“Forgive your younger self. Believe in your current self. Create your future self,” Rob Booker. Over the course of the last few weeks, I’ve run the emotional gamut with anxiety. Logically I know I have no reason to fear. But my brain doesn’t believe it. I’ve hit a crossroads in my life where I know I need to think differently—again. Ironically, I just finished a book called Think Again by Adam Grant and it absolutely made me question and redefine my thought process, specifically about where I’m at. For the last several months, I’ve honestly felt pretty good. More stable, able to talk myself down when I felt escalated, communicating better. And then a few weeks ago, I felt an immense surge of overwhelm (I will speak about this in more detail tomorrow) and I went into an absolute spiral of anxiety. There was no talking myself out of this. There was no movement that helped me. No amount of talking brought be back to where I felt level. The timing of reading this book really helped because, as the anxiety worsened, the logic behind it kept repeating itself in my head.
I realized that this wasn’t just an anxiety spiral. This was one of those things I keep coming back to, one of the things Buddhism says we come back to until we learn the lesson. My ego keeps getting in the way of my emotional management and I am being tested to say the least. So…the overwhelm crashed over me and I felt helpless for a while there. And then my training kicked in: reframe. You already know this, you’re actively reading material on it, so put it into practice.
I realized that so much of the pain I’m feeling today is still for things I’ve done in my past. Some of them aren’t even mine, I just inherited them. I found a picture of myself with my best friend and I’m about six or seven years old. At first I just laughed and smiled and felt the love of over 30 years of friendship. But as I really examined it, I saw myself differently. Even at that age, in this picture I saw the strain in me. The strain of trying to live. My mouth is a thin line, my shoulders are hunched up, and I’m facing forward, sitting in front of my friend like I’m prepared to take a bullet for her instead of posing for a photo. While I never wanted for basic needs, I am acutely aware of the mental burden I carried from the time I was born. No child should be born with that kind of fear. I knew I was loved, I just wasn’t sure I was supported. And I certainly didn’t know how to fit in.
I see now that so much of what I internalized affected my ability to form healthy relationships. I spent a lot of years mourning my social ineptitude and I see now it wasn’t a weakness, it was a defense. I constantly felt the need to take care of myself, constantly felt alone, constantly felt the pressure to prove myself and that I wasn’t a burden on my family. At five years old I remember making the decision that I needed to be good and to listen to my parents all the time. By seven, the evidence of that pressure was clear on my young body. So that habit, that feeling is something I need to forgive myself for. I forgive myself for existing and celebrate being alive. I forgive myself for putting unrealistic expectations on myself I didn’t comprehend. I forgive myself for the consequences I set in motion with those decisions I didn’t understand.
I’m learning to believe in myself. My strength and confidence have improved, but I know that is also on the spiral of things I return to. Little things still feel personal to me even if I thought I worked through them. The triggers of revealing my imperfections still send me into anxiety and fear of being alone or excluded and feeling abandoned. Seeing how early those misguided attempts at control formed my life, I understand why it has been so challenging to break those beliefs and habits. But I am trying to reframe and keep my successes at the forefront. I’m trying to remember all I am and that my worth isn’t based upon how much I can carry, or how little space I can take up, or what I can do on my own. I can believe in myself because I’ve already gotten this far. I’ve survived and I have thrived, even in a broken state. Getting myself well will only improve that.
To create my future self, I have to apply that belief and learn to keep going. Not every set back is a failure or a sign that I won’t achieve what I’m looking for. Creating my future self is a matter of doing. All the thinking in the world will not yield results. Doing will. So even when it feels scary or like I’m messing it all up, I will continue to do. I will do bravely. I will do imperfectly because done is better than perfect. I will do often. I will do with intention. I will do with purpose. I will do it all. And even when I’m feeling afraid, I will keep doing…something. So can you.