“I’ll manage”, you may think.
In the middle of a pandemic, with all the restrictions on normal life, in a stressful job – or no job at all, in difficult relationships. There’s always someone who has it worse, right? Someone who really needs help.
So you just kind of withdraw and see how it goes. Wait until things get better. Maybe in a few weeks, or maybe by summer?
Do you often opt out of doing things because you’re afraid of failing? Not try something out because you feel you can’t or don’t know how? If fear of failure is stopping you from living your life, it’s likely you’re missing out on a lot of experiences.
You might have feelings of shame or insecurity around your abilities or competence, and it can be difficult to even notice how restrictive those feelings are. But it’s possible to turn the difficult emotions to find joy, playfulness and willingness to experiment.
Do you find yourself often overthinking your life choices? Whether or not you should stay in this relationship, find a new job or stay in this one, move across the country or start studying…
Why is it so hard to make choices?
There are so many big choices, and even more small ones. When your choices are big and important, it can be hard to make a choice at all. Maybe you’ve been thinking about finding a new job for years, but never take concrete steps towards that goal. Or you choose the job that seems more sensible and acceptable, ignoring the small voice inside that was considering something else. Or you just drift around, accepting whatever floats your way, without paying much thought whether or not it’s what you want.
What’s common in all these scenarios is that you’re not listening to yourself and what you really want.
Recently I was surprised when I was venting my emotions in a Facebook group. I was feeling overwhelmed and frankly I was resisting and avoiding everything constructive and helpful.
Sounds quite tiresome, doesn’t it?
Isn’t it true that difficult emotions need to be hidden from view and you shouldn’t trouble others with them, people don’t want to deal with your baggage? Many have learned as children that when you’re happy you’ll be accepted – nobody wants to hear about you anger, fear and disappointment.
Has it happened to you that you’ve spend a fun night out and felt free to be yourself, but the next day you start thinking more carefully about what you did and said. The ever-present worry starts raising its head: What did people think?
It’s easy to spend days worrying about it. Even if nobody says anything or acts any differently around you afterwards, you might still blame yourself for showing your true self to other so freely. What if it backfires?
Remember that blunder from years ago, the one that still makes your stomach clench when you think about it? When you go back to the situation in your mind, you can still vividly remember what it felt like, and you want to sink underground just thinking about it.
When it happened, you would go over it it in your mind again and again, wondering how you could’ve been so stupid. And now, years later, it still comes back to haunt you. Even though you don’t think about it as often as you used to, the feeling of shame is still strong and may even affect the way you relate to other people. Especially if they were there when it happened.
Are you letting the past define you?
A friend of mine often worries about his past mistakes like this. He said that the shameful acts and words feel like a brand imprinted on him: Defining him in a way that’s still painful after all the years.
Do you often think you should be able to do better?
To do everything everyone else is doing: The ones who always have a perfectly clean home, are never late, never drop any balls plus always bake to meetings and gatherings, remember all birthdays and never get annoyed.
Of course nobody really lives up to these standards, but the expectations of how you should be can be really strong. And whenever you don’t fill the expectations, you blame yourself and feel guilty. You might even think you should just be different – someone who deserves to be respected and accepted.
At the same time I’m sure you believe that all people are equally worthy, and there’s no contradiction about that. Of course everyone else is valuable just the way they are, it’s just you yourself who should be different.
For years I had a mysterious pain under my shoulder blade. At its worst the pain was so bad my whole back was tense and cramping. I frequently went to different doctors and my osteopath for help, and also took muscle relaxants, but none of that really helped. Eventually the problem faded away on its own, only to return at a later date.
During that worst time I was looking for causes on the physical side only, not realizing that at the same time I was emotionally and mentally in a really difficult place.
The body is wiser than we realize. Our emotions and thoughts always manifest in the body one way or another.
If your life is like it is for most of us, you’ve had to face disappointments over summer vacations. The vacation of your dreams was all planned, but the reality wasn’t gracious enough to match it.
How is it that the weather always gets worse when it’s your vacation time? Or you catch a cold and spend your long-awaited trip caring for sick children. Maybe what happened was that the children didn’t want to go anywhere in the first place and the precious family time was mostly spent on listening to the quarreling from the back seat, and when you got to your destination, the kids kept whining about when you’re going to go back home.
You might have ended up counting days to when you can get back to work and rest. And still the next summer you end up loading your vacation full of expectations, imagining that next year will be different. But how do you actually get there?