Full-disclosure. I heavily borrowed from an article by Lisa Firestone, Ph.D. for this post. But, her focus was on overcoming fear of love, and I took from it insights about all aspects of life, not just love. So, I am cutting, pasting, modifying, rephrasing, and editing the hell out of the article to point out what I (selfishly) think you may find inspiring and intriguing.
Let’s Back-it-up for One Moment:
I know this seems a bit outside of the whole “fit bit” theme, but let me ask you this: Is it really? Don’t think too hard, the answer is no. Health and wellness is comprised of many things, from emotions to finances to the environment in which we live (see diagram below).
So in writing and sharing this with all of you, I am hitting at other aspects of wellness (e.g., spiritual, social, and intellectual), which I believe are enablers of “physical” wellness. In other words, eating and exercising are extremely beneficial and helpful, but if you forget about other factors (i.e., work life, social life, purpose in life, etc.), you aren’t truly “fit.”
Here we go…starting with the WHAT
(1) Recognize that we all have fears.
“Many of us feel cheated or victimized by circumstances, while failing to see that our biggest obstacle is how we get in our own way.”
Ummmmm I don’t know about you, but I do this way too often. On most days, I just want to tell myself, “move girl, get out the way, get out the way girl, get out the way.” (slightly modified words from singer Ludacris).
(2) In any relationship, the only person you can control is thyself.
“You have the power to decide who you want to be and to act in accordance with that, no matter what others do or say.”
I take two things from this. The first piece is the ability to manage what you want to do in a certain moment with what you should do in that moment, AND being able to anticipate the impact of your actions on you and those around you. What you say or do has consequences. We all know this, yet we have moments of weakness where we lose control or act in ways we are not proud of. It happens, and there is no guarantee it won’t happen again, but notice what occurs when you do control yourself in those instances. Self-control can be quite powerful and empowering. For instance, even when someone makes him/herself outright annoying or hateable, don’t cave! Maintain composure, and challenge yourself to smile and seek out the good in that person – at least in that moment.
The second piece is remembering to always stay true to who you are and want to be. It’s silly, but I frequently ask myself, “What would Ida do?” or “What should Ida do.” I value advice from others, and always ask for it, but tailor that advice to me – who I am and who I aspire to be.
(3) Take time to reflect on how you may be resisting and countering what you say you want.
“By being open to how you are resistant to achieving what you say you want, you empower yourself to change fully.”
Look at your past situations and relationships, even the not so great ones; they teach us a whole lot. Seek to understand your fears, ways you limit yourself, and so forth. Be honest! Doing so will grow your capacity to overcome any circumstance you encounter.
Taking action…providing the HOW
Now, I am no role model when it comes to the items below. Let’s be honest, very few of us are. But I pledge to try harder, and that is the ultimate point of me sharing this. It is to remind you, me (and Dupree) to actively do these things.
(1) Look at your past – What are stumbling blocks you’ve faced? Where did things go wrong? What ways might you be pushing/have pushed people or situations away?
Identify the thoughts or “critical inner voices” that filled your head on these occasions. This helps you to recognize themes and recurring behaviors and begin to identify patterns. We can see how our own defenses systematically operate to ward off love and support.
Differentiate your past from your present to understand how the past influences the present. By doing so you can put your emotions and projections back where they belong, in the past. Often we bring past moments into a current moment, and really they ain’t got no business being there.
(2) Stop listening to your inner critic – Look out for that little voice in your head that feeds you information like, “She doesn’t really care about you. Don’t be a fool. Get moving before you really get hurt, it’s not worth it. You can’t do this, so don’t even try.” Think about how this critical inner voice coaches you to avoid feeling vulnerable.
Perhaps you want to explore the pain and difficulty, as there may be a lesson awaiting you on the other side. Perhaps “she (or he) does care and you weren’t a fool”, or maybe she doesn’t and you were; well, now you know better for next time. Maybe waiting and being open to getting hurt taught you to trust your gut and intuition. Or, maybe it taught you that getting hurt is a common and normal feeling everyone goes through, and that the feeling(s) will pass and ultimately lead to future good (i.e., what happened sucked, but ended up working out better in the end).
“Breaking from your inner critic will rouse anxiety, but it poses a battle well worth fighting. Powering through this anxiety and refuting your inner critic at every turn will allow you to uncover and become your truest self.”
(3) Challenge your defenses – Why do we revert to our defenses even when they may make us feel lonely or unfulfilled? I get it, we are trying to protect ourselves from potentially getting hurt, or what might happen, but I’ve found that doing so tends to backfire in the end. Key words here are “potential” and “might.” Yes, you may enter dangerous territory and unpleasant feelings, or you may not. Or, you may feel some pain, and shortly thereafter some joy. Regardless I would argue that our defenses aren’t “protecting us” as much as we may think, and in fact probably holding us back. Dr. Firestone points out that:
“It may have felt threatening, even dangerous, to open up to someone as a child or show our feelings in our family, but these same defenses are no longer constructive to us in our current relationships.”
True dat. In others words, you are a grown up now, time to get past childish behaviors. Maintaining such an attitude will make it hard to accept loving feelings that are extended to you today.
(4) Feel your feelings – I sort of like this one as written, so I’ll leave it as is. The message conveyed here reminds me of one of my favorite songs by the Lumineers, Stubborn Love, and the line “It’s better to feel pain than nothing at all.”
“We’re all familiar with the expression, “Love makes us feel alive,” and it’s one cliché that’s entirely true. Love makes us feel. It deepens our capacity for joy, passion and vitality. However, it also makes us more susceptible to pain and loss. Falling in love can remind us of previous hurts. It can awaken us to existential realities. Unfortunately, we can’t selectively numb our feelings. When we try to avoid pain, we subdue joy and love.
Caring deeply for another person makes us feel more deeply in general. When these emotions arise, we should be open to feeling them. We may worry that strong feelings will overpower us or take over our lives, but in truth, feelings are transitory if we don’t try to block them. For example, sadness comes in waves, and when we allow ourselves to feel it, we also open ourselves up to feeling a tremendous amount of joy.
I recently heard the comedian Louis C.K. perfectly and succinctly capture this point in an anecdote on late night talk show, saying, “Sadness is poetic. You’re lucky to live sad moments… Because when you let yourself feel sad, your body has antibodies, it has happiness that comes rushing in to meet the sadness.” Sadness can be a good sign that we are more open and vulnerable. Similarly, anxiety can be a sign that we are changing or developing ourselves in ways that will positively impact our lives.”
(5) Be vulnerable and open. Being vulnerable is a mark of strength, not weakness. It means ignoring the voices in your head and acting on how you really feel. When you do this, you learn that you can survive, even when you get hurt. You’ll be able to live with more honesty and possibility, knowing that you’ve stayed yourself, even when the world around you wasn’t perfect.
Staying yourself doesn’t mean getting set in your ways or closing off to new experiences. Being vulnerable means just the opposite – a willingness to be open to new people and to breaking old patterns. Follow what you feel, all the while finding strength in the knowledge that no one else controls your happiness, you do. You can avoid falling victim to the outside world and to your own inner critic by continuing to act with integrity, dropping your defenses to become your real self.
Yes, we may get hurt along the way by the shortcomings in others, but it’s important to note that, as adults, we are resilient. When we open ourselves up to love or ANYTHING for that matter, we create the world we live in. Real love radiates out and is supported by and extended to others. Its contagious effects are likely to reflect back on us, filling our lives with meaningful interactions and relationships. As this occurs, life is sure to feel more precious, but isn’t that the idea?