We’ve all got backgrounds, advantageous or not, that shape us. But what we choose to do with them is entirely up to us.
I know, it sounds incredibly cliche — but many cliches do spring from basic truths.
What’s It Going to Be?
Truth be told, every single one of us has experienced varying degrees of pain, loss, and barriers to advancement, both internal and external. Sometimes the cards we are dealt are very hard ones, and sometimes it feels like the sun shines more in our favour.
But the fact is, every single step takes us in a direction that is one of growth, or it sends us down a different path entirely.
This applies even when we feel at rock bottom… and I would say, especially when we feel at rock bottom.
Speaking of rocks, one of my guilty pleasures (yes, even after that abomination of a Hercules movie) named his company “Seven Bucks,” because that’s all he had in his pocket when it sunk in that his life was up to him… And he’s done all right since then 😉
Who Do You Think You Are?
My point is, we can bow down to our (bad/unfavourable/cards-stacked-against-us) situation and let it define us, or we can work with what we do have, no matter the scale of resources that we have to work with.
This ties in with our internalized idea of who we are. This internalization is powerful, and it links our belief systems in with the power of habit. Rather than rehash the whole thing, I would strongly encourage you to read Greg Nuckol’s article on “Unleashing your Inner Superhero.” He makes an incredibly convincing and research-based argument to support the power of not only placebos, but “nocebos.”
Easier from the Outside
White skin, blue eyes, and a loving family. How bad could it be? In my case, I managed to create most of the aspects of my life that were not amazing almost entirely on my own.
Probably most of us can remember certain crystal-clear moments where we felt lowest of all. One of my mine was 3 ½ decades ago, about three or four months into my chemotherapy treatment for Stage 4B cancer (for reference, there’s nothing left after 4B). They missed a vein that day, and I flipped out and starting yelling, “Get away from me!”
One of my doctors said, “You know you would be dead by now without this…” Okay, pretty good wake-up call. Guess I’d better put up with the inconvenience and side effects, eh?
Rewriting the Story
Since then, it’s taken me a very, very long time to rewrite my personal story from one that started with “poor me; life was so hard.” Now I see it as: “I am so lucky to live in a country with good health care! And to have a family who took care of me when I needed it. This all helped me to survive my own screw-ups and get myself to a better place, finally.”
What’s Helped Me?
These things have all helped me survive the way that I lived my youth and then, decade by decade, start to improve my own life. Maybe there is something in here for you if you are feeling stuck.
- Actively look for help.
- At the same time, be ready to hear “no” from places or people you might really want help from. Stay open to looking for different sources of support.
- Practice looking for help. Practice looking for help somewhere else.
- Be the right amount of selfish: Try to define your own bottom lines. Then try to actually stick to them.
- Part of being the right amount of selfish, for me personally, has meant adjusting my work schedule to make sure that I get enough physical activity early in the day, before the rest of the world needs attention.
- Practice working with your bottom lines… and don’t forget that you may still have something inside you to give even as you work on them.
- Be ready to say, “I was wrong,” or “I failed.”
- Practice admitting being wrong. Practice accepting having failed.
- Be ready to say, “I can do this again, and I can do it better the second (third, fourth, fifth…) time.”
- One personal example I am proud of is that I finally quit smoking cigarettes at the age of 30. It took me almost 200 attempts, but I did it!
- Figure out what foods mess you up, and do your absolute best to stay away from them.
- For me personally, avoiding foods that mess me up includes staying away from difficult situations whenever possible, and literally practicing saying words out loud so that I can refuse politely.
- Consider where you are on a continuum: create one end of the spectrum that is the absolutely worst-case scenario (like, horrible, grim, apocalyptic), and at the other end, create the best-case, unicorns and rainbows, “everything is perfect” scenario. Then put yourself somewhere on that continuum. Hopefully, you’re farther away from worst-case than you usually feel!
- Practice remembering that there is a best-case scenario.
- Ask yourself: what step, even a baby, tiny, infinitesimal step, can I take to move toward the best-case direction?
- Remember, most of us don’t ever go straight from 0 to 100. There’s no need to aim for “perfect,” but we can always aim for “better.”
- So… practice taking those small steps toward your best-case direction.
- Value compassion. Especially in these times of widespread media mud-slinging, remember compassion for others’ points of view. And critically, practice compassion towards yourself, at least as much as you do to other people.
- Keep practicing some more! As long as we are alive, we always get another kick at the can.
As always, I would love to hear from you to know if this resonates for you. Perhaps, through training or classes, I can even become one of your resources to support you in the physical realm of your life.