6 Signs You’ve Moved Further in Life Than You Give Yourself Credit For
Define your success meter in life with your ability to endure and grow out of each experience.
Have you ever felt anxious before meeting people you haven’t seen for a long time?
I have before. Every time I traveled to see my family and friends in Turkey after a long time I would worry about not impressing them enough. I would try to come up with things that I achieved so I wouldn’t look behind.
And after 18 months I get to fly and see my family again next week. But this time I feel different. I don’t feel the need to impress them with any love or success stories. Because I’m satisfied with my life right now. However arrogant it might sound, it’s actually a humbling feeling.
Because the things that I appreciate are little things that we normally don’t appreciate enough. We don’t consider them big changes as we can’t prove them with a degree or an employment contract.
If that’s the case for you too I invite you to look closer inside you and see how you feel. What changed in the past years that made you feel proud of yourself? What pattern did you heal? From what emotion did you set yourself free?
Here are some things I achieved in the last couple of years that could inspire you to be happy about your life.
You see experiences when you look back at old photos.
Stop reading now and find a few old photos of yours. Spend a few seconds with each photo and come back to reading this article.
Welcome back! How was your experience? What did you think of your old photos? Did you only see physical changes or did you also notice a person who was mentally different than you’re now? Did those photos remind you of any memories or past experiences you’ve been through?
The reason I’m asking these questions is that when we look at our photos, we usually only notice how different we used to look. But when we start to work on ourselves internally, those photos become a bridge between past and present. We remember what we’ve been through so far, what the person we see in the photos was feeling and thinking back then. And hopefully, we feel compassion towards the person we see.
If you haven’t had such an experience looking at your old memories, try it again until you drop a judgment towards your younger self. One of the ways to cultivate that kind of self-awareness and compassion is to do mirror work. Research shows that students who practiced mirror work for 10 mins every day for 2 weeks reported having more self-compassion than before.
You might not practice this for 10 mins but try to do it every time you go to the mirror. Notice what thoughts come to your mind when you see yourself without filters. Hear the criticizing mind.
I did this exercise 2 years ago and the flaws that I thought I had become things that are unique to me. And I began to see a human beyond the physical appearance that tries to become better and better every day.
You see your parents as humans rather than just caregivers.
Since I’ve become more mindful about myself I began to see other people also as humans who try to do their best. They also have desires to accomplish. They also want to experience life to their full potential. They also make mistakes and learn. They also feel weak and fearful. And they have to move on after falling hard on their feet too.
Who are they? They are our parents, caregivers, siblings, relatives. Shortly, anyone, we think of them only with their titles in our lives rather than their humanness.
How do we experience such emotional growth that helps us see others with their soul?
Ram Dass says,
“If you want to be surrounded by Souls, become identified with your Soul. It takes one to know one!”
Start by asking yourself difficult questions such as:
Who am I?
What are my fears?
What excites me?
What encourages me to push things hard when I have an obstacle?
These questions help us to get to know ourselves better and we open a door to see others deeper in the same way.
It also helps with conflicts when we don’t understand why some people don’t think the same way as us. We see them together with their human experience. In the end, their opinions become the projections of their own background rather than an attack on our choices.
It’s like how some parents don’t believe in remote, flexible work and others do. Most likely that the ones who don’t believe in it never experienced such relaxed working conditions and always lived with a stable income throughout their entire life. And that’s why they can’t understand why some of us want to work and travel all the time.
You have stronger boundaries.
We all have given much care to other people to be accepted or seen at some point in our life. Some of us did it in school to be included or accepted by cool people. Some of us did it when we held onto a relationship with red flags for the sake of love.
I’ve been there before too. I put up with people who judged me for whatever I did. I kept seeing those friends because I felt the need to be social. My soul craved to be around people who were good to me but I ignored her.
But hey, everything is a lesson and I’m glad that it all happened. I now can set strong boundaries as I don’t need people to feel happy about my life. I know what kind of people I want in my life. And I choose them wisely now.
If you’re struggling to set healthy boundaries with people who are close to you, remember that your mental peace matters too.
Start by learning to say no when things don’t feel right. Saying no doesn’t have to be rude and over-explaining. Find a way to make you feel expanded and not small.
“No, thanks. Maybe next time.”
“Not right now.”
“Can I get back to you on that?”
“I’d rather not.”
You feel confident to hang out alone.
I come from Turkey, a country that cares so much about collectivity. We love living in crowded houses. We love having big friend circles. We rarely see people eating at restaurants alone or walking outside alone. We’re perhaps a lot more social than normal.
After growing in that collective mentality, I experienced something so liberating on my first abroad trip. It was an experience that made my talking mind so loud. It whispered, “If you go to a restaurant alone, it means you don’t have friends.” But I went to a restaurant alone at rush hour and sat there with my food while a big group next to my table were having big fun.
And surprisingly, it wasn’t lame. It was a moment to be mindful of my food, to observe people around, to notice things that I wouldn’t notice if I were distracted. I’m not saying it’s not fun to hang out with people. But we gain a different experience with doing things alone.
But why do we struggle to enjoy life alone? This is mostly because as a society, we give a big deal to having dates, partners, friends to feel our best. They measure our success in life. If we don’t have a plan on a Friday night, we feel less of ourselves.
How can we change this limiting belief to a situation that will make us feel expanded on our own?
If this concept is new to you, take yourself to a coffee date. Challenge yourself to not be occupied by your phone or book as you sip your coffee. Be present and notice how you feel at first and later after a few more attempts.
Why is it important? Because we don’t miss opportunities when we can’t find a friend who will accompany us. We do things because we’re confident to do them. We travel the world even if we don’t have someone to share those memories with us. We try new things knowing we might also meet new people if we remain open to experiences.
You don’t feel like a failure when you experience difficult emotions.
7 years ago I had a sticker in my room that said “Only good vibes.”
Did the sign work? No, I of course still used to feel upset when things didn’t go the way I wanted. I would feel negative emotions but suppress them with positivity.
This is what happens when we’re obsessed with feeling good all the time. We think that being upset for a day will change our human experience completely. And instead of looking at what makes us upset, we avoid feeling it. In the end, we get ourselves emotional baggage that comes with us wherever we go.
Now when I feel heavy feelings I allow myself to sit with them. Because as Brianna Wiest says in her book 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think, what we don’t heal occupies our minds and becomes the driving force for how we’re going to act and what choices we’ll make. Those emotions we avoid own us.¹
They say we meet the same people in different bodies until we heal our wounds. So instead of distracting yourself from pain, see your negative emotions as signs to show you there’s a lesson you need to learn through each experience.
Give yourself permission to be with that feeling and use it as a vessel to bring you somewhere better in your life.
You don’t feel triggered by songs that used to remind you of people/memories from the past.
Have you ever had trouble listening to a song that would remind you of certain people you had a past with?
I had those moments. I stopped listening to those songs because they would take me out of the present time and put me in an overthinking state. I would repeat the same scenarios in my head. I would create new scenarios about what could’ve happened differently.
This tends to happen when things are just warm and we’re not healed. But as we give ourselves space to recover from difficult emotions and memories, the meanings we give to things also change. The people we cared about a year ago become strangers. We begin to make peace with experiences that challenged us in the past.
In his book, The Untethered Soul, Michael A. Singer offers a simple practice when the mind wants to play a game with us.² When you’re distracted by the stories in your head, stop and remind yourself that you’re not going to be involved in your melodrama. To make this reminder easier, set yourself some trigger points such as picking up your phone, going out of your house, or tying your shoes. In time, you won’t need these reminders anymore and you’ll catch yourself easily when the mind wants to take over the present time.
Unlike what we believe, the actual moving forward in life happens when we transform internally. The certificates we get, the money we earn, or the dates we experienced are important and they’re opportunities to practice our humanness. But they’re not the success meter.
The real success meter is how we feel about ourselves and how we experience life after going through difficult phases.
If you think you’re counting in the same place, look back and reflect upon everything you’ve been through. See if you consider those experiences as lessons or you still hung up on them.
If you’re still triggered by those emotions, start by practicing self-compassion. Start somewhere. Start by accepting that every moment is a fresh one that can impact your life more positively than one second ago.
Define your satisfaction meter in life based on your endurance and ability to grow out of challenging situations rather than only focusing on external signs.
¹ Brianna Wiest, 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think (US: Thought Catalog Books, 2017), 198–9.
² Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul (CA: New Harbinger Publications Inc, 2007), 97.