One of the hardest things you can do in life is to find the positive and the lesson in your struggles. As much as we would like to have a perfect life devoid of struggle, that isn’t possible. We are going to have trying experiences and we are going to face challenges that sometimes feel insurmountable while we are in them.
Recently, I have started to challenge myself to view my struggles not as embarrassments (things to be ashamed of or looked back on with regret) but as sources and proof of my strength.
I have posted before about my experience learning to reshape my thoughts after the life-altering trauma of assault. In that journey one of my biggest challenges, aside from learning acceptance and removing shame, was to change my mindset. To stop viewing myself as two separate beings; one “pre-” and one “post-” rape.
In reshaping my thoughts I had to teach myself that one version of me was not, in fact, better than the other, nor was one version more worthy of my love and attention. As time passed and my perspective changed I learned that it wasn’t helpful to my healing to privilege version of myself over another.
As you move through life your relationship with yourself will change, your outlook and attitude on your life will alter and the way you talk to yourself will evolve as a result. The older I get the more importance I place on positive self-talk and the narratives I allow to repeat in my head. I find that if I go through my day choosing helpful, kind thoughts over the hurtful, unhelpful ones I have a more pleasant and less isolating experience then when I allow myself to turn inward and get too in my head with intrusive thoughts.
One of the most helpful things I have learned about the brain is that you really don’t have control over it. Your primitive brain will send you negative or unhelpful thoughts to try and help protect you and that’s okay. Although you don’t have control of your thoughts, you do have control over what you do with them. You can choose whether you work actively to replace those unhelpful thoughts with new caring and compassionate ones that help guide you lovingly through life.
Now when something triggers me or reminds me of a past challenge, I take a moment to pause and look at the struggle from a different perspective. I ask myself what I learned from the challenge, reflect on how I showed up for myself during the experience and focus on what I did well in and after the event. I end this reflective period by Iisting a few of my current strengths that I value and rely on daily that came from my difficult experience.
By actively working on reshaping my thoughts I am committing to being kind to myself and learning new ways to talk to and view myself in a more positive and helpful light. I know that I can in no way erase my struggles, the challenges I have faced in life, but I can change how I look at them. My struggles have only helped to grown my strengths and act as reminders of my vast ability to cope with whatever life throws my way.