What does taking time for yourself mean? When you want to grow as an individual where do you begin? When I find myself stuck with a problem, unable to move past it or accept it for a concerning amount of time, the true source of the problem, more often than not, is attachment. What emotion are we subconsciously covering up with this lingering roadblock? How is this “problem” and our fantasy solution for it filling the void and nurturing this buried emotion?
I have this friend. This fearlessly vulnerable, passionately loving, in tune with all that chirps, guided by the brightest light, one of a kind guru type of friend. She is my go-to whenever I am feeling lost, confused, uncertain or in need of direction. Her perspective and delivery sharing insights is a boost of energy to my soul. She recently said something to me that has opened a myriad of doors I can’t wait to explore. She said, “Elevate the consciousness that exists.” She was referencing a specific scenario but giving permission to see this through however fits.
Elevate the consciousness that exists. Not only dig at the roots of my emotion, but guide that buried emotion up into the universe. Give it air, let it breathe. Wounds need oxygen to heal. In life our emotions and our soul are connected, just as our bodies and souls are. Some believe burials after death provide the soul with the comfort it needs to enter the purely spiritual world. Our body is a tool to fulfill our soul's mission and when our body no longer works, it becomes detached and our soul has permission to carry on. Why isn’t this the same with our emotions? Have we buried an emotion so deep that it is separated from our soul? How can we bury an active emotion then tell our spirit to stay soaring? We must bring all our life to surface. Cultivate the tools we have, giving ourselves full potential to connect, to understand and to take on a direction simultaneously. We are the operators of our lives, we have the power to keep everything together and working properly. Just as a remote doesn’t work without batteries, or plants need water to grow, all our pieces must be present and accounted for. To function at our highest capability we must locate and connect each of our emotions; this is our power source.
So where should we begin when we want to focus on self-improvement and strengthen our confidence as individuals? I’m starting with a hunt for each and every emotion that could be buried. I’m using this “Wheel of Emotions” (pictured below) as guidance. Giving recognition to these buried emotions permits them to be dealt with. Identifying our emotions is a practice while dealing with them is strength. As I connect with these emotions, I can lead them to elevation. Understanding their roots so I can nurture them and set them free. This process will gather a checklist of each and every lingering weight pulling you down. I’m going to write them down as I discover them. List their connecting emotions. Delve into all the situations they can apply to, and work towards balancing and uplifting them. For example, I feel sadness as I grieve the loss of my brother. I also feel sadness over a relationship I am uncertain I’ll be able to keep. In both of these scenarios I am battling the feeling of missing someone I love. The opposite emotion to sadness is joy. A source of joy for me is going out and exploring the earth and its wonders. Focusing on strengthening my relationship with the earth lessens the pain I feel from those relationships not as present. Another emotion I found through this activity is fear. I have been fearful of my safety where I live. Santa Monica is home to a huge population of homeless people. Homeless people who don’t have any plans to leave the area and spend their time using drugs and creating dangerous situations. This fear connects to feeling anxious, weak, and threatened. As I move further out on the “Wheel of Emotions” I see I am also feeling helpless, overwhelmed, worried, and exposed. How can I tend to these emotions? I decided to go to city hall, offer help to the homeless division as well as stay active in reporting threats when I see them. I’m not so helpless when I prove to myself all the ways I can be proactive. If I am exposed, I can choose in what way. Instead of showing weakness and revealing myself as an easy target, I home in on my toughness. I tell the harassers to stop harassing me. I now feel powerful. I feel hopeful and I feel inspired. Just as leaving chores or a lengthy to-do list can subconsciously overwhelm you, leaving emotions unaddressed does the same. The empowerment that comes from this work will grant access to your strongest, most free self. No longer afraid of moving forward. Stand tall to what passes through out of your control, but take ownership and responsibility for changes you can make to care for your unwanted emotions.
Wheel of Emotions
Image via www.classtools.net
I also created my own "emotion wheel" focused on the messages each emotion conveys, a clearer understanding of where each emotion is guiding us. It is our job to align an appropriate action in response. It is so easy to ignore or bury our emotions when we don't have direct instructions on what to do with them. My hope is to spend less time evaluating and more time practicing. Our mind, our feelings, the emotions that present themselves are all vital pieces of self-care. Pay attention to them, support them. The best way to understand and grow as an individual is to build a mutual relationship with your emotions in which you trust them to guide you in a better direction, and they trust you to take them there.
I’ve been dying for one of those drives where you cry in a screaming voice. Releasing every bottled up emotion, leaving it on the road behind you and driving to new territory. Giving yourself the space to breathe again. Seeing clear road unfogged.
Lately, I have been having some not so wanted feelings. Feelings I wish I could close the door on and they’d just turn around and walk away. Instead, my feelings knock again. Standing on the other side of my door, pestering me until I let them in. They would haunt me if I didn’t know that feelings are merely visitors. Open the door for them and let them in. Be kind to them, attempt to understand where they come from, and send them on their way. You’re the host, you don’t owe them anything except hospitality, recognition, and the benefit of the doubt. They probably didn’t show up to ruin your day, they just want a fair chance to be heard, be seen, and maybe be given a hug goodbye.
I can’t know for sure who I’d be today without my past, but I feel lucky to have been able to get through such experiences that allowed me to reach this kind of strength, confidence, determination and fight. To live every day with the drive to just be as happy as I can that day. I know for a fact that tough breakups, painful anxiety, even life tragedies have a way of entering and exiting our lives if we give them permission. All of these visitors are a part of me. Who I am and how I feel needs to be permitted. How can I be present if I don’t welcome myself? It’s like when someone would tell me I’m beautiful before I believed it for myself. Just words. People talking without connection. It was and always is about what I think about myself. If I feel bad about myself, I must greet that part of me. Take her in and understand why. Show love, compassion and empathy. If I don’t give that part of me a chance to enter my home, or more literally my mind, I am not only ignoring vital information, I’m ignoring a chance to nurture and give love.
Every visitor offers a chance to learn. If anything, collect new insight. You have the power to let them trouble you. If they have muddy shoes, either tell them to take their shoes off or have a towel on hand to wipe after them. Ask them what they walked through to track all that mud, but don’t let that trail stain your home. Wipe your ground clean while taking the time to understand what dirtied it in the first place. You are the host. Your mind is capable of entertaining each and every feeling that knocks and wants to enter, you just have to remember your power over them.
The benefits of therapy often get swept under the stigma. You might be a person who handles your life wonderfully. Self growth and insight come naturally to you. Don’t you ever just want to vent? Why wouldn’t you want an unbiased friend who can't be burdened by all you have to share. A safe place to speak your absolute truth. What weakness is shown when you share the effort to build upon your life with a force greater than yours alone?
I recommend therapy to anyone and everyone. You can not show me a single person who is finished. Grown to their maximum potential with no help or guidance to better them further. If you think you have successfully become who you are supposed to be indefinitely, you are holding yourself back from being truly self aware. You are never done, that is what makes this game of life so exciting. There is ALWAYS more to learn, more to do, more to see and more to feel.
For me, therapy is a safe haven. A source of guidance that is permanent. A relationship that is not at stake no matter what I say, or how much I am going through. A comfort and a helping hand to work through all the lessons that come my way. Life takes work, this is inevitable. We aren’t gaining success faster or more efficiently if we do it alone. If you are capable of sharing your thoughts and your feelings with anyone else, you are showing bravery. The desire to live easier, to live better, is the only step you need to be on your way to a healthier, happier life. My favorite thing to say to people who come to me with their personal stories of growth and/or struggle is that you have already taken that powerful step some people never take. You are already at a place in your life where you are mature enough and dedicated enough to make the most important decision of your life. If you have already established that you want to be happy, and you are looking for answers on how to get there, you WILL be successful. Your mind is in route to becoming wiser, stronger, more capable of healing, learning, growing. You are successful in the right that you yearn to be. Life is about how we respond to circumstance. Our attitude on experience and what’s to come. Whether or not you need guidance on working through emotions, the burden of handling these moments is lessened when splitting the load.
Asking for help when needed never makes you weak. Understanding that therapy isn’t help for the needy, but instead help for the wise, could be the thing that turns your life from difficult to rewarding. Give it a shot, you could be the next one raving about your experience.
I am kind.
I am selfless.
I am understanding and I am open minded.
I am strong.
I am independent.
I know who I am and I don't let any one else's opinions change that.
I am confident.
I am bold.
I am open and I am honest.
I am generous.
I am friendly.
I am quirky and I am fun.
I am myself without compromising, knowing that I am always growing and I am always learning.
Once you have confidence in yourself as a person and as a member of whatever communities you value, outside judgements or negative perspectives will not effect you. Harmful words or behavior will represent those who act with them. You will feel peaceful knowing you are understood by yourself and that is all that matters. Energy taken to explain yourself will be saved because you will know in your heart no explanation is necessary. You will naturally sort out situations that can do good and situations that need to be left alone. Using your energy only for positive influence and leaving what is out of control untouched. Once you believe in yourself, life is a freedom you get to enjoy.
Notice unsettling situations that you may be able to alter outcomes in. You are in control of your reactions. If something upsets you, ask yourself if there's something you can do to feel free from that. If there isn't, you can choose to accept what is out of your control and release any worry within the greater emotion. You will never feel 100% all the time, but you have the ability to persuade your reactions and lessen negativity which will ultimately bring you more happiness and overall confidence. Challenges don't seem so bad when you begin to overcome them with grace. Fake a smile to remind yourself how much nicer it feels. Practice patience and deep breathing so you don't get ahead of yourself with reaction. Try to keep an open mind that your views can change and the way you see things will adjust. No one is perfect and no one is happy all the time, but the less hard you are on yourself and others, the lighter living becomes.
Now that I found my individual happiness, it’s hard for me to give up time with myself. I find myself happiest when I experience, learn or grow on my own. No therapist giving me guidance, no parents confident in a future I can't see for myself, no friends I HAVE to lean on. I get through hard times on my own and build confidence in whatever’s to come. I find a new passion for myself and it’s MY thing to enjoy. However, it is learning from other people that sparks learning about myself.
Growing up I was always making friends. Anywhere I went I flew around like the social butterfly I was, making “playdates”, hiring restaurant and sales associates as babysitters for myself, sharing personal information to strangers right off the bat because I was open, I was friendly, and I was in need of distraction.
My obsession with my TV shows was my go-to distraction from my own life. When Marissa Cooper died in Ryan Atwood’s arms, those were my friends to grieve. When Elena didn’t choose Damon, that was my heart being broken. I didn’t see life for myself so I invested my time in other lives, even those made up characters for fictional storylines.
I was constantly searching for ways to avoid being alone. I’d make plans for after school. When it was time for that friend to leave I already had plans set up for after. Being alone was sitting with my thoughts, the clouds shadowing any idea of a life worth living. I felt trapped just breathing when I couldn't see the point to live. I had fun with my friends. We went out, we stayed in, we ordered food, we watched movies. I had company, visitors to what felt like a personal prison, for short breaks at a time. If I kept scheduling those visits then I wouldn’t have to be alone in the cell, trapped in the storm no one could really experience with me.
I didn't realize at the time that as I was meeting all these new people and forming close relationships with friends and family, I was becoming who I am today. Although it seemed like a distraction at the time, I pride myself on being a good friend, sister, daughter, niece, cousin, etc. I learned what qualities I value and which were painful for me to be around. I am a person who shows up for the people I care about. I respect good intentions, selfless acts, consideration of other people's unknown battles, a sense of humor that can be playful but stops if someone's feelings are being hurt. I look out for the people I care about and I care about the people who I respect.
I’ll always have myself, so to have earned myself confidence and admiration was to earn myself good company wherever I go. I have a lot of people to thank for the person I have formed into. It was always within me, it just takes time to learn who you are and realize you never stop growing.
If you’re having trouble finding yourself, start acting like the person you want to be. That is you at your core values and if you believe it, you can attain it.
Whether you’ve been the person to judge yourself too critically, or the person who is so lost from themselves you can’t even connect with an identity, you will find yourself if you decide to look.
Betrayed someone and feel guilty about it? You are the person who strives to be loyal. You are loyal at heart. Try not to hurt yourself worse for past actions. You aren't disloyal, you made a mistake and with that you learned what you value. Envy that stranger's patience at the cash register while the person in front of her makes a scene? You respect patience. Patience just takes practice. You can be the person you strive to be, you just have to believe the truth, it is already within you.
With practice and observing growth and positive change within, it will become easier and easier to form into the person you already are. The qualities you envy, the values you may have trouble sticking to, all of the traits important to you are important to you because they come from YOUR heart. You can be whoever you want to be because the person YOU want to be comes from YOUR aspirations and YOUR goals.
Being in public never used to bother me. Like Casper the friendly ghost, I wasn't noticed unless I was actively putting myself out there. I was invisible and I got to choose when to throw a sheet over my life and be seen. I'd always be entertaining me and my friends by going up to strangers and starting absurd conversations, or shouting to cute boys on the street from the car window. It didn't matter if I made a fool out of myself, the sheet would just fly away like it always did. Although I was always popular in school, I often felt like the fat friend. Eyes always looking at who was walking next to me, compliments to the girls I would sit with. Secretly, I always wanted to be the one who got the not so discreet glares, even the offensive lines from strangers seemed appealing to me. Once I transformed my body and my mind, everything changed.
"Larry look at the men staring at your daughter..." Going out to dinner with my family was a new experience. It was hard not to notice the eyes that now followed me. What I used to long for now interfering with my me time. The whispers when I walk by might not be judgmental anymore, but that is what I'm familiar with. The glares aren't full of pity, but they still bring up those emotions. If I go up to a group of boys the way I used to, I can't just run away like it never happened. I might now have what I used to wish for, but these new interactions still carry the same discomfort from my past. I'm so unbelievably comfortable with myself and who I've become, until I step out in public. Now I care. I want to represent the person I know I am. I don't want to be misunderstood or falsely judged. I want to share a smile and pass it on. Somehow, I've become uncomfortable being confident. I wish they'd stop staring. I wish they thought I was fat and sad again. I don't believe I suffered from anxiety with my depression, that would require me caring. Take away my hopelessness, fill my world with dreams, anxiety is my new companion.
I remind myself what's important to me. Maintain my values. Try to leave each and every person I interact with feeling happier than before. Know my worth. I know where I come from. I know what it took to get where I am today. I feel beautifully happy. I smile from inside my heart. What happens around me is my scenery. There are times where I feel sad that one of my more enjoyable characteristics has faded, but I remember the fresh new vibes I now carry with me. I have so much more to offer and I will take my time learning how.