I opened my email this morning to the treat of a quote that pretty much sums up the biggest life lesson I’ve learned over the past 3 months. Bear with me as we may all breathe a sigh of exasperation at how seemingly obvious it is.
Character — the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life — is the source from which self-respect springs.” ― Joan Didion, On Self-Respect
I wasn’t exactly thinking of it in terms of the word “character,” though it’s useful to have the definition of this personal trait clarified. It’s more so that the weight of taking full responsibility for my life had found a comfortable resting place on my shoulders since the new year began and gained an average of 5 lbs every week until a couple of days ago when my shoulders and back finally gave out. (I’m speaking metaphorically, but I have felt some serious shoulder tension lately… that mind-body connection is real!).
At the top of the year, I resolved to quickly create a stable Los Angeles experience (which had already been pushed back from my initial move in October). My 2018 LA life would be decked out with a high paying job, a car, and the worry-free freedom that both of those things would supposedly give me. This was supposed to happen with the peaceful ease and flow that defined my move to LA. It was supposed to be seamless, perfectly aligned, and nearly effortless.
How often does life just not care about our cute little plans?
Reality first laughed then proceeded to do the opposite of what I planned — revealing that my 2018 was not going to match my expectations and seamlessly flow as my move to the city of angels did the fall before. Week after week and month after month passed with no job in sight and the continual draining of my savings account. Each rent payment and monthly budget check added a new kink of discomfort to my increasingly sore shoulders.
It’s not uncommon that we find ourselves in a situation that looks nothing like we planned. We’re quick to judge our life circumstances according to what we had intended at the outset, then we decide how we should feel depending on how well we match those initial intentions.
We get to feel triumphant or like a failure based something we thought we wanted at one point in time. According to this basis, it was clear to me that where I currently stood in my life was bad and I had failed. The issue with the basis for judging our lives is that it leaves no room for flexibility or a changed mind — not to mention divine intervention (God’s plan, anyone?).
RELEASING OUR NEGATIVE SELF-JUDGEMENT
A shift in perspective is the best gift that we can give ourselves. I try to remind myself of the perfect alignment and divine timing of life on a daily basis. I have recently become a fan of numerology at the very most elementary level. I have simply set the intention that I enjoy seeing repeating numbers in clock time and when I do, I acknowledge it as a reminder of the alignment of life.
By this I mean that when I check the time and see 11:11 or 1:11 or 3:33 (my favorite because it’s the number “3” three times), etc. I’ll pause, take a deep breath, and remind myself that I am divinely supported. I’ll think phrases like “I always have divine timing,” “I am always divinely guided,” “I’m in the right place at the right time,” and “I’m in perfect alignment.”
A deep part of me believes that I’m always loved, always guided, and that things are always unfolding as they should. The issue is that, while facing day to day life and distractions and negative thought spirals, it’s all too easy to lose touch with that deeper part of me and forget these comforting beliefs.
So, what does all of this have to do with accepting full responsibility for my life?
As a collective, we tend to think that discouragement, procrastination, and fear-rooted paralysis live in easily accessible part of our minds. We simply need to stop being lazy and push through the mountain of resistance that we feel to propel our lives forward.
That’s all easily said, but actually doing it can prove to be a much more difficult feat. The symptoms of stuckness and discontent are often rooted deep in our unconscious practiced beliefs. Some can be identified in our conscious thoughts but others have become so habitual that we’re no longer even aware of them. They’re the limiting thoughts that we’d immediately brush off if someone suggested that we believed them.
Things like: “I don’t deserve to make that amount of money” “I don’t have what it takes to get that thing I desperately want” “I can’t be successful because then no one will love me” “Only horrible people make that amount of money.” These along with plenty of other hidden, self-deprecating beliefs keep us stagnant as we exert all of the strength of our conscious mind to try and reach our goals — hitting roadblock after roadblock along the way.
OVERCOMING THE SHAME OF STUCKNESS
I initially started writing this blog thinking I would be advocating the importance of taking action towards our goals, which I still believe. Action is extremely important when you have the intention of transforming your life. But I realized quickly into this post that, more importantly, I want to raise awareness about the hinderance of some of our deeply-rooted beliefs and reduce any shame that anyone may feel in their stuckness.
You may feel stuck because you’re paralyzed by the need to be perfect (which is an impossible goal to reach in any area of your life). You may feel stuck because your underlying beliefs don’t believe that you can have that thing that you say you desperately want, thus sabotaging all of your efforts in attempt to protect you from future pain. You may feel stuck because you’re accustomed to indulging in confusion, indecision, and self-doubt (which is another manifestation of wanting things to always and only be perfect).
Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.”
– Harriet Braiker
We can be so scared of looking dumb, failing, falling on our face, making the “wrong” decision, or experiencing the pain of public humiliation that we’re unable to take any action OR we push things off until the last possible moment, sabotaging the quality of any effort we manage to take. We’re either paralyzed or self-sabotaging and this can become an indefinite pattern in our lives until we pause, acknowledge the pattern, and reassess what beliefs are causing our behavior.
I heard the best advice the other day: “Don’t work to get it perfect, just work to get it done.” You can always revise from there. As you learn, you can make improvements but you can’t stop yourself from trying just because there’s more to learn. There’ll always be more to learn. That’s the beauty of life.
I’M TYPING ALL OF THIS AS A CALL TO ACTION TO TRY.
From one fear-paralyzed perfectionist to another: do the internal work, notice what part of you is holding you back, and then take that first step. Whatever you’re working towards will still come in its own time. You may not necessarily be ready for it to appear just yet, but it will feel so satisfying to know that you’re doing your part and preparing the space for what you want to come to pass.
BE YOUR OWN CHEERLEADER
I can pump you up and tell you that you deserve it. You’re worth it. Your life can become what you dream it to be. You will overcome those obstacles you’ve been coming against. You’re so so loved and supported. You DO have what it takes!
I can be your cheerleader and I’d love to be in your ear encouraging you all along the way, but words don’t teach. Only experiences teach. So, try believing in yourself today. Ignore all those pesky doubts, reframe your thinking, take that step and see for yourself that you can do it. That’s where you’ll find me, at least. Taking it one step at a time.
(If you’re truly truly stuck, please seek out therapy or coaching to get to the root of your paralyzing fear and benefit from having another person supporting you towards your goal.)
Here’s to enjoying the journey and gradual progress to all of our wildest dreams.
Originally posted on my personal blog Brightly Illuminated, where I document my perspective as a millennial post-grad trying to make sense of the “real world” by shedding light as I learn life lessons and spreading upliftment.