When there are no enemies within,
the enemies outside cannot hurt you.~African proverb
Treating myself kindly is not something that comes naturally to me.
From a young age, I believed I needed to be perfect to be any good. It was probably a combination of my natural type A tendencies and my family environment. My younger brother had a lot of problems when he was a kid, struggled in school, and often acted out. He was always in trouble.
My parents were probably happy to have one child who made things easy for them. I always did well in school, always behaved, and always followed the rules.
Everything seemed great up through high school. I got straight A’s without studying too hard, excelled on my school’s water polo team, and was a respected leader in my class. I was accepted to go to college at Harvard, and thought I was pretty special.
Being a perfectionist caught up with me, though. When I got to Harvard, I was immediately knocked off my high horse by people much smarter and more talented than I was.
The most glorious moments in your life
are not the so-called days of success,
but rather those days when out of dejection and despair
you feel rise in you a challenge to life,
and the promise of future accomplishments.~Gustave Flaubert
I sat in bed sobbing myself to sleep.
How had things gotten this bad? How could it be that all the personal development I had worked on for the past two years had all come undone?
Everyone always talks about self-improvement like it’s some kind of constant and steady progression in a positive direction, but they often gloss over those moments of hopelessness when it all seems to come crumbling down on you.
And that’s how I felt. My partner was there next to me, but he couldn’t have felt further away.
Men's natures are alike; it is their habits that separate them.~Confucius
Recently, a friend in my 30 Day Challenge group brought up a really interesting point. “Have you noticed” he asked, “that it’s far easier to remove something or limit something from your life than it is to add to it?”
It gave me pause. Every challenge I seemed to excel at had something to do with deprivation. I’d quit caffeine. I’d stopped eating gluten. My media fast was pretty successful as well, but what I’d had trouble with was reading something every day for myself.
I took it as a challenge. I have all sorts of good habits that I cultivated in my adult life: daily journaling, exercise, cooking. How did I add these to my life? And what lessons can I apply to creating a new good habit?
When we can no longer change a situation,
we are challenged to change ourselves.~Viktor Frankl
When you try to hinder the growth process, life has a way of making things very uncomfortable for you.
I learned this because I was extremely uncomfortable in my skin, in my mind, in my physical world for a while before the temporary realities of my life came crashing down around me – in a huge way.
Before I was forced to make a series of big changes, I had resigned myself to this idea that I would just have to muscle through the hardships, that I would need to exert all of my energy into holding on or things wouldn’t turn out the way they were supposed to.
I was exhausted, but I believed that this was just a period of my life where I would need to swim upstream.