Tag Archives: self-growth

Fear, Success & Getting Out of Your Own Way

It’s very easy for me to lose motivation. To lose sight of my goals and aspirations. To over focus on others and false beliefs that I can change them, despite knowing only they can change themselves. To get caught up in negativity. To doubt myself and my abilities. To have many amazing ideas and, instead of focusing on one or two, half-completing or never starting any of them.

I don’t want to lose this moment and the clarity I have.

I’ve been working very hard on my education. Working to bring my GPA up so I can be eligible for Phi Theta Kappa and the potential scholarships it brings. Working to make sure the classes I take at my community college are the correct ones and will transfer to the private, four year college I want to attend after obtaining my (second) associates degree.

I’ve been planning ahead. Making appointments with advisors, program heads, financial aid counselors, transfer counselors and people at both the school I currently attend and the one I wish to transfer to. I’ve been making sure my “ducks are in a row”.

Last week I visited the private four year college I hope to attend. I had never been there before and it’s over an hours drive away. As I exited the freeway my car collided with the car in front of me. I instantly panicked. I instantly cried.

I felt that perhaps this was a “bad omen” that I shouldn’t attend this college. I felt so overwhelmed with emotion that I wanted to just turn around and go home. Thankfully, all parties were uninjured and there were minor damages to the vehicles. As many pointed out to me later, cars can be replaced. People cannot.

If I had let my emotions and fear control me in that moment, I would have gone home despite being five minutes away from the college. Instead, I was able to contain myself and keep my appointment.

I’m glad that I did. I very much liked the campus and the program I would enter. In talking with the program head, it appears that I can even complete my bachelors degree in three semesters instead of four, thanks to my ability to transfer in additional credits to the school.

Today I met with the transfer counselor at my community college and he told me I was well prepared. He stated that I had talked to all the correct people and taken the necessary steps to be set to transfer next fall. I left feeling amazing. Capable. Strong.

am capable and strong. I have been through so much in my life but when I focus I can accomplish so much.

Last night I had a dream. I somehow totaled my car and was unable to drive anywhere, leaving me housebound. This also meant I was unable to attend school. In my dream I did not try to find alternate ways to get to my school. I simply resigned myself to never being able to graduate and achieve my goals.

I woke anxious. As I analyzed my dream I realized what was most terrifying – I had let one obstacle (my car breaking) stand in my way of moving forward. I had lost momentum and became blinded to other possibilities because I only focused on the negative.

I will achieve my goals of education. I will not let anything stand in my way. Not even myself. I so often doubt myself and make myself believe that I am not smart enough or deserving enough or strong enough.

In the past I’ve put up road blocks subconsciously. Perhaps I was afraid to succeed. Perhaps it was easier to believe that I couldn’t do it instead of seeing it through and awaiting the outcome. I often wonder how much of our “failures” we have caused ourselves.

Let’s stop tearing ourselves down and instead build ourselves up. I can do it. And, if somehow I fail, I can view my failure as an opportunity to learn from it and try again. Isn’t that really what it’s all about? Making mistakes, learning and trying a different way instead of doing the same things over and over again (especially if it doesn’t work)?

I say, get out there and achieve your dreams, work towards your goals and live your life! You are, after all, the only one who can do any of these things for you.

Asking for Help

Today is the first day of the rest of my life.

I am going to come right out and say that I have been struggling. Recovery from my tonsillectomy was much more difficult than I had imagined it would be. Progress was extremely slow-moving and in very small increments. I had expected recovery to progress quicker and in larger increments.

I had great difficulty in being patient. Of course, I wanted to feel better right away. It was excruciating to allow myself to just be where I was – in my recovery and in a broader sense.

It has felt like I have struggled my entire life. Never seeming to “get” what I had expected. Always looking ahead to where I wanted to be. And always letting pieces of the past seep into where I currently was.

In many ways, it was easier that way. By always living in the past and the future I didn’t have to confront and deal with what was happening in the present. Avoidance is one of the oldest tricks of continued struggling.

For the past two weeks I have been in an outpatient hospitalization program. Perhaps in previous times I would feel embarrassed or ashamed by this admittance but, as I have grown wiser and gotten further in my self-progress, I can view this only in a positive light.

I knew that I was struggling and heading into a very dark place. I also knew where, historically, that could take me and it isn’t a place I’d ever like to visit again. I referred myself to the program, planning my attendance around a time of increased struggle for myself (my father’s second birthday since he passed away).

I recognized that I was in a place where I needed help – and I sought it out. Asking for help is one of the most difficult things any of us can do. We often view it as admitting weakness and exposing vulnerabilities. And yes, often when we are in a place of struggling we are vulnerable but asking for help is never weak. In fact, it’s one of the strongest things we can do. To identify that we are in a bad place and to ask/receive help is an incredibly mature and amazing thing to do.

I truly try to do the best that I can with the knowledge and resources (tools) I presently have. Most often my struggling isn’t because I’m not “trying hard enough”. It’s because I need additional knowledge and resources to help me more forward.

Sometimes my struggling isn’t because I don’t have the knowledge and resources that I need or because I’m not trying my best. Sometimes, when we are in a dark place, we can’t see the tools that we possess. It’s difficult to see anything in the darkness. Seeking out help can be a way to “turn on the light” and allow us to recognize and use the tools we had all along.

Life isn’t easy. Keeping constant momentum and living in the present moment isn’t easy either.

We will struggle. We will get caught up in the past and all the “should have, could have, would have” thinking. We will get caught up in the future and worry about what will be. We will face tragedies and heartaches and losses and disappointments. We will work to move forward a step, only to be unexpectantly forced three steps backward.

Sometimes we will be able to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and continue forward. Sometimes we will realize that we are unable to do so and, if we can find the courage, we will ask for help.

I am beginning to accept myself, who I am, and the life that I currently have.

I could spend every second of every day wishing to be things that I am not. Wishing that I didn’t have chronic, life-long illnesses. Wishing for a level playing field. Wishing things happened differently in the past… All that wishing won’t change a thing. I am who I am. I have the body I have and the mind I have.

I have the illnesses I have as well. And fighting against them will never propel me forward nor allow me to become the person I would like to be. I could be in a perpetual state of conflict and anger and darkness, fighting against forces that I have no ability to change.

I ask for help because when I’m in a place of darkness, of struggling, I cannot see any other way than to fight or to submit to the darkness. These past two weeks while I was in the outpatient hospitalization program, a light was shone on me. It was my choice to use that light and allow myself the opportunities to create my own light.

This is who I am. This is what I have. If I want anything to change I have to make that choice. And I am.

It’s quite likely that I will need help again, but I will view it not as a setback or a weakness but instead as an opportunity to grow stronger, to learn more and to make the choice to continue to work on improving myself and my ability to move forward.

——————————————————

Resources:

If you or someone you know is in an emotional distress or suicidal crisis – the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK (8255) 

If you are concerned about your own alcohol or other drug use or that of someone you care about – the NCADD (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence) hotline 1.800.NCA.CALL (622-2255) 

Free. Safe. Confidential. 24 Hours. 7 Days. – RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network)  National Sexual Assault Hotline  1.800.656.HOPE

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder – the National Eating Disorders Association information line 1.800.931.2237

If  you have questions about or are affected by serious mental illness – the  NAMI (National Association on Mental Illness) information help line 1.800.950.NAMI (6264)

Fear

Tomorrow I will be having a Tonsillectomy, a surgery to have my tonsils removed. I have never had surgery or general anesthesia before.

I am, quite honestly, SO very afraid, scared, fearful.

However, I do not want to let the fear engulf me. I do not want to let the fear become endless worry. Both fear and worry aren’t productive in this situation. They do not assist or benefit me in any way.

There is nothing I can do about the tonsillectomy. I need it. In fact, I have been putting the surgery off as a result of my fear, to the detriment of my health.

Because there is nothing I can do about it, I am trying to let myself accept that it is what it is.

In this acceptance there is no need for worries and no space for fear to take hold.

The Road Less Traveled

It’s the time of year when high schoolers go to prom, when they live out their last moments as seniors and prepare for graduation.

Facebook is filled with prom photos: beautiful dresses, beautiful girls, guys wearing matching tuxes and smiles. So many smiles.

I didn’t have a traditional highschool experience. I stopped attending public school early in my sophomore year and, though I did graduate and receive a high school diploma through my local public school, I did not have the opportunity to experience any of the typical highschool festivities.

All I know of prom is from what I’ve seen on television and in movies.  What’s it like to plan out outfits, get all dressed up and spend a night with your friends and classmates dancing? Would I have had fun?

Is prom really like the Prom-asaurus episode on Glee?

I didn’t get to participate in my highschool graduation ceremony either.

The first time I walked across a stage to receive an educational achievement was last summer after I had earned my first college degree. I didn’t feel excited. I felt nervous and overwhelmed with emotion.

Would I have felt differently had I gotten to walk for my high school diploma? Would it have been more exciting?

Even having kids, there’s no good reason why I’ve seen any of these movies…

These are some of the things I think about when I see images of prom and graduation presented. There’s a bittersweet feeling that I missed out.

I also wonder how I will deal with my two daughters as they grow up and enter high school. I am so very unprepared to assist them in typical high school life, including prom and all that goes with it.

It’s so easy to get caught up in these thoughts. In these feelings that I am somehow missing something by not having a traditional high school experience.

If I take a moment and step back from my feelings, I can see that while I may not have traditional highschool experiences to share with my daughters, I have experiences to share with them none the less.

Very little of my life experience has been “traditional.” My experiences differ greatly from the mainstream in ways that expand far before and beyond high school. While this may bring up feelings of “missing out”, in reality I just took a different path than many of my high school classmates.

It doesn’t make my path nor my experiences any better or worse than those of the mainstream. Both are valid paths. I simply took the one less traveled.

Sorrow

I’m feeling sad today. My first response is always to try to push it away, to keep it at a distance and just try to go on with my day.

You can only push sorrow away for so long though and the longer you do, the more intense it seems to feel.

This quote by Rumi really touches me and helps me realize that while I may not want sadness, it has a purpose.

How I Stopped Being Negative

Ok. I’ll admit that I haven’t stopped being negative. That’s a bit of an over exaggeration and, frankly, not very realistic.

Instead, “How I Became Less Negative” is probably a more accurate title. Despite semantics, I am less negative than I once was. So, how?

I decided to be less negative

Sounds simple, right? Sounds unrealistic too, I’m sure. I’m not saying that by deciding to be less negative I automatically was. Obviously, that ideology doesn’t fit with reality.

But I made a conscious choice to actively try to be less negative. This involved really looking at how I behave and calling myself out when I notice myself acting in a negative manner (ie. complaining, whining, looking only at the cons and ignoring the pros, acting from a black/white all or nothing point of view and generally being a Debbie Downer.)

♪ You’re enjoying your day, everything’s going your way, when along comes Debbie Downer. Always there to tell you ’bout a new disease, a car accident, or killer bees. You beg her to spare you, ‘Debbie, please!’ but you can’t stop Debbie Downer! ♫

Stop publicly complaining

There’s a difference between stating that “things are hard” or that you are struggling and putting every negative aspect of your life on display without balancing it with the positive. If you want to be less negative, you have to put less negativity out there.

When I initially decided to be less negative I looked at my facebook wall and I noticed that most of my posts were negative, complaining, poor-me-nothing-ever-goes-my-way, everything sucks updates.

I posted nearly every negative thing that happened throughout my day. While I may have felt better to vent these things at the time, later looking back it only justified and proved (my perceived belief of) how shitty my life was. So I tried to stop presenting every perceived “poor me” moment.

Look at and present both the negative and the positive

I also noticed that these negative posts were almost all I posted. From the viewpoint of someone only seeing me through my facebook, nothing positive ever happened to me.

Even if every negative post I made was 100% accurate (and not skewed or exaggerated) my omission of positive updates only fed my cycle of negativity and this was only on facebook! What level of negativity did I present in my actual physical daily life!

Sometimes it isn’t easy for us to see the positives in our life. It’s certainly a lot easier to see the negatives. But only focusing on the negative encourages more negative and presents an inaccurate viewpoint to others and ourselves.

While you don’t want to be Debbie Downer and only see the negative, you also don’t want to ONLY see the positive. Any ‘all-or-nothing’ thinking leads to extremes and a disconnect from reality (I mean, look at her!, she’s YELLOW!)

Even the worst situations have something positive, despite how small it might be.

I don’t want to live in an all or nothing, black or white, negative mindset. Am I always positive and never negative? No. Like seemingly everything else in life, its finding a balance and I choose to try to see both the negative and the positive, with neither weighing greater.

_____________________________________________

Related Posts:

Focus on Success

Even in the Pain There is Beauty

_____________________________________________

The Process of Loving Ourselves

From Brene Brown’s book “The Gifts of Imperfection:  Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are”, which I’m really enjoying reading.

Loving yourself, with all your imperfections, and the process to do so may be incredibly uncomfortable and scary. And while it requires a lot of hard work, it’s one of the most important, and bravest, things you can do. Not only for yourself but also for everyone you meet throughout your life’s journey.

The process of embracing who you are is one I have been working on for a long time. And, likely will be on for the rest of my life. Only recently I have started to see some of the progress I have made and the sense of calm that comes with accepting, embracing and loving yourself.

I Want Love

Elton John, I Want Love ©2001 Mercury Records Ltd.

I want love, but it’s impossible
A man like me, so irresponsible
A man like me is dead in places
Other men feel liberated

I can’t love, shot full of holes
Don’t feel nothing, I just feel cold
Don’t feel nothing, just old scars
Toughening up around my heart

But I want love, just a different kind
I want love, won’t break me down
Won’t brick me up, won’t fence me in
I want a love, that don’t mean a thing
That’s the love I want, I want love

I want love on my own terms
After everything I’ve ever learned
Me, I carry too much baggage
Oh man I’ve seen so much traffic

How often do we look to others to give us the love we deserve? How often do we do so before looking to ourselves?

It may seem impossible when we feel broken down, scarred and numb, that we could find love. But love comes in many forms and many ways.

You can have love, on your own terms, and it starts with you. It starts with loving yourself.

With believing that you deserve love. That you are worthy of it. That while you are imperfect and have flaws and scars and baggage and holes, you are not only those things.

It starts with looking closely at yourself and accepting all of who you are. The positive aspects and all the baggage.

You aren’t perfect. And neither is anyone else. Expecting that you will find love from another that will fill all the voids within yourself is a concept that will never succeed.

You are amazing, just as you are.

Work towards accepting and loving every part of who you are, because if you can’t love and accept yourself how can you possibly expect others to?

How could you possibly ever believe that the love they give you is honest and deserving, if you don’t believe that you deserve love?

Avoidance & Distraction

The act of avoiding something or distracting yourself from something can be very useful in tolerating painful events or emotions when you can’t make things better immediately. This can be a subconscious action but often works best when consciously decided.

When we’re feeling distressed, distracting ourselves with other activities, thoughts, emotions and sensations can allow our focus to shift from a negative, stressful place to a place that feels more tolerable. The same can be said for avoiding distressing events, people, tasks, etc.

However, if we constantly avoid and distract ourselves from things that cause us distress, we inadvertently give those things more power and allow them to appear bigger, scarier and more stressful than they may really be (see On Vulnerability). This can also lead to unintentional inattention in other areas of our lives (see Procrastination).

Avoidance
Noun
The act of keeping away from, keeping clear of; preventing from happening

Temporary use of avoidance and distraction as coping skills works well, but they shouldn’t become a “way of life”. If we constantly avoid and distract ourselves from things that cause us distress, we never allow ourselves the ability to work through them and, hopefully, overcome them.

We also might be missing out on some very pleasant experiences that just happen to accidentally get overlooked.

I’m not saying to be reckless. Or put yourself in the way of obvious danger. But if you constantly distract yourself from feeling negative emotions or experiencing potentially distressing events, you’re doing yourself a disfavor.

Distraction
Noun
The act of drawing away or diverting; separating or dividing (such as one’s attention)

In order to ever truly live fully, we must at some point face the things that distress us. I know you don’t want to hear that. I don’t want to either. I’d much rather go on believing that if I avoid it, if I distract myself from it, if I pretend that it doesn’t exist that it cannot effect me.

But it does.

Think about something you’re avoiding. Start with something small – a paper you need to write, a task you need to complete, a phone call you’ve been putting off…

Just thinking about it, I can feel a knot in my stomach forming. A sickish, uncomfortable feeling. It’s much easier to avoid or distract myself from thinking about it. The sickish feeling goes away. I can breathe easier and go about my day.

Until the distressful thing comes up again. Someone mentions it. My mind wanders to it. I’m confronted with it face to face. Now, the sickish feeling is worse. The know in my stomach has grown.

I can keep avoiding it seemingly forever, distracting myself to better tolerate the feelings. But it still exists. And it will keep popping up, often at horrible times, the sickish feeling constantly growing.

Avoiding something makes it easier to tolerate, but it doesn’t make the distress go away. At some point you need to face the thing(s) that causes you distress.

When you choose to do so is your choice. So is how. And how much. But as long as you avoid it and distract yourself from it, it’s still there. And it will still cause you distress.

Even in the Pain There is Beauty

There are times, so many times, when it seems like there couldn’t possibly be another thing you could handle. No possible way you could deal with anything else.

And then life hands you another lemon (or whatever vague analogy you’d prefer to use) and you’re faced with the requirement of dealing with that too.

There are people who will tell you stories about how when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. Or that when one door closes, another opens.

These are cute inspirational sayings but I won’t insult you with such simplicities. Sure, sayings such as these can sometimes help to uplift us.

But sometimes, life just sucks. And there isn’t necessarily any good reason why. Or any reason at all.

I can’t tell you why some people seem to constantly have bad things happen to them. Really I can’t tell you anything.

Because I don’t know.

I think a lot… about everything. One concept I inevitably come back to is that of reality.

What is real? How do you define real? Is this the real life? Is this just fantasyyyyy? (Sorry, sometimes I can’t help but fall into lyrics).

Reality is constructed, by those around us and ourselves. And what you believe, externally and internally, to be true is what’s real for you.

As someone who helps construct reality (and so MANY things in this world), you do have some say in how you construct your beliefs and perspective.

Bad shit isn’t going to stop happening because you have this knowledge, but this knowledge can allow you to alter your perceptive of said bad shit in the context of your life.

We can’t predict the future and we can’t control it. Neither can we control the past. Whatever you focus on is what life is for you at any given moment. Focus on the negatives in your life and that’s what your life is for you. Focus on worries, that’s what your life is. Focus on gratitude and positives and, yep, that’s what your life is for you.

It’s so difficult to not solely focus on the negatives when there are so many presented to you.

Like when your kid is sick and you have to miss school to stay home with them and your car breaks down so you can’t even make the doctor’s appointment you were lucky to get — this is when life seems overwhelmingly horrible.

Or like when your relationship with someone is stressed and you’ve been trying to deal with their addiction while remaining detached enough not to get hurt, but also attached enough to still care and you just can’t save them. Because you can’t save someone who doesn’t want to be saved and slowly you watch them change from the person you loved the most into the saddest stranger you’ve ever seen.

You start stacking all of these negative things, overlapping one another, and you’re stretching yourself out to continue at the same, or higher, level of productivity for an endless period of time. It’s difficult to see life as anything but negative.

But if you looked back at your horrible day or week or year, really look, you’ll see that there is likely positive things as well. The day your car broke down and your child was sick allowed you moments with your child that you both enjoyed and may seldom get to have. Even in the really painful moments there are spaces of positivity. If anything, there is growth and beauty in pain if we allow there to be.

So yes, shit sucks. But you do the best you can with what you have in this moment and you continue to work on improving yourself. People aren’t perfect. Life sure as hell isn’t perfect. You just keep moving forward, getting through each day. And as the Monty Python song goes, “Always look on the bright side of life…”