The other day I was having a really rough time when I reached out to a friend. “Why,” I demanded to know, “Why does everything always feel like an attack?”
In hindsight I guess I wanted to be handled with kid gloves. I wanted reassurance. I wanted love and gentle support. I did not get these things.
My friend did not hesitate to throw the truth at me. “I’m going to say this to you right now, take it however you need to. The reason everything feels like an attack is because you hate yourself. You’re projecting that onto everyone else. Look around you. People love you. You’re a good friend. You’re a good mom. No one can ever change this for you, you have to do it.”
He went on to offer his own suggestions that have worked for him in his own life while I tried to process what he had just said. Talk about hitting the nail on the head, man. Was I suddenly feeling like Roberta Flack or WHAT?
Okay, fine. Way to call me out. This is painfully accurate and I’ve read lots of times that a change of heart has to come from within. I know this truth from experience because, as it turns out, no matter where I run to or what I immerse myself in… at the end of the day I’m always still there. It’s not a geographical location or a group of friends or a job or whatever recent challenge has presented itself that is holding me back. The biggest hurdle I face, the biggest hurdle I’ve always faced, is my negative idea of who I am.
So what am I supposed to do about it?
Here’s what I’ve gleaned from twenty years of therapies and self-help books and religious dogma and THINKING MYSELF TO DEATH:
I can do affirmations. I can challenge negative thoughts as they arise. I can become the author of my own narrative. As I practice this, I can begin to separate my existence from my feelings and beliefs, coming eventually to understand that my thoughts are neither good nor bad, nor inherently true. My thoughts are simply thoughts, they neither define nor control me. If I do this enough, ultimately I will be able to identify thoughts as they come and let go of those that don’t serve me. This very idea is foreign to me, someone who is currently entirely controlled by thoughts and feelings. Escaping this prison of my own design sounds delightfully Zen. It sounds to me like Enlightenment.
But how the hell am I supposed to execute it? For real, I feel like I have a good grasp of the whole thing in theory but I haven’t got the foggiest idea of where to actually begin.
Or perhaps I’m simply lying to myself.
The real problem here, I think, is that a real change requires work. It doesn’t take any real work to promise myself that I’ll be better tomorrow, live tomorrow the exact same way, shit on myself about not moving forward and then promise myself I’ll be better tomorrow. It’s a pattern that a lot of us will stay trapped in for the majority of our lives. When I really think about it, if I’m really being honest with myself, I keep waiting to feel motivated to save my own life.
The real kicker is probably going to sound frustratingly obvious but here it is anyway:
It’s pretty hard to be motivated to save your life when you don’t value your life.
So I’ve spent years banging my head against the wall waiting for happiness, self-esteem, success and general contentedness to fall into my lap with limited progress being made. It occurred to me as if spoken into my ear one day, “Lindsay, you have never worked hard enough to achieve any of the things you want, what on earth makes you think they’ll just be handed to you?”
Fair enough, but again, where do I start?
Well, I’ve decided to start with the 21 Day Self-Love Challenge. That doesn’t sound too hard, right? I can spare a little time each day for three weeks to try and change my life, can’t I?
It’s about time I put in a little effort.