The Work Begins
I started my journey with a general feeling of hopelessness, I felt a worthless shell of my former self. For so many years all my energy, love and sheer determination to keep going had been flowing out to others, to family members and friends. I had forgotten the most essential ingredient about life and that was how to love and appreciate myself. I had forgotten that I am a capable, loving, worthwhile human being with a lot to give. I had forgotten how to value my thoughts, feelings and opinions and I had forgotten how to give time to myself.
After a period of counselling, which lasted four years, I began to realise that I had been cheated, by myself. I began to realise that there was a lot more to me than I had given myself credit for. It was worth the effort to take better care of myself, before, I could truly help anyone else.
I had to learn to rest when I needed to, give myself some time for activities that pleased me and make space in my life for the new to enter.
At first my initial reaction to learning that I could believe and trust in my ability to matter to myself was extreme and I reacted badly whenever challenged by others. It has taken me quite a long time to learn how to balance these new skills with my natural ability to empathise with, and care for others. Having decided I was worth the effort, I fought tooth and nail to achieve and keep time for myself. It was an over reaction and wasn’t balanced at all. There was a gentler way, however, it took me some time to have enough insight to see that.
It takes time to learn about and appreciate all that we are, it takes time to learn about ourselves, our likes and dislikes, our decisions about what we are prepared to put up with and what we are not. It takes time to learn about our shadow side, our emotions, feelings and thoughts.
One of the best ways of learning about your feelings and thoughts is to let yourself experience the emotion, listen to the thoughts that accompany them and track back through your mind to the source of those thoughts and emotions. What set it off? What was it that you didn’t like? What was it that pleased you? What was it that you thought was terrible and WHY do I feel this way? What are my beliefs about it? Are my beliefs out dated? Do I need to change the way I’m looking at it? What can I do to change it/lighten my mood/resolve an issue?
Tracking back within our minds and really giving time and attention to those thoughts and feelings enable us to have a better sense of self, we become stronger over time as we come to truly know ourselves. It is a lifetimes job, and if it sounds like hard work, I’m here to tell you it is!
I know that it has taken me the best part of ten years to truly know and understand myself better and that today I am a much stronger person than I ever was before. I discovered the ability to not let others words and actions affect me to the extent that they once did. I discovered that I can now deal with a whole host of problems that once would have had me wringing my hands in despair and I discovered that sometimes the only thing you can do is to stand back and watch someone else as they learn, willing them on to their finish line, cheering all the way when they finally get there. I discovered that well meaning advice is not always needed and that those who appear to be top dog and by sheer willpower and intent stronger than us, they are not always so. They are mainly vulnerable and usually afraid to face their emotions objectively.
You can be strong too, not in a bull-headed way, but quietly, gently and with an empathy for others that is usually appreciated.
Then I had to learn that to be strong I didn’t have to like everybody, that I could be vulnerable and ask for help when I needed it (a hard lesson for me to learn, I’m still learning this one), it didn’t mean I was helpless, far from it. I just recognised that we all need a helping hand now and again and that is an inbuilt part of family, friends and the community we belong to.
I tried so hard in the beginning to learn it all at once, but again, I had not taken into account the patience that is needed to learn a whole new set of skills as a complete beginner. We have to try and fail occasionally in order to learn the valuable lessons that life is teaching us. We can have a bad day and wonder if we will ever learn enough to be able to function competently in the world. I won’t tell you that it is easy, many times I wanted to stop trying and just give up. Many times I wondered would I ever get it right. I also learned that we are never right all the time, we are human beings with frailties, quirks and a unique personality that wants to be right, to make itself known, to be loved and cherished and most of all to make a difference somewhere, anywhere in this world. We want to be counted on as valuable, worthwhile, loving human beings who have purpose, and we want to be happy too.
Happiness I discovered is really a state of mind, it’s about accepting everything about yourself, knowing yourself and your shadow side. Accepting others as they truly are and accepting the circumstances that are present in your life in each and every moment. It’s a place to begin, a place to start to move forward and make progress. A place where the achievements and skills that have been gained over a lifetime can be utilised to everyone’s advantage as well as your own.
I found that it was easier and less stressful to try working on one issue at a time, as I learned one new behaviour or way of being it then became possible to start work on another. Gradually this process has become quicker as my ability to grasp new concepts has grown, and it takes practice, practice, practice. I began with my feelings of worthlessness, my feelings of inadequacy, and worked on my self esteem. To truly know that you are a worthwhile person with gifts to bring to the world, you need to believe it right down to your soul. You tell yourself over and over again that you are a valuable person every time you feel you have failed, you tell yourself that you are a beautiful, loving soul with enough love to give to others as well as yourself. You tell yourself right down to your boots. You tell yourself so often that eventually you ego begins to believe it. It stops telling you that you are worthless and not worth the effort, it becomes quiet every time you tell yourself that you are a worthwhile person.
A good way to begin this process is with the use of affirmations, statements that you repeat in you mind over and over until the ego finally shuts up long enough for you to truly believe it is so. An affirmation always starts with the words ‘I am’. Statements to yourself like ‘ I am worthy of love’. ‘I am a beautiful person’. ‘ I am happy’ are a few examples of an affirmation and there are many good books on the subject that will help you along. Repeating your affirmation out loud over and over again several times a day will quiet the ego that would try and tell you otherwise out of fear.