For as long as I can remember I have experienced a range of feelings that made me feel like I was missing out on life. Social anxiety, self-doubt and criticism, anger, fatigue, fear of failure and, at times, self-imposed social withdrawal. I had so much to be grateful for, but I never seemed content for very long. I felt that this was my lot in life.
After all, we are who we are, right?
I think that so many of us feel that it’s impossible to make big changes and we just hunker down and “armor up,” as Brene´ Brown would say. Rather than focus inward, which is too painful and overwhelming, and wade through the heavy fog of emotions that never really seem to lift, we distract ourselves with drugs, alcohol, food, shopping, social media, work, over scheduling, and by accumulating, organizing and maintaining more and more stuff!
There are some bright spots along the way, but the years pass and we never seem to be able to lift ourselves completely out of the fog.
After all, we are who we are.
Well, I disagree!
Change is possible! But in most cases, things just don’t get better. We have to make an effort to work through what we’re not satisfied with in our lives. We have to get to the point of being so sick and tired of hearing ourselves complain about the same things over and over again in order to take action. Or, as was the case with me, we get a major wake up call. A big life change (or many smaller ones) or trauma can cause a shift in our thinking, feeling, what we choose to let into our lives and what we choose to eliminate.
I’ve been on this journey for two years now and I have discovered so many things that have helped me be who I WANT to be. There are books, blogs, and e-courses that have inspired me whose authors range from everyday people, like Courtney Carver and Joshua Becker, to research psychologists like Brene´ Brown and Kristin Neff (ALL superheroes in my opinion!). I’ve shared some of my favorite reads below.
Other things that have helped me greatly and which have become part of who I am are yoga, meditation, writing, nature and outdoor activities (especially hiking), minimalism and nutrition. These things help me focus on being present and positive and make me feel so alive! I am extremely lucky to have a supportive group of family and friends who love me unconditionally and who I can rely on for encouragement. I am so grateful for them!
It’s been a slow, DELIBERATE process of trial and error. It literally started with going outside on a daily basis and gardening- planting, repotting or even just weeding. I’ve tried many different activities and if I enjoyed them, they felt good and they fit into my lifestyle, they became part of my routine. If not, I moved onto something else. I’ve read things that have been extremely helpful and even life changing, and other things that have not really worked for me.
I realized that things weren’t going to change unless I put down the armor and started to move forward and pull MYSELF up out of the fog.
I want to encourage you not to give up! If you are not happy or satisfied and you feel it in your bones that there has to be a better way, then take action! Big changes can come from small steps you take on a consistent basis.
Try something different today. Take a walk, read a helpful book or blog, meditate for a few minutes, stretch, do yoga, go for a hike or run, paint, write or draw, eat better, or just sit in the garden and put your hands in the dirt. Start small. Baby steps. Slow and steady. If it doesn’t feel helpful, try something different. If it resonates with you and makes you feel good, keep doing it, until it becomes part of your daily or weekly routine. Once it becomes habit, experiment with something else.
You might even try something called, “habit stacking.” Courtney Carver explains this as the pairing of two new habits each for brief periods of time, like a few minutes. Over time, you can extend the amount of time spent on each of these. I started with a short meditation (3-6 minutes) followed by a journal entry where I wrote 2 brief statements: a gratitude statement and an intention for the day.
Before you know it, you’ll have several things in your self-care arsenal! You can pick and choose which will be helpful to you on any given day rather than fall back on old habits that were more numbing than healing.
Reach out to positive, encouraging people who will support you. Embrace change!
I used to think that there was some secret to peace and happiness, but what I’ve discovered is that these things are well within our reach. We just have to make an effort to move in a different direction. Just like the lotus, we may have to go through some mud before we can rise above it.
My journey, with its twists and turns, achievements and setbacks is what life is all about and I’m glad to finally be in the game!
Here are some inspiring reads that have helped me along the way:
The Gifts of Imperfection-Brene´ Brown
Daring Greatly –Brene´ Brown
Rising Strong-Brene´ Brown
The Four Agreements-Don Miguel Ruiz
The More of Less-Joshua Becker
Buddhist Boot Camp-Timber Hawkeye
Faithfully Religionless-Timber Hawkeye
Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself– Kristin Neff