

She repeated the words and though the words were heavy as they fell out of her mouth, the words were necessary and their heaviness turned to buoyancy as she again, then again, repeated the words.

The discomfort I feel in my body is a result of a negative belief.

But, what was it? It’s true she felt discomforted. The anxiety started up every day, sometimes in the shining morning and sometimes in the calm of the afternoon, but always at some point, the drumming would begin and the tightening in her stomach would become harder and harder to ignore.

Damn it, she’d think. Now what is wrong? The unease was like coming down with a cold. It was like feeling the beginnings of a sore throat and the dawning that one was getting sick. That’s how it was with the nerves. Faint at first, then rising and rising from her stomach in a great upward whirl until it hugged her chest then became stuck in her throat, leaving her stunned and immobile wherever it encountered her: driving in the morning commute, sitting at her desk at work, lying in bed on the weekend with a throwaway book.

So, again, what was it? What was the negative belief?

It took teasing and testing, picking apart possibilities, trying on negative belief statements that didn’t feel quite right and discarding them, shrugging them off. It took tears and a shaky heart and trembling hands. And, it took the compassion and warmth and wisdom and guidance of a counselor who showed her different options and who had gained her trust over a whole year of groundwork.

It shook itself loose, finally, and there like a beacon lie the negative belief. It was: If she spoke up or created a boundary, she would get in trouble.

The realization was a relief, even as it struck her as unfathomable. She was an adult woman, after all. She was smart, she was realistic, she knew all kinds of interesting things and she had lived through what felt like a series of lifetimes in her one lifetime. She had dealt with hysterias and death and money problems and career crises, and broken hearts, and parenthood dilemmas, and yet there it was: If she spoke up or created a boundary, she would get in trouble.

Next: A replacement belief. Something to shuffle in when the feeling came that she would get in trouble if naming something truthful. What could she impart into her own psyche to substitute for faulty beliefs?

Her therapist lobbed a couple her way, and she either shrugged them aside, or shook her head vehemently: No, not a fit.

She was told she would know when there was a fit, of course. And so she waited for the message and tried on a wardrobe of possibilities, discarding and rebelting and retying the scarves this way and that, finding the fit, finding the fit.

“That is beautiful,” a voice said, when she had finally found the thing that worked, when she finally turned from the mirror. It was the replacement belief, worn in comfort. It was true and without effort and needed no accessory. It was complete, it was real. It was the look of progress.