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The best person to advise on a certain topic is the one who has been there, stuck, feeling regret and has found a way through to the other side.
When I was deep into the dis-empowered mindset I must admit that I couldn’t really see more than two steps in front of me. Sure, I wanted to experience happiness and freedom and be able to express my ideas but I was too busy dealing with all the mental aerobics I put myself through on a daily basis.
What types of mental aerobics? Things like over-thinking and analyzing how I acted in my past, feeling regret for not following up with friendships or letting others in to really get to know me and feeling guilty for not applying myself fully in school when I was burned out and ready to do anything but study.
The truth was I did feel regretful and was ridiculously hard on myself for not handling my past differently.
If there is one thing we can all agree on, let it be this:
Unfortunately I think it is completely normal for us to be our toughest critics, but that certainly does not make it useful or healthy. The first step to take to transition out of the habit of constantly beating ourselves up is to practice forgiveness.
Definitely an easier-said-than-done task, forgiving yourself is not about acquiescing to the actions you have taken in the past, it is about actively accepting that you too can make mistakes.
In late 2009 I attended a life changing event called the Landmark Forum. You may have heard negative feedback about the course or that Lululemon ‘forces’ its employees to attend from a widely read Time Magazine article, but the truth is that this course was one of the best things I ever did for myself. I had been introduced to the Landmark Forum while working at the mecca of yoga pants during University years earlier – one of the best jobs I ever had by the way! When I signed up for the course it was on my own dime and my own time as I was personal training full-time and trying to keep my head above water with my emotions and responsibilities and was failing miserably.
One of the best visuals I learned at the Landmark Forum was demonstrated by the instructor as he paraded around the stage grabbing a chair, a kleenex box, a water bottle, a scarf and pretty much anything else he could get his hands on. He related this to our lives, how we move from relationship to relationship, job to job, month to month and we pile all the ‘stuff’ that happens in our lives on our own backs. We rarely pause to think about how hard we are on ourselves for all the mistakes we have made but we carry them around daily!
While the Landmark Forum was one of the biggest steps I took to make peace with my past, it was of course up to me to take on what I learned. My boyfriend at the time (now husband) and I went to a bridge and threw rocks off the bridge for every past disagreement we were going to move beyond (if it sounds crazy, don’t worry, he thought I was nuts at first but it was amazingly therapeutic for both of us).
A photo of us circa 2008, a couple years before the throwing rocks off the bridge idea!
I practiced forgiveness with myself for being so damn hard on myself all the time for everything, school, relationships, money, friends, family, my body composition..
The catalyst for me to start creating a future that was bright and open was to start with forgiveness. A funny thing happened too – as soon as I began to forgive myself, I could more easily forgive other people in my life. It was a feed-forward cycle. Forgive myself, see others as worthy of my forgiveness, forgive them, be kinder and more understanding with myself.
We can get stuck on the idea of forgiveness though, can’t we? It can seem like if we forgive ourselves, it means that we are being too soft, too easy on ourselves and we will probably make those same mistakes again, right? No, nope, not at all. In fact, forgiveness is the only way for us to move forward.
Beyond grateful for having you with me on this journey,