Realize that nothing in the world can provide you with peace and happiness.
Being the romantic that I am, I often like to think about going back and giving my younger self some kind of advice, some little bite of wisdom that might change the past. For instance but not limited to: “that guy is going to turn out to be a total loser” or “black pleather pants will look really silly in your school picture.”
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The funny thing about going back and giving yourself advice is that it’s not our past that needs our wisdom, it’s our current selves. When the injustice occurred back then, we made a decision about ourselves. But it’s the present self that’s living with the belief we formed back then.
Thus, it’s much more productive to think about the kind of wisdom we can offer ourselves in the here and now. After all, now is the only moment we really have to make any kind of difference. While writing your life’s story down might help you mend the past, as we talked about in this article, what we can do to impact our present and future is change the thoughts we tell ourselves, especially the negative and wrongly founded ones that control our actions.
No matter what phase of life you are in, offer yourself the self-loving gift of banishing these worry-infested thoughts about that which we contemplate most: love, money, happiness, worthiness. And possibly for the first time, realize the power you have to change your mind, and in doing so change your actions, and change your life. It all starts with a thought, which manifests into belief, which transforms into action, which ends in results.
It doesn’t matter if you’re in your 20s or your 40s. If there’s negativity and worry infiltrating your self concept, it’s up to you to do the mental work of cleaning up your act.
1. “I am lonely”
My friends and I spent so much of our teens and early twenties worried about finding a boyfriend. It only dawned on me after being left by a serious boyfriend, who slammed the door behind him and never came back, that being alone is actually a wonderful thing. If we sought out more chances to be comfortable alone, we’d realize the peace available to us that no one and nothing else can bring us.
We keep hoping that love will make us feel happy, because we won’t be alone. The problem isn’t being alone, it’s being with yourself. The solution isn’t a partner, it’s to be happy when you’re in your own company. Then if you find love, you won’t be demanding of it to ‘fix’ you or fulfill you. You won’t need anything from it. You will simply enjoy it. And enjoying it without depending on it will keep that love from wanting to leave you because it feels trapped.
Being alone can be uncomfortable at first. Why? Because it forces us to sit down with the thoughts we’d rather avoid.
Doubts about ourselves, problems in our life that we’d rather not think through to solution. But the practice of solitude is an important one, one that goes from uncomfortable to nourishing quite quickly. When you can spend time with yourself, you’ll start to enjoy your own company. Then you’ll realize why other people like your company too, an additional form of banishing yet more insecurities about yourself.
Instead: I enjoy and appreciate myself enough to be alone. I practice solitude.
2. “I don’t like my body; My body isn’t good enough”
First and foremost, good enough for whom?? You? A guy? The media? This blank and generalizing question is infuriating. What did your body ever do to make you hold such a grudge? If you don’t like it, give it to someone who will. Because your one body is your one vehicle that holds the heart and brain that encases your soul, a soul distinct to you, a personality individual to you; and it’s all tucked safely inside this one body, this one temple that you are in charge of.
The fact that you have one at all is miraculous, and here you are verbally condemning it for not being like someone else’s. It’s like you’ve been given a free car, and you haven’t been filling the tank or taking care of the paint job, and now you’re crying that it’s not a brand new Mercedes.
You can’t trade your body for someone else’s, so stop wishing for that through denial and self-hatred. You can, however, love and improve the one you have. This one body is in your care, just like a child. Feed it well. Wash it. Cherish it. Let it rest and relax so you can take it out into the world. Face it, you are totally screwed without it. You need to take good care of it because no one else can do it for you.
Instead: My body is a gift not a right, and I cherish and appreciate it.
3. “I’m not happy in my job/career”
For some reason, our culture seems to have changed from one of mutual cooperation and compromise to one of extreme need for individuality. There was a time when a man fell into the job his father had, following lineages in an industry as a way of keeping up the name, offering a service to his community, and following in form in a way that kept society functioning. While I’m all for following passion, a career choice shouldn’t be focused on what is most fun to you, and what allows you to make the most money or work the least.
This isn’t to insinuate that changing careers is selfish. I’m suggesting that another view might offer a more fulfilling path.
Honestly ask, and honestly answer: What skills do you have that will help others in a way that will also provide you the satisfaction of knowing you are part of a solution? What can you do to give back more?
They say that true happiness comes from giving, not receiving. Think less about the money and the work hours, and more about what kind of action will allow you to give your special traits and gifts to this very demanding world. It might in fact be that your job isn’t the problem, but how you are behaving within it, and how hard you are striving for a goal you once saw there.
Instead: I focus more on what I give than what I receive. I practice humility.
4. “I am not lovable; I am unworthy of affection”
So much of our beliefs about ourselves are derived from what we think others think of us. Read that sentence again until you get it.
What we assume others are thinking of us is what we use to define ourselves. So a former boyfriend leaves you. The conclusion you draw is: because he didn’t love you, no one will love you. Doesn’t it somehow feel like you’re constantly pretending to be ‘good enough’ when deep down you’re waiting to be found out? For everyone to realize that you’re not, and to call you out on it?
But what if your definition of ‘you’ came from the source: you! You’re the person who spends the most time with you. You’ve spent your whole life being you. You’ve seen all the things you’ve overcome, you’ve been through every bad day and every trial and tribulation. Plus, you’ve seen all the times you’ve shined and succeeded, too. You know you best of all. Sit with that a while. What do you think of you?
If you were the only person on the planet, would you still think you were unattractive or not smart enough or not worthy enough? Or are all those conclusions coming from your assumptions of others’ thoughts (what you thought they were thinking when they hurt you) and because you compared yourself to others? Comparison is the greatest killer of joy, as they say.
You are not others. You’re not anyone else but you. And you know you better than anyone else. So stop relying on other people who don’t even know you that well to be the deciders of what or who you are, and what you’re worth. You decide that. And you run with it.
And when you decide to do that, you’ll see that you are pretty great at being you. You’ve been doing it a long time, and now it’s time to focus on being the best you.
While you do that work, give your love to yourself first. Be as tender and kind as you would your own daughter. Don’t say mean words to yourself and don’t dis yourself. Once you start sticking up for yourself to yourself, you’ll find the strength to defend yourself from others too. Give your love to yourself first. You have enough to give yourself and then give to others. It’s like an oxygen mask in an airplane; you first, then help others. You’re not good if you haven’t got your life-saving supply of love first, because you act like a wimp without it.
Instead: I give love to myself first, then others.
5. “I don’t have enough money”
Money is a real concern. In fact, it’s one of the biggest contributing factors to relationship demise, because worrying and fighting about money makes us feel primordially unsafe. The solution isn’t to get more money. It’s to get money-smart. So that instead of acting from fear of depletion, you act from knowledge. If you ever avoid looking at your account because you’re terrified of what’s inside (and so deny it and avoid it), then you’re acting from fear.
What would it take to make you sit down and create a budget? Start first by figuring out how much you need to survive, and what you’ll need to earn in order to reach said amount. Then in increments, add on with things like savings, retirement funds, funds for dream purchases. It’s only a lot of work if you try to do it all at once. The first step is starting.
The only type of people who don’t worry about money are the kind that stare down the beast and figure out a game plan. It’s not about having more than enough. If you had a lot of money but no idea how or what to do with it, you’d be just as freaked out and miserable. Focus less on the amount, and more on wisely managing what you have.
There are books, online tutorials, TV shows, and even associates at your local bank who can sit down with you and help you. Step by step. Be the kind of person who sacrifices an hour of her time to figure that out. Because you deserve one less worry.
Instead: I am in control of my lifestyle.
6. “Good things happen to other people, but not to me. It’s not fair”
Life’s not fair. Haven’t they been telling us that since grade school? Why are we still waiting for it to even out? Why not accept that it isn’t, and stop waiting for the magic to make us feel better about circumstances we’ve created for ourselves?
Taking responsibility for your current situation (your job, your relationship, your income, your health ) means facing the fact that you have a lot of power. You have the power to be healthier. You have the power to be a better partner, or find a better partner. You have the power to move across the country or quit your job or write a book. But simply accept that power can be intimidating.
Those who have it ‘easy’ aren’t the happiest or most fulfilled or even the most interesting. It’s the people that turned obstacles into opportunities. It’s the people that undertook challenges as ways to expand. Do not be scared of the power you have to change your life. Embrace it. It’s waiting for you to stop pretending all your problems are the world’s fault, and start impressing yourself with all that you can accomplish.
As a cancer survivor, please heed my warning when I tell you that you only have one life. And that life is short. Someday someone will tell that your short life is over. And there will be absolutely no worse feeling than that of knowing you let fear (an invisible, non-existent force that can’t exist outside your mind, like a boogey monster you created and carried around with you your whole life) keep you from doing something amazing. You’re fear is not real. Kill the boogey monster. Live your dreams before it’s too late.
Instead: I embrace my power to change my own life. I rise to the occasion that is my life.
7. “I don’t know what I want to do with my life”
I laugh whenever anyone tells me they don’t know what they want to do with their lives, or how they’re trying to ‘figure out’ what to do next. Finding a passion isn’t the end goal; one should never stop seeking things that set them creatively on fire. It’s not an end goal, one must evolve with their passion.
You must keep learning, acquiring new skills and knowledge, so that your passion doesn’t grow stale, and thus growing stale with it. You don’t find a profession or project you love, and then simply stop. You practice it, you let it lead you to other things.
Stop worrying about finding a passion and start looking around at the things that already interest you. It doesn’t have to be your day job; it can be a hobby. It can be something free and something you devote a small portion of your life to with joy and gratitude. Runners do this. Poets do this. Musicians do this. Just because something is a hobby or something you do alone, doesn’t mean it can’t be a huge source of fulfillment for you.
Also, most ironically, the statement suggests you are getting ready to live, but haven’t quite started yet. Well, darling, you’re already in this life. It’s playing out around you, while you absentmindedly wait for the universe to drop a bomb of answers on you.
Stop waiting, start going out and looking for answers yourself. Read books, study on your own, talk to people, do whatever you have to do. Stop asking the world to provide things to you, and start going out and looking for ways to give back to it, to create for it and within it, to volunteer yourself rather than waiting to be called.
Instead: I eternally continue to follow my curiosity and passion.
8. “I never get what I want in ___ (love, work, life, friendships)”
Nope, and you’re never going to just get it. It’s never going to magically come your way. This victim routine is such an overplayed record in our generation.
The truth is, you have to go get it. You have to do the work. There’s not much more that needs to be said. You’re not a princess locked in a tower. Go out the front door and make it happen. Stop playing the victim of your own life.
Instead: I do what I must to get what I want. I do not wait for opportunity, I make them for myself.
The power of your mind is greater than you accept, and if you accept that it defines your reality, you’ll be able to shape a reality you’re absolutely in love with.
This post was originally featured on HerAfter.com, a site that helps women live beautiful, conscious lives after cancer.
Rachael is a writer, blogger, cancer survivor and the author of HerAfter.com, a women’s site about conscious and stylish living. After years as a fashion journalist, she now writes women’s lifestyle articles about life, love, style, and thriving after surviving not just cancer, but all of life’s big battles. You can catch up with her on Twitter ( @RachaelYahne ) and read more of her work on her website, and in her new ebook, Her Happier, Healthier After – A Women’s Guide to Building Happiness and Self-Esteem