1. Practice thinking better about yourself.
You have to admit, you’ve spent a lot of your life subconsciously belittling yourself. Thinking you’re not enough. Trying to be someone else. Someone who fits in. Someone who’s less sensitive. Less needy. Less flawed. Less YOU. Because you felt broken, and you didn’t want to scare people away. You wanted them to like you. You wanted to make a good impression. You wanted to be seen as worthy and loveable. So you could feel healed and whole. And so for the longest time, behind a facade of fake smiles, you have inadvertently betrayed yourself for the purpose of pleasing everyone else. And for longest time, your heart has ached.
But you’re at a point now where you’re seeing things differently. The heartache just isn’t worth it anymore. Belittling yourself for one more day just doesn’t make any sense. And more than that, you now realize no matter what you do or how you change, some people will never be pleased anyway. You now realize you have to start doing things for the right reasons. Not because it’s what you think everyone else needs, but because you finally know yourself to be worthy of your own love and care. Not because other people approve of you, but because you are breathing your own air, thinking your own thoughts, and occupying a space no one else ever could. Yes, you are indeed worthy! Your ideas are worthy. Your feelings are worthy. Your needs are worthy. And without everyone else’s constant validation, you must be who you are and live your truth. Even if it makes people turn their heads. Even if it means walking alone down the path less traveled for awhile. Even if your own confidence in yourself has been shaken! The real battle is always in your mind. And your mind is under your control, not the other way around. You may have been broken down by adversity or rejection or stress, but YOU are not broken. So don’t let others convince you otherwise. And don’t let your mind get the best of you either.
Heal yourself by refusing to belittle yourself. Choose to take up a lot of positive space in your own life today. Choose to give yourself permission to meet your own needs. Choose to honor your feelings and emotions. Choose to make self-love and self-care a part of your daily rituals…Choose to think better about yourself, so you can live better in spite of yourself.
2. Consciously embrace the fact that you are more than the one broken piece of you.
When times are tough, and some piece of you is chipped and broken, it’s easy to feel like everything – ALL of you – is broken along with it. But that’s not true. We all have this picture in our minds of ourselves – this idea of what kind of person we are. When this idea gets even slightly harmed or threatened, we tend to react defensively and irrationally. People may question whether we did a good job, and this threatens our idea of being a competent person, so we become angry or hurt by the criticism. Someone falsely accuses us of something and this damages our idea that we’re a good person, and so we get angry and attack the other person, or we cower and cry. And the list goes on. But the craziest thing is, oftentimes we are actually the ones harming and threatening ourselves with negativity and false-accusations…
Just this morning I was struggling to motivate myself to work on a new creative project I’ve been procrastinating on, so my identity of myself as someone who’s always productive and motivated and has great ideas suddenly came under attack. When I realized I wasn’t getting things done, it made me feel terribly self-conscious and upset because I began subconsciously worrying that I wasn’t who I thought I was. I felt like a slacker. My solution was to realize that I’m not just one thing. I’m not always productive – sometimes I am, but sometimes I’m unproductive too. I’m not always motivated – sometimes I am, but other times I’m a bit lazy. And obviously I don’t always have great ideas either – because that’s impossible.
The truth is, I can be many things, and remembering this helps me stretch my identity so it’s not so fragile – so it doesn’t completely shatter when a small piece of it gets chipped. Then it doesn’t matter if someone occasionally thinks I didn’t do a good job, or if I sometimes catch myself not doing a good job – because I don’t always do a good job. I make mistakes. And that’s perfectly OK.
3. Change, evolve, and start over when you must.
“Starting over is not an option!” Unfortunately, that’s a lie many of us hold on to until the bitter end. The idea of starting over being a bad thing is baked right into the fabric of our society’s education system. We send our children to a university when they’re 17 or 18, and basically tell them to choose a career path they’ll be happy with for the next 40 years. “But, what if I choose wrong?” I remember thinking to myself. Over the years, however, through bouts of failure and hardship, I’ve learned the truth through experience: you can change paths anytime you want to, and oftentimes it’s absolutely necessary that you do. Yes, starting over and making substantial changes in your life is almost always feasible. Of course, it won’t be easy, but neither is being stuck with a lifelong career you naively chose when you were a teenager. And neither is holding on to something that’s not meant to be, or something that’s already gone.
The truth is, no one wins a game of chess by only moving forward; sometimes you have to move backward to put yourself in a position to win. And this is a perfect metaphor for life. Sometimes when it feels like you’re running into one dead end after another, it’s actually a sign that you’re not on the right path. Maybe you were meant to hang a left back when you took a right, and that’s perfectly fine. Life gradually teaches us that U-turns are allowed. So turn around when you must! There’s a big difference between giving up and starting over in the right direction. And there are three little words that can release you from your past mistakes and regrets, and get you back on track. These words are: “From now on…”
So… from now on, what should you do? Anything. Something small. As long as you don’t just sit in your seat, strapped down to a destiny that isn’t yours. If you mess it up, start over. Try something else. Let go and grow! No doubt, one of the absolute hardest lessons in life is letting go – whether it’s guilt, anger, love or loss. Change is never easy – you fight to hold on and you fight to let go. But letting go is generally the healthiest path forward. It clears out toxic thoughts and choices from the past and paves the way to make the most positive use of the present. You’ve got to emotionally free yourself from some of the things that once meant a lot to you, so you can move beyond the past and the pain it brings you. Again, it takes hard work to let go and refocus yourself, but it’s worth every bit of effort you can muster! And oftentimes letting go is strictly about changing the labels you place on a situation – it’s looking at the same situation with fresh eyes and an open mind, and then making the best of it. It’s thinking better about the past and present, and then building small, life-changing daily rituals so you can start over again, and live better going forward.
4. Let go of the things you don’t need.
Eventually, most of us end up settling in some part of our life. We let go of certain ideals and dreams, we compromise, and we make trade-offs. We gradually learn that we can’t have everything we want, because not every outcome in life can be perfectly controlled. But if we pay close attention, we also learn that we can make the best of every outcome, and still get a lot of what we want in life, if we manage our time, energy and attitude appropriately. And these realizations collectively lead to an interesting question:
When should you settle, or compromise, and when should you continue fighting hard for what you ideally want to achieve? There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but when you encounter a situation that forces you to choose between compromise and fighting forward against the opposition, it might help to also ask yourself: “Do I really need this, or do I just kinda want it?” Being able to distinguish needs from wants is essential in every walk of life. Never let go of an outcome you truly need in your life, but be reasonably flexible on the outcomes you want but could live fine without. In other words, choose your battles wisely, and don’t let “perfect” become the enemy of “great.” Remind yourself that what you pay attention to grows. So focus on what really matters and let go of what does not.
Don’t give up 50% of your life working 50-hour weeks at a day job that makes you absolutely miserable. Don’t abandon your sanity for the wrong reasons. Don’t neglect lifelong goals and dreams that have withstood the tests of time, and still bring incredible meaning into your life. If you really need something, fight hard for it! But for everything else, let go a little. Loosen your grip, compromise… settle. Settle on less of the unessential, to get more of what you really need and want in life.
5. Accept and embrace daily discomfort, for the right reasons.
Discomfort is a form of pain, but it isn’t a deep pain – it’s a shallow one. It’s the feeling you get when you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone. The idea of exercising in many people’s minds, for example, brings discomfort – so they don’t do it. Eating a spinach and kale salad brings discomfort too. So does meditating, or focusing on a difficult task, or saying “no” to others. Of course, these are just examples, because different people find discomfort in different things, but you get the general idea.
The key thing to understand is that most forms of discomfort actually help us grow into our strongest and smartest selves. However, many of us were raised by loving parents who did so much to make our childhoods comfortable, that we inadvertently grew up to subconsciously believe that we don’t need discomfort in our lives. And now we run from it constantly. The problem with this is that, by running from discomfort, we are constrained to partake in only the activities and opportunities within our comfort zones. And since our comfort zones are relativity small, we miss out on most of life’s greatest and healthiest experiences, and we get stuck in a debilitating cycle.
But, again, it’s hard – really, really hard sometimes! There is no person in the world capable of flawlessly handling every punch thrown at them. That’s not how we’re made. We’re made to get upset, sad, hurt, stumble and fall sometimes. Because that’s part of living – to face discomfort, learn from it, and adapt over the course of time. This is what ultimately molds us into the person we become. So when you find yourself cocooned in isolation and cannot find your way out of the darkness, remember that this is similar to the place where caterpillars go to grow their wings. Just because today is uncomfortable and stressful, doesn’t mean tomorrow won’t be wonderful. You just got to get there.