Often people think of their weaknesses or mistakes as failings or short-comings, when really, they’re just places where there’s still some healing or growing to do. If you notice patterns in your life, repeated choices you’re making that aren’t serving you, it’s actually a good thing, because we can’t change anything that’s happening outside our awareness, and many habits fall into that category.
A habit can be a habitual way of thinking about yourself that weakens you, such as, “No one likes me.” This idea may be so ingrained, you’ve come to accept it as the way of things, but if you dig a little, and get yourself some support, you’ll find you can choose a completely different thought. You could flip that idea around and say, “I’m longing for connection. I want to be seen and known and cherished, and that’s a beautiful and natural thing to desire.” Or, “I have deep doubts about my worth, and it’s time to figure out when and why that began.” Then you can get to work figuring out how to let down your defenses and reach out more. How to move outside your comfort zone, and let some love in.
The thing is, when we look back and try to organize our lives into lists of successes and failures, we really lose an opportunity to grow. I hear people describe shame when they get divorced, for example, because they feel like they failed, but usually, so much growth comes out of a situation that falls apart. Obviously no one would ask for heartbreak like that, but it isn’t a failure. It might even be a triumph, if you looked a piercingly painful situation in the eye and decided to release your grip on a story that wasn’t and isn’t yours to write. Perhaps you and your ex needed to release each other, so something beautiful and truthful could emerge. That isn’t a failure.
Maybe you quit a job with financial security to pursue your dreams, and everyone told you you were nuts. Maybe you had to downsize and simplify, but now you’re happy. Now you wake up excited about the day, and grateful to be alive. Not a failure.
Maybe you’ve had a series of romantic relationships that have ended badly. Maybe you have intense fear of commitment, or you find it hard to stay with one person because the grass always looks greener. Maybe you’ve hurt people because you’re in pain. The real issue isn’t what’s happened, it’s what you’re going to do about it. As long as you keep learning and growing and understanding more about yourself and other people, as long as you’re doing the best you can to be true to yourself without hurting anyone else, you’ll do fine. I think it’s a realistic goal to try to make better mistakes as you go along. It’s not that you’re looking for this moment when you’ll be “done”, because that doesn’t happen until your final exhale; it’s that you’re taking the information from each situation, regardless of the outcome, and learning from it. If you’ve hurt people in the past due to your fear or your anger or your confusion, you grapple with all that stuff, so that you don’t continue to hurt people out in front of you in those same ways.
Sometimes we set completely unrealistic goals for ourselves, or we have some very definite picture in our heads of how things should be, or how things should look or feel. Things are as they are. You can’t change what other people will do or want or say or need, but you can certainly work on how you respond. Getting down on yourself won’t get you far. Beating yourself up, or putting yourself down are two sure ways to stay right where you are, feeling awful. Apologize when you have something to be sorry about, be strong enough not to use people for your comfort, and move forward with the intent to take what you’ve learned and show up for yourself, and the people in your life, in a different way. That’s a realistic goal.
Sending you love,
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