Creating Your Pathway to Happiness

 

Several years ago I had the opportunity to attend an experiential learning-type personal development training. Little did I know walking in that it would change my life. To say it bluntly, I found I had some shit that I needed to clean up.

Seeing faults and toxic tendencies is a sobering experience. It can be impossible to accept about ourselves unless we are ready to confront self-realization and growth. Please keep this in mind when you have an issue with someone.

The training I attended felt like therapy on steroids.  The training pushed me to be vulnerable as well as face my fears head-on.

During this three-month training, I learned several things about myself. I am going to share the two most significant “ah-ha” moments… two things that changed my world.

AH-HA #1

Certain moments/aspects of my life significantly influenced how I once felt about myself. Among them:

  • My birth mother kept me with her for the first several months of my life; she chose to give me up for adoption.
  • I lived with a foster mother with whom I bonded (she named me Shari). I wonder why my birth mother hadn’t chosen my name.
  • After another six to nine months, I matched with a family. But for some reason, the adoption was not finalized, and eventually, when I was two years old, I was placed with my adopted family.

I have an adopted family who I love deeply. I have lovely childhood memories. Although my physical needs were well-met, there were times when I did not feel the emotional support I may have thought I needed. I realize now we all do the best we can as a parent. We all get to work through trials and errors throughout our years. Can you relate?

When I started having children, I began having questions about the first year of my life. Who rocked me to sleep and counted my toes? I found myself looking for my birth mother and was able to locate and have one phone call with her which didn’t turn out at all as I had hoped, ending with being told she had nothing to say to me and that I was dead to her, ending with her hanging up. That memory still chills my bones as I write this.

I got married at 20 to a guy who had ambition and plans. He had his emotional baggage and cheated on me. We worked with a therapist named Nadine. After seemingly endless months of work with her, I realized that I had married my mother; meaning, I started to realize that similar to my adopted mother and my birth mother, my husband was not equipped to give emotional support or unconditional love.

Before the hours working with Nadine, I never recognized the pattern. I thought this type of relationship was typical because that was how I grew up. Nadine helped me understand that it could never provide for a healthy relationship.

After twenty years of marriage, I finally realized I deserved toa better relationship, and we were divorced.

So, why was the training we started talking about so crucial to me?  

My first big Ah-Ha moment was that because of the recurring messages I received throughout my life, and I subconsciously felt unworthy of being in a healthy relationship. Because of the adoption, I felt unwanted. However, I found I could choose to feel differently about myself, and that those experiences no longer need to define who I am. It was my turning point. And it was when I began to let the old mentality go.

During the training, I was asked to create a contract with myself; to choose words that describe myself, but was not comfortable in saying.

My contract became:

I am a powerful, beautiful, worthy woman. Through my strengths, I inspire acceptance, love, and compassion.

I said this affirmation out loud every day for years until I genuinely believed the words.

Ah-Ha #2

As an adult, I wondered why it was not easy or natural to have relationships with women. I had plenty of guy friends, but I often felt on the outside with a group of women.

During the training, we experienced a process called Feedback Arches, where I stood in front of a semicircle of my peers. I was told to remain silent while each person in the arc would give me feedback on their impressions of me. After each person would give their input, I would then tell them, “Thank you for loving me enough, to be honest with me.”

Different people took their turn sharing their impressions, and then a woman said something that cut me to the core: “Why would I want to be your friend? You’re so critical of yourself; I can only imagine how critical you would be of me!” Before she finished, I had tears running down my face. I understood. My self-talk was hurtful. I had been saying mean things to myself for years. I did not love myself, and it showed.

To this day I am convinced that had I not had that realization, I would still have a difficult time making friends with women. That day in training I made a new female friend, her name is Analee, and her feedback was loving yet challenging to take in. But she was right, and I knew it.

We all can have toxic subconscious tendencies that sabotage our best interests. I know I experienced growth over those months of training. I learned how to deal with myself in a completely different way, and I use those newly acquired skills every day.  

The changes that I made and the skills that I learned have created the pathway to the happiness that I now experience every day of my life.  Shari

Stretching Beyond your Comfort Zone

I had a conversation with a friend today who asked me if I scuba dive. I said, “no”, but my mind was screaming, “HELL NO!” I realized that most new things I am willing to try and wondered why the thought of diving freaks me out? The idea of being in open water makes me nervous, yet I will dive into open water from a boat.

My friend went on to tell me that I can learn scuba in a pool and see if I like it; so, decided that I will give that a try and see how it feels. Mind you, I am not committing to an open water dive, but I will literally get my feet wet and try something new that scares me as long as I’m in a setting that I am more comfortable with.

My past experiences trying something new for the most part have been great. But the thing that no one mentions about stretching yourself, is that it really sucks sometimes.

A particular challenge that I have faced a number of times is my fear of heights; yet, I have climbed to the top of a telephone pole, stood on top, and walked across a tightrope to another telephone pole. My body shook the entire time, but I did complete the task!  Maybe not as gracefully as I had pictured, but that wasn’t the point.

Yes, trying new things is exciting and mind-expanding — and all that — but it can also be awkward and embarrassing. I’ve wondered why that is and how, when I am faced with a fear, I can be more confident moving forward… So I Googled it.  🙂

Development

Here are a few ways to feel a little better about launching yourself into a new experience – and help you get over the hump of that initial misery to the part where it’s actually fun.

Remember that it’s ok not to love it right away

Did you know that deep in our brains there’s a primal fear of looking bad, a fear of not performing as well as others? One of the challenges with new hobbies is the fact that you’re meeting new people, new groups, new experiences, and that triggers anxiety we have about being the newcomer. In other words: Not loving it right away isn’t a sign that you’ve made a terrible mistake. It’s part of being human. Enjoyment will come as the newness fades.

Remember that no one’s paying attention to you

Are you worried about humiliating yourself in front of other people? If that’s the case, remember that those other people have actually to be watching you and in most cases, they aren’t. And they don’t care. Or maybe they are impressed that you are willing to give it a try.

Go in with the right mindset

People tend to approach a new skill in one of two ways: Some go in wanting to learn it, while others go in wanting to master it. I can easily fall into my perfectionistic mode feeling like I have to be the best. How silly is that? Learn to enjoy the journey while taking the first steps to learn the new skill.

Prepare before you start

It might be helpful to do a little prep work beforehand. You don’t have to go into the new situation completely blind and this could possibly help it to not be as intimidating.

I hope this information is as helpful to you as it is for me. It has changed my perspective on getting out of my comfort zone.  Shari