What Buying a New Headboard Taught Me About Moving Through Mental Blocks

My cat, who I endearingly call Bébé Minou, has single-handedly destroyed my headboard.

Now granted, as a pet owner I probably didn’t make the best home furnishing decision when I bought a headboard that looks pretty much like the one in this picture. The fabric and grommets have been a little too tempting for my feline friend… and don’t even get me started on her affinity for pouncing on me from above.

All that to say, I needed a new headboard and I had a HUGE mental block when it came to getting one.

I’m no stranger to mental blocks about seemingly small things. They’ve surfaced for me in many different areas, usually when I least expect it… and they’re typically accompanied by a series of dramatic spiraling thoughts that have no basis in reality.

Fun stuff, I know. Perhaps you can relate? 

And so, I sat on my couch one afternoon, drowning my sorrows in a bowl of Doritos while my mind started to race: If I get a new headboard, I’ll probably have to book the elevator, and that seems like a huge hassle… And what if the elevator doesn’t work and the delivery guy gets stuck outside, causing him to shout out in frustation, “Nayla! Your headboard!!! Naylaaaaa!!!” What will I do with my old headboard? I’ll have to find someone to take it away and who knows when I’ll get around to doing that? It’ll end up sitting in my living room for months! The cat would have a field day with it… and so on… and so on.

Lurking underneath all of that chatter was the quiet, but persistent question, “Why do I have to do this all on my own?

And that was the actual mental block that has delayed my headboard purchase for oh… let’s say about a year or so. Because let’s face it, the rest of those thoughts are really just window dressing.

“When I argue with reality, I lose—but only 100% of the time.” – Byron Katie

One of my favourite quotes by Byron Katie is, “When I argue with reality, I lose—but only 100% of the time.” And there I was, locked into one of my favourite arguments with reality… knowing that I’ve already lost the battle, but still putting up a valiant fight.

My particular reality is that I’m 40ish and single… and without a partner, all this home stuff takes a wee bit more effort on my part. Sounds rather simple when I say it that way doesn’t it?

What complicated things was the story I was telling myself about what it means to be 40 and single, how I got here, what the rest of my life might look like. You get the gist.

And this is how our mental blocks stop us from doing things – we procrastinate, we let our minds spiral, and we spend longer in cringe-worthy situations than necessary. All this because we’re telling ourselves a painful and untrue story about our reality while fighting a losing battle with it.

We’re funny creatures indeed.

How do we move past our mental blocks?

In my more clearheaded moments, I’m able to drop the story and focus on what’s real. In this case, my reality was that I’m doing “home-stuff” on my own right now. And I needed to drop the soap opera I was telling myself about that, screaming delivery man and existential crisis included.

In those more lucid moment, I’m also able to challenge myself to take what Martha Beck calls “turtle steps.” A turtle step is a step that is so ridiculously small that you literally feel silly for not taking it. And then you celebrate like a madwoman.

My turtle step was to look at some metal headboards online and send an email to one or two companies asking if they would remove my old headboard. Then I bought myself a pair of earrings as a little reward. (Okay, okay… it was 3 pairs of earrings, but they were on sale and why not look cute while you’re facing your fears like a home decor warrior woman.)

The magic of turtle steps is that they get you to take action. And once you’ve taken action, the next small action feels easier, as does the next, and the next… you see where I’m going here.

My next turtle step was to fess up to my bestie about my headboard woes. And guess what? This type of stuff is a no-brainer for her. Technically speaking I kind of already knew this, but you know how mental blocks work… they keep you frozen in fear, so sharing isn’t really at the top of your list when you’re feeling stuck.

She offered to help me find a headboard and to take care of getting rid of my old one. A few weeks after that, a headboard was purchased and guess what? I didn’t have to do it on my own… Et voilà – turtle step magic, just like that!

So why am I writing to you about my bedroom decor decisions?

Because this experience got me thinking… we all have mental blocks about certain things that for whatever reason feel extra challenging to us. For some people, it’s booking haircuts or signing up for online banking. And for others it’s speaking up or learning to say “no” when they’re overwhelmed.

What if we reached out for help more often? The area of your particular cringe-worthy mental block is probably someone else’s cake walk.

What if we allowed ourselves to go slow… I mean really really ridiculously slow? Being gentle with ourselves might just make us become better at facing our fears.

And what if we actually celebrated our small successes when we finally muster up the courage to face reality? How would that help bring more humility, joy, and gratitude to our lives?

So dear readers, those are my questions for you today. I look forward to hearing about how you turtle-step your way out of your next mental block. In the meantime, I’ll be watching to see if my cat figures out how to perch on a metal headboard, as I stubbornly continue some of my own wars with reality.

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” – Confucius