Photo Credit: Simon Hayhurst
Since the top of the year I have made some really great progression in terms of personal development. Though it wasn’t intentional—I woke up one day and had made of my mind that feeling sub-par all the time was not the way I wanted to live. With that being said, I made some very necessary changes in my everyday life that really have turned things around for me in the best way possible.
I discovered the problem with personal development is that most often you believe its everyone else. It’s not me, it’s you! That attitude will stunt the growth of any individual. Living in denial is like wearing shades to a movie; it limits you from being able to truly see those areas of your life or qualities about yourself that need some fine-tuning.
So instead of dealing blame cards to others (who may or may not have really been at fault) I started to look inward. By doing so I discovered there were many things I practiced that were part of the problem behind so many negative experiences.
1) Always responding – I had this very annoying need to always respond to everything. Whether it was insult, criticism, instructions, directions, debate, rumors or compliments, there I was waiting to retort. I didn’t realize how much energy and time I was investing in addressing things that most often weren’t worth answering. If someone had something negative to say about me, I couldn’t get the words out quick enough to refute what had been said or annihilate them verbally. Behind every insult or discussion I had to birth a snarky response, a humorous comeback or personal reference. It’s a funny thing realizing how annoying it is to be on the other end of that discussion. So it turns out not everything dignifies a response. I had to stop accepting the invitation to these anxiety parties. I had a serious problem and had to stop responding to everything I heard. The saying goes, “Never waste time trying to explain yourself to those who are committed to misunderstanding you.” Chances are if they are saying something negative, they have made up their mind. Nothing you say will influence or change their opinion of you. Next, why do you need them to see you differently? You don’t—move on. Who are you trying to convince, them or yourself? And by the way, is everything they are saying wrong? What usually pisses us off is when people make statements about us that have some truth to them, otherwise, why would we be mad and not humored? Think about that. Lastly, if you’re waiting to respond, you are not listening. Terrible listeners are hardly compassionate people.
2) Making Excuses for People – Remember benefit of the doubt? I lived there. I built a house directly on its soil and invited everyone to move in rent free. How generous was that? I was completely guilty of making excuses for people who didn’t even bother to have any of their own. I was constantly allowing friends, family, or men, violate me in a physical, emotional and spiritual way. Every heartbreak or disappointment I would give that person the benefit of the doubt. They didn’t mean it; they were mad; she seemed sorry; I’ve done that before; they won’t do it again; it wasn’t that bad; maybe there was something I could’ve done better; they won’t always be this way. The list goes on. I could conjure up a full alibi for my murderer if I needed to. And then I was on the stand. Guilty! It’s exhausting giving all or part of yourself and trusting someone to handle it with care. Repeatedly I was taken advantage of but this lovely quality lead me to believe that people would be better, get better, do better and reciprocate what I felt or shared for them. WRONG! So I gave it up because Maya Angelou said, “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.” I figured the 1000th time was a good place to start believing actions rather than hopes and promises.
3) Control – so I was (and sometimes still can be) a control freak. I had this addiction to be constantly and unnecessarily controlling. I blame most of it on my OCD and embarrassingly on my ego. Where there is successful action, there is successful reward to be reaped. So I ran with it. I was pretty set in my ways and wanted to do things as I had previously done when I had seen that they were successful. I never considered that getting from point A to B could have multiple routes. So I suffered. I wanted to control people, things, plans, feelings, the earth as it spins on its axis (a real exaggeration). I felt more secure with outcomes if I had a part in how things went. The unknown scared me and therefore I stood in my own way (and others) trying to make sure that everything went according to “plan.” Apparently that was no good for friendships, relationships, partnerships or employment. So—I nixed that. It was like putting a box over a growing flower. I could not thrive because I would never allow someone else to teach me, lead me, correct me and therefore only had the potential to be as great as I was in that moment.
4) Making comparisons – Well, I’m human. So naturally in such a capitalistic, materialistic, socially driven society—I compared everything. I would compare myself to others, others to me, things to things, circumstances to circumstances. I tried to weigh the value of things in relation to other things. It was a serious sickness. It made me feel inadequate or give me grounds to be judgmental. Comparison is dangerous to your health. It spreads aggressively once you truly adopt it. You will compare your life to that of others, your accomplishments, your childhood, your relationship, your status, your finances, etc. I found that even though I had textually been successfully in my 26 years of life, that I would make myself feel inadequate. If someone had been a relationship for lesser time than mine and were more happy/in love/engaged/married… I had failed. If someone had less education than me and had greater opportunities, I had a “life isn’t fair” attitude. Comparison is like a rat race inside the mind. It was poisoning my thought-life to the extent that I changed my course in life so often. I was trying to dissolve the feeling of failure and inadequacy that originated from the idea that someone else had or did something that I can do/should do/need to do/would do/better at….exhale. Its exhausting just to type. People won’t admit to doing such a thing (because everyone is perfect and can care less what others are doing, right?), but I will. It took me a very long time to realize these things were happening in my subconscious and being acted out in my physical life. Where the thoughts go, the actions will follow. So I decided to mind my own business, as fundamental as that may seem.
5) Keep talking about it – I use to think that I couldn’t move forward or heal because my problems were just impossible to get past. In reality, I was hard to get past. I would dwell on my problems or constantly bring up what I had been through, what and who hurt me, blah blah. My problems were my pitch. No clue why this seemed appropriate at the time, but one day I ran into the same type of person. It didn’t seem appealing and I found myself thinking, “But that was then, this is now.” The past is the past and we don’t live there anymore. By frequently bringing up the past, I was forcing myself to relive those hardships over and over. I would feel the same anger, the same pain, the same hurt, the same devastation each time I would bring it up. I felt “sorry” for myself and I wanted everyone to attend the pity party. And while some did, it was an unattractive obstacle. I placed those mountains in front of me, making it impossible to go through and find happiness. If you live in the shadow of your past, you’ll never enjoy the sunshine in your present. I had to ask what was the purpose of discussing past obstacles and if it was benefiting me. Then I had to decide if I wanted to be happy or right? Because even if I felt those experiences contributed to me being unhappy, did I want to be right about that or leave those moments behind with an opportunity to be happy. So then I freed myself.
6) Relying on fixers – I was placing my happiness in the hands of others. I needed their approval, their acceptance, their well-wishes, their loving behavior. It goes without saying (even though I will say it) that this is a downhill path. I’d be happy when the people I loved or cared about were happy with me, were on good terms with me or approved of things I said or did. The difficult thing to see was how infrequently that would happen. Can you imagine trying to people please a handful of individuals all at once? Each had their own challenges, their own illnesses, their own personalities, their own moods, their own expectations. It was like trying to win the lottery every day. So with this came a lot of unhappiness. I could please one or two but then the other three or four were upset, offended, or disapproving. So then my “good” mood was ruined; my temperament was always affected because it was contingent upon what others felt for or about me. I was the human yo-yo; emotions up, emotions down. It made me physically ill always worrying about my status with others. I burned the bridge to that place, finally!
7) Using people as fillers – I will confess this horrible habit of using people as “fillers.” What is a filler? It is a person whose purpose is solely to fill a void of some type of comforter to pacify a current sentiment or circumstance. These people are the distraction from whatever is physically or emotionally weighing down on you. It’s a form of addiction because they provide you with whatever it is you need or want to get through the circumstance or feeling. It can be anything from laughter to companionship. Most fillers are temporary. Some fillers are long-term and can keep you from evolving. After all, if you rely on whatever energy that resource provides in order to “pass the time” or ignore a circumstance, you will not face it head on. While most fillers are distractions, some are a great source of strength (i.e. friendships, spirituality, exercise, etc). But temporary, less conducive fillers can yield some very serious consequences. No more relying on others to make me “feel better.” I had to be my own little hero and encourage and make me feel happy.
8) Negative Self-Talk – The person who gets the last say-so over your life (aside from God) is you! So if you are constantly doubting your potential, saying negative things about yourself or speaking negatively over your circumstances then you will probably be right. I discovered behind all of my negative self-talk there were two little people: 1) the person who wanted someone to tell her she was wrong about herself and 2) the person who really didn’t want to be better. If you keep putting yourself down, not only will others start to believe it, but so will you. I couldn’t become a better me because every time I was discouraged or feeling a certain way I would speak negatively about myself. My actions would reflect how I felt inward. I would begin to try less, mope more, and have the behavior of the type of person I was telling myself (and the world) that I was.
9) Holding grudges – You know how they say something like holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die? Yea—well this is true. Grudges are like hot coals. The other person isn’t affected or burned by your negative feelings. The only person that wastes energy and is affected is you. It took me some time to realize that forgiving other people was for ME. Everytime I was angry or disappointed I held onto the memories (play by-play) so I could remember how that person made me feel. It was my way of ensuring that I never gave them the opportunity to do it again OR to limit the level of interaction or trust I had for them. Meanwhile, life goes on and so many people disappointed or hurt me. So then there was this huge line of things and people to log into the grudge section of my memory, which gave me no room to think positively or feel positively about anything else. How could I possibly make room for happy thoughts or feelings if my mind was crowded with all the grudges I needed to hold? Forgiveness will free you mentally. If you accept that you were hurt and realize the problem that person had was with themselves and not you, then you can free yourself of dwelling on something so toxic. So I adopted forgiveness and let
10) Self-forgiveness – This is a work in progress. I am my harshest critic and often influenced by the impact I have on others. But in the past I was handicapped by mistakes. Whenever I failed to do something I let me being discouraged tear me down. I left many endeavors unfinished because of my inability to see past the disappointment. I always blamed myself for why things or situations just never turned out right. I had to give up the idea that I was not allowed to fail. Failure builds character, it gave me the strength I needed to take on future challenges and changed the way I saw success. The victory of accomplishing things became sweeter and I was able to take the errors and refine the way I went about things. Learning to forgive myself started with changing my perspective. I could be disappointed, but had to forgive myself (because I am human) and also to accept that it wouldn’t be the last time I would fail.
Sometimes we have to go through a storm or a phase in our life where nothing goes right in order to become what we need to when everything does. These were everyday habits that I had cultivated over the years. It’s not easy and some days I considering reverting back (on some of them). But these changes have been for the better. Best decisions I have made.