When things get tough, it is often common to feel as if we are drowning in a sea of problems. Our vision becomes “tunnel vision” and we stop thinking rationally; even worst, we don’t see any way out.
If you are on the path of self-transformation, then you have discovered that it is not an easy path; unlike the fantasy we have in our head about healing always being a ladder meant to keep going up, it turns out healing is full of ups and downs. There are times we do so well and times we may stumble or fall and believe the delusion that perhaps we are still at step one of the journey–at those times, it is often normal to question one’s calling or choices; after all, how could we possibly believe we can break through the cycle when we feel so bummed out? The secret relies on not buying the lie; we do this by learning simple strategies to help us navigate the turbulent waters of self-doubt whenever we feel stuck or whenever we feel we have failed.
Relying on our own inner resources when we begin to doubt what we are capable of achieving, is one of the greatest strengths we can develop. When changes are made in life or problems for which we apparently have no answer take place, things are usually not simple. The path to transformation often involves difficult times as well as challenging emotions. Questions such as: How do you know when anxiety or fear is just a red flag and not a sign that something is seriously wrong?, how do you trust your instincts when the logical part of your brain tells you that something probably isn’t going to work?, how do you find the courage to continue on the path to what you want, even when everything around is screaming to turn back?–the last one, is one I have personally been wrestling with for a while.
For me helping others find hope, a way out of the maze they find themselves in, is a very beautiful and gratifying experience. I may not have all the answers; more importantly I don’t do my work from a place of superiority, nor do I delude myself that I got all my shit together. The truth is, there are days that I struggle in the same way Atlas struggled with the weight of the world on his shoulders. There are days the pain hits so hard, that I can barely navigate through it–those are becoming less and less. I won’t lie, so I admit there are also days in which the old programming, the pain all break me, taking me to a mental space from which I feel there will be no return–I am human, and I have survived deep Trauma, so I won’t lash at myself for having experienced those moments. Every time I managed to pull myself out of it, feeling stronger and with a deeper sense of trust that all will be okay, instead of giving up on my journey of healing and growth. It is that elation which I wish to share with those I help.
On the last while I have wrestled with the fact I left Trauma Counseling behind; I worked mostly with shelters and the homeless–at a point I felt burnt out…exhaustion won and I stepped back from it– I decided to take the suggestions of those around me and focus on private counseling, one where deep trauma is not part of almost everyday life. I thought I made the right decision; however, more and more I found myself wrestling with my soul. What happens to those who can’t afford private therapy? How many will decide to believe no one cares and that there is no point? — I can’t say my false ego had no part in it. I won’t deny mentally I felt more reenergized and still do, but I also feel as if something is missing, and that something seems to point out to those beautiful souls I worked with. The false ego screams “Silent those voices. Do you want your family and friends to think you are choosing “failure” over a comfortable standard of living? How can you let your talents go to waste? What happens if you cannot reach a patient, won’t you feel defeated by their trauma?” –so many doubts. I had to step back and ask myself “Who am I and what matters to me?”–I had to step away from the voices around me and the ones inside to try to find the answer. Had I rebranded my practice only to go back to what I left? Didn’t I leave because I felt I could give no more?
I had to face the fact that my passion lies in helping those who can’t help themselves. I had to face the fact that I need to teach myself to step back more often and recharge instead of pushing through again and again until there is no energy left. I had to accept where my heart was by the tears of mixed emotions which flowed freely as I read the notes, messages from those I had once worked with. I knew the answer but I was scared to accept it; after all, by the time I left, I was so mentally and physically exhausted that I was blacking out.
After talking with my physician, making sure he confirmed it had all been exhaustion, that aside from a condition I live with, my body is doing great, is when I decided to go back to those who may feel I brighten their day, but in reality, it is them to whom I owe a lot. I had to admit to myself that those ideas about a comfortable life which my false ego was pushing on me were excuses and fear. We all have our personal ideas of success; to me success is a life well lived. Thankfully in life I have been privileged to see both sides of the coin, and I have learned that to me being comfortable is balance instead of unnecessary luxuries one could easily do without. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in “hippie” ideas of just hoping for miracles; I believe we make miracles happen, and if we work hard and our motivation is pure, life does present the right opportunities in our path.
So today I want to share a few things I used to help me navigate my turbulent waters, I hope they are of help to you too:
Develop your self awareness: Self-awareness is the knowledge and reason for one’s emotions, behaviors, thoughts and beliefs, as well as the ability to recognize and understand one’s strengths and limitations. It is an essential part of emotional intelligence. If you want to learn to trust yourself, being aware of what’s going on inside you is a good start because it means you understand how your emotions influence your thoughts and behavior, that way you can make decisions based on what you want, not just what you feel.
This is a great skill of internal self-regulation, since by knowing and identifying what you feel, you are better able to determine a course of action that can help you at that particular moment.
Another way to look at it goes like this: If you don’t know what’s in your First Aid cabinet, how can you know if you have what you will need during an emergency? The only way to know is to look inside.
To increase self-awareness, you can keep a journal with your emotions and feelings, practice meditation or mindfulness, talk to trusted people, do psychotherapy, coaching or mentoring with professionals, and even look for spaces for reflection in nature. As it is a process you will need to learn to be patient; evolution of self takes time, but the results will be highly rewarding.
Find your trusted source: Many people seek to affirm who they are and how they feel based on the outside; for example: focusing only on the superficial, exhibiting an entirely fake life on social networks and pretending to feign status. But all of that is a mirage at best, and at worst, it is delusion. If it is the first, it is just a reflection of what’s called public identity, which is what you let others see. The question is: How much do you know your private identity? To gain more confidence in your inner resources, it is essential to know and deepen this identity, which connects with the essence of who you are.
We all have an aspect of confidence that either we acquired through education from childhood, and it was positively stimulated, or we had to build it by force through overcoming the painful events of life. In any case, there are benchmarks of moments of greater or lesser confidence within you.
One technique to go to that source of inner confidence is to navigate in your mind as if you were taking a trip to the past and you reach each of those moments where you felt inner strength, motivation, enthusiasm and conviction. These will help you to develop the tools you will need to overcome challenges.
I suggest you relive those pleasant emotions, the sounds, the smells, the colors, the textures and how you were at that moment. You can anchor that moment in physical form (for example, touching in the present, some part of your body) and associate that touch with those emotions of trust.
Then, the next time you feel your confidence crashing down, train yourself to touch that point in your body and relive that past self-confidence. You will see how this visualization and anchoring technique works, and you can repeat and improve it whenever you want–it works best based on continued practice. It will be a good lifesaver when you feel that you have lost your inner balance.
Be flexible and leave room for error: When you trust yourself you learn to accept mistakes and not take things too seriously. You leave aside the need to aspire to perfection because it does not exist on this physical plane. Yes, you can be a person with excellence and rawness, but you won’t be perfect.
Remember: it’s natural to feel anxious or have moments when you completely doubt yourself, we all experience these feelings sometimes. What matters is what you choose to do in these situations. For example: if you doubt your abilities and think you don’t have the inner resources to deal with something complex, instead of saying “I have to do it perfect” you can say “I’ll do my best, and I’ll learn from any mistakes to improve next time.”
Trust your instincts and pay attention to warning signs: Instinct can result from patterns of information deeply rooted in the mind. They help you navigate your life and make decisions based on what has worked for you in the past. Imagine your instinct as if it were a computer program that runs in the background and runs smoothly until something activates it and causes it to get your attention.
When you’re making changes or transformations in your life and making decisions, powerful emotions and thoughts are likely to arise which will affect your instincts. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to red flags that indicate things are getting too intense and that you need to slow down or adjust course.
At that moment stop, breathe, take in a perspective of the situation, do probability analysis, create a plan A, B, C and D about the situation and you will see how in short time you will be restoring confidence in your skills and abilities.
Take action even when you don’t have 100% probability it will work out as you imagine it: No one can be 100% sure that something is going to work the way they want. Faced with this reality, it is best to start acting. Even the simplest actions can help you clarify what you want and what’s important to you.
For example, if you’re not sure what to focus your time and energy on, try scheduling time for different activities and seeing what happens. If you’re not sure what kind of job would be best for you, try talking to different people from different industries and seeing what inspires you.
As you can see, a good antidote to the lack of confidence in yourself is action; action as a way of moving forward; getting out of stagnation and at the same time action encourages you to know yourself better.
Get going, moving physically instead of ruminating and thinking. Making decisions, no matter how small will help rebuild that feeling of confidence you may have thought as lost.
Lastly remember that feeling sad or “disappointed” for having had a setback or doubts does not define you. Feeling and being vulnerable does not mean you are weak; it simply means you are being sensitive to yourself. You are daring to feel and explore what you are experiencing in order to respond better. Only in doing this, we will be able to trust ourselves enough to take risks and seek new possibilities with openness and clear perspective.
Also, don’t forget to cherish those who never doubted your essence and to whom your setbacks do not represent failure but simply accept the fact that you are human, and as long as you are trying your best and your motivation is pure, then you deserve as much understanding and compassion as the next person who is doing the same.
As per me, I am going to enjoy Christmas time with my family. I will enjoy everything about it; from the baking, hosting, seeing their faces light up over simple yet joyful things–I will enjoy these moments even more because I know in my heart, I have made the right decision…. I am going back to where my passion lies, to where my gifts expand. I know it is my passion, for despite the ups and downs I may encounter, my spirit only feels at home knowing I am giving hope and strength; if only a little bit, back to those who already lost a lot.