Are you a person others hold on to when everything is falling apart? Do you keep peace of mind when things turn chaotic? Do you stand strong when many crumble?
If not, you probably know people like that, who don't just pretend that everything is all right but have the inner strength to weather the storm. You can be the same way, a person others can look up to, but it takes some prep work upfront. There are a few steps each one of us can take on the way to becoming whole, steady, and strong. They are not easy, but the results are worth the effort.
1. Let go of unforgiveness.
If this stops you from reading further, push through. What does this have to do with being strong and capable of withstanding difficulties? Because this is the rock that will weigh you down every time you'll try to get up. It will slow your progress like a sharp pebble in your shoe. It will chisel away at your peace of mind and drain your energy. This is something you do not want to carry along.
I want to take an extreme example of forgiveness by a woman we all heard of - Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped as a child and is now an advocate for others. “Forgiveness is something you do for yourself," she said. "If I hold on to my anger, it takes away a part of my soul. Forgiveness is giving up the hope for a better past.” And I would add - you do it in order to build a better future for yourself.
Forgiveness is not simple. It takes time and deliberate attention. If the cut was deep enough, it won't go away on its own. Wound care is needed to prevent infection and sometimes scars are left, but healing is possible. I don't want to simplify this into a few steps, but here is something to start with:
Don't try to hide the offense - bring it out into the open and acknowledge how it makes you feel.
Discuss it with someone who won't commiserate but can give you a fresh perspective and help you work out a plan (for example, how to remove yourself from the situation).
Take steps to either repair the relationship or let go (one method is to have someone be a proxy for the offender who is not willing to mend things, listen to you and ask for your forgiveness).
The bottom line is that unforgiveness fractures our souls. It chips away until there is not much left. If you want to be whole and have inner peace, it's something worth working through.
2. Break up with fears.
The other day, my son came to tell me of all the different phobias he discovered by doing research online. There is even a phobophobia - a fear of having fear. An interesting thing is that we are all born fearless. Well, technically we get startled by loud noises and sudden falls as infants, which makes sense. But somehow, we acquire various other fears throughout our lives, some of which even lead to mental health conditions.
Phobias are one of the most common disorders in the U.S., and it increased over the last year. Panic, anxiety, phobias that disrupt a normal course of life require treatment such as counseling, therapy, and lots of work on the affected person's part (please, don't just rely on pills). There are also other fears that don't seem as debilitating, and so we ignore them and work them into our daily existence.
But what would it mean to be truly fearless? Is it even possible? To a degree. Fear is actually a natural response to danger that makes us act in self-preservation. It should only come when the situation arises, help us to respond quickly, then leave us alone. That is not what happens though. Often it lingers and keeps us captive.
How to prevent fears from building a residence in our hearts and minds or get rid of the ones that did? Again, it's a process, and here are some first steps:
Make a list of fears that keep you from doing something (speaking in public, being more outgoing, owning a dog, climbing mountains, etc.). Then identify how this fear started.
Try to figure out why you're having this fear, dig a little deeper to discover an inner script - what you think will happen (for example: "you'll fail", "you'll be humiliated", "you'll get hurt", etc.).
After finding the root, also list your reasons for why you wouldn't want to face this fear.
Put yourself in situations that would make you experience this fear to a lesser degree. Set yourself up for success to accumulate positive experiences around what you're afraid of.
British adventurer, Bear Grylls said: "Being brave isn't the absence of fear. Being brave is having that fear but finding a way through it." You can find your way to wholeness.
3. Uncover limiting believes.
Sometimes we just don't know what we are capable of until we're put in a hard situation. And sometimes we don't know what's holding us back until we face the false belief that makes us slide down the mountain time and again.
Faith is powerful. If you believe that God of the Universe has your back, that you are capable of achieving impossible things, that you can overcome any obstacle, that you are important, etc. - it will put wind in your sails. But if you think the opposite, whether consciously or not, it will sabotage your efforts from the start.
There is a famous quote by Henry Ford: "Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right." I would dare to say that at times belief surpasses reality - it brings forth what we do not yet see and creates our reality. This can of course be taken to an extreme, claiming things that we haven't worked for. I am not talking about that, but about seeing what you could become. If you're a Christian, it's about looking at yourself with God's eyes - what you are meant to be even if it hasn't yet come to pass.
What do you believe about yourself, your future, your life? Is it good, positive, hopeful? Or is it full of worry and dread? Write down your false beliefs and replace them with the truth. You might have to do some digging or asking the people you trust to uncover these things. Some things we believe about ourselves are so ingraned that it might seem like the truth. Here is a helpful article to get you started.
Call it optimism or resilience, but people who have a brighter outlook about themselves, their future, and their possibilities, are happier, more successful, and bounce back easier from the setback. It's not about ignoring the bad stuff but about not letting the negativity around us affect us. There is something powerful about people who can see things in a positive light.
4. Hold on to a deeper meaning.
People who know their "why" are able to persevere when things don't go their way, when there are obstacles, even when everything is falling apart. Once you can see yourself clearly, knowing your calling and purpose is the next step. Even if it takes you longer than others to get to your goal, you'll keep moving forward.
Jesus Christ was able to go through the horrid beating and execution by hanging on the cross because He knew the "why." And now He can tell every believer: "I am your Rock and your strength." When you overcome, you set a way for others to do the same.
There is tremendous empowerment in standing for something bigger than yourself. It doesn't have to be as huge as saving the world, but people who know the reasons behind what they do, keep going even when things get tough.
Knowing your "why" makes your "what" more powerful (watch a quick video here). Your life becomes more focused and more impactful. Everything that distracts starts to fall away. You become the person others look up to because you are centered, balanced, steady.
Take some time today to write down the most important reasons for doing what you do. Here is a good article on how to do it.
5. Dig in and grow the roots.
There are a lot of superficial things in this world, and plenty of people who are looking for instant gratifications. They are like tumbleweeds, tossed in different directions by a new gust of wind. When trouble comes, they are blown away.
But people who grow roots are like mighty oaks. They stand firm during the storm. They feed off underground springs during dry seasons. And others take shelter in them.
How do you become that grounded person who is emotionally and mentally steady, confident, calm? I think this comes with age and maturity as we realize that not everything is under our control. But it also comes from spending time digging a little deeper.
What do I mean by that? Taking care of things. Being alone and thinking through some stuff. Letting yourself take a breather and re-focus. There is a lot of information that bombards us daily and throws us off, perpetuating chaos and worry. It's important to find a place of peace and quiet, to nurture yourself with positive things and supportive people. Find your source of renewal and inner strength. Then you'll come out fresh and ready to tackle any problem.
A small note to people who think they are already strong or who are often the ones to shoulder the burdens of others - know when to ask for help. Don't try to carry on if something is cracking on the inside. Repair the damage before continuing to forge ahead. If you break, who'll be there to pick up the pieces? Take care of yourself first.
During this time of uncertainty, we need more people who are solid and stable. Once you can stand tall, you'll be able to lift others around you, and then we'll have a better world.