We love to clothe ourselves in strength…
I’m tough. I can handle it. I won’t let that hurt me. I’m strong enough to take it.
We tell ourselves that we are strong enough to take it, but how often do we stop and ask ourselves if we should be taking it?
In fact, we don’t ask ourselves anything. Our life problems seem too big to think about and we are very tired. So, we put it off, bury it down and plow through exhaustion, abuse, affairs, selfishness, and unrealistic expectations. Sometimes a friend or colleague gets a little too close to our situations and we see the shock register on their faces as they react to what we now consider normal. We feel a slight crack in our armor, but we quickly remind ourselves that they are not as tough as us. They couldn’t handle it, but we can. And, again, we feel powerful. We feel in control. We feel strong.
We feel… afraid.
We compartmentalize, deny, and we spend all our energy surviving the problem rather than solving the problem. And, after a while, it doesn’t feel like a problem anymore-it just feels like our life. But it doesn’t have to. There is another way. We typically look at our lives with an inside view. An inside view gets us through our normal routines. We take care of our house, our kids, our jobs and tap into a sense of responsibility and duty. We put ourselves on the back burner because “that’s just what you do.” The inside view tries to lower expectations and not ask questions in an effort to survive. We focus our mental energy on managing the tasks before us and trying to keep the world turning. An inside view sounds like:
- It isn’t really that bad.
- I’m sure things will change soon.
- I don’t deserve better.
- I know they treat me badly, but they really need my help.
- I know this one part of my life is bad, but I’m so tough that I am not going to let it affect me.
- I should just learn to be grateful; I am sure others have it worse.
- It is better for me to lie so I can protect others.
However, an upside view steps out of the problem. It is as if we set up a ladder, climb onto a balcony, and gain the ability to look down on our own lives. We gain the perspective of watching our lives as if it were happening to someone else, preferably someone we feel tender toward such as a child or a best friend. We don’t think in terms of me or I, we think in terms of an objective third party. Thinking about our lives as if it were happening to someone else helps us gain a completely different perspective and often allows us to come up with new conclusions and solutions. As we watch, we evaluate and we can ask:
- How are the people in this situation being treated? Is one person always getting his or her way at the expense of others?
- Is there a way that the person can redesign the situation to make it run more smoothly?
- Is one person lying to cover up the truth about the situation? Do people typically have to lie about situations if the circumstances are healthy?
- Are all parties involved being treated fairly or is someone not playing by the same set of rules?
- What data does that person need to improve his/her situation? Is there an important piece they are missing? Where can he/she go for help?
- Does that person really have to do the things he/she is doing or does he/she just not know what else to do? Is this person’s life moving forward or is he/she continuing to bump into the same problems and situations over and over?
- Is there something this person isn’t seeing because they are in constant survival mode?
- Am I really comfortable saying this person’s life is my life?
Often as we look down we realize “Wow! That really sucks. No one should have to live that way.”
We don’t have to be strong enough to take it. We can be brave enough to change it.
Taking an upside view, honestly evaluating your life and being brave enough to change it can feel scary at first. Few of us enjoy being the catalyst for change in our own lives. At first glance, it feels easier to be reactive in response to our life circumstances rather than being proactive in the process of creating our life circumstances. Unfortunately, using all our inner strength to survive a situation rarely results in a better life. We just keep doing what we are doing rather than asking if what we are doing is actually working. Of course, we are exhausted! It is draining to focus on a life we have to live rather than cultivating a life we want to live. And, while it feels like we have control, we are usually just giving away our personal power in an effort to get through another day.
Being brave enough to change flips the switch. Rather than leading with duty and responsibility we can begin taking steps toward curiosity and creativity. “What changes can I make? If I tweaked this what would I feel like? Can I begin to design a different life?” Being brave enough to change means you are living in truth, refusing to hide and learning to be responsible for your own life. It means being more afraid of living a life of misery than you are of fighting for a life of beauty. It means getting away from surviving and moving into a life that is thriving.
If you are strong enough to take it then you are strong enough to change it. Getting stuck with an inside view of our lives can result in years of putting our efforts into being strong enough to take it. Taking an upside view of your life can be the first step to a realizing “This is not who I want to be and this is not where I want to be. I have the power to make my life better.” Refuse to just survive! On the other side of change, you can look in the mirror and be proud of you! You can rest easy with the people you love because you don’t have to hide anymore. You can look back at the life you used to live and say, “Why didn’t I do that sooner?”
You can actually love life.
Be brave enough to Bounce Back.