by Ana Palles
I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like having the same bad experiences over and over again. If something ends up being painful or negative, I make it a point to examine myself and then do everything in my power to avoid a redo. That means being willing to take a long, hard look at myself, with all guards down. What did I do right? What could have I done better? Often, this is a painful process, but very well worth it.
Bad experiences serve us well. They shine a bright light on those parts of ourselves that we sometimes ignore. It’s like having a little “fix-it list.” Take for example a pattern of bad relationships. It’s usually easy enough to see where the other person went wrong and hurt us, but where did we go wrong and hurt ourselves? Why did we pursue a relationship with someone who would treat us badly? Why did we not leave sooner? Why did we allow someone to damage our sense of who we are? How can we break this pattern?
We know this. The first step in shifting something we don’t like is making a decision that we want change. This is because we run little programs inside our heads designed to keeping everything the same. One of my teachers called these “old operating systems.” We aren’t even conscious of them; they become so much a part of us that we begin believing that these behavior patterns are indeed us. What we forget is that, ultimately, we are in charge. The “us” that lives inside can change these behaviors and make them whatever we want them to be. We just have to respect our own abilities.
For example, maybe we always wear certain clothes or maybe we only take specific jobs or we spend six hours a day in front of the television. These things are all changeable, but we start thinking that they are part of our identity; an identity that is set in stone and never changing. We forget that we are the master craftsman, molding, sculpting ourselves around an image that we hold in our heads. But sometimes, that image doesn’t turn out the way we had hoped. Sometimes we realize that it’s not who we wanted to be at all. The point is that we have the ability to reinvent ourselves many times over. The daily news is filled with people that have done just that.
The key here lies in our willingness to trust ourselves. It is having that inner knowing that we can do what we tell ourselves we want to do. It is self confidence. The ability to take risks, to break out of the mold of expectations, whether ours or someone else’s, and doing what we believe is right for ourselves.
Ultimately, it is remembering our sense of self.
How do we recover that self confidence, particularly if we’ve had some rough challenges? Talking with people helps. Counseling or therapy is useful if you need an ear to hear you, as is your priest, rabbi, or other church minister. Find someone that resonates with you. It can be so very helpful just to talk with folks as they are often aware of community resources that you aren’t.
And, there are three things I have learned that you can learn too.
- Accountability - Commit to Yourself
Committing to honor our word to ourselves is essential. This helps craft who we are. If we say that we want to join that workout class at the neighborhood recreation center, we have to make it a point to go down there and sign up. Our word represents us. We must make sure we keep our word to ourselves. Remember that what we think of ourselves matters. And, if we should drop the ball, rather than avoid it, or dwelling on it, we simply stop, acknowledge that it happened and vow to do better next time.
- Curiosity – Take Action
We want things to be different. It starts with curiosity and wonder. What would it be like if I took that dance class I’ve been day dreaming about taking? What if I looked for a job that was closer to home? Why not rent a cabin for the weekend in your local wilderness area and do some hiking and writing? Why not volunteer with your local church or community group?
There are so many possibilities to explore, some big, some small. All profound in the changes they can bring about for you. Curiosity drives action. It lets us explore parts of ourselves that we sometimes never had the chance to express. We are so much more than we realize. This is the time for wonder and discovery.
- Be Kind
It might sound funny, but sometimes we have to teach ourselves to be kind. And that kindness starts with us. If we’ve let ourselves down repeatedly, or been told we don’t count, we get into the habit of muddled anger. We don’t realize it. We simply start churning with disappointment and anger, and we’re very good at directing it at ourselves. All the hurts in our lives reinforces the pattern. Somewhere deep down in our private hearts we are afraid that maybe we don’t deserve kindness from ourselves.
Kindness requires a lot of courage from us. It requires that we look deep into ourselves, look at all our flaws, and accept that we are on our journey. Sometimes we get it right, sometimes we don’t. The important thing is that when we don’t get it right, we look ourselves in the eye, we face our most secret fears, and we commit to changing it.
We are magical in our ability to create, transform, and inspire. We must believe in our own magic. It’s in the jar marked confidence. Let’s sprinkle some on.