Everyone has a story. Everyone has had difficulties, heartache and loss. Everyone has suffered.
Certainly, some people suffer more than others. Their roads seem fraught with more pain and hardship than anyone should have to bear.
And for many of us, when we see others struggling so much, it can feel like a reason to dismiss our own troubles.
Over the years, one of the most frequent statements I’ve heard from people who are dealing with challenges is, “I shouldn’t even complain. There are so many others who are worse off than I am.” Instead of acknowledging their feelings, they tend to minimise and internalise them.
Have you ever felt like that?
If so, you’ve probably figured out that it only makes things worse. Maybe you’re even feeling like that right now.
When you hold onto emotional pain and try to ignore it, you end up prolonging your misery. On top of that, it can cause significant physical illness, too.
I know how it feels to want to do that, though. I know how unpleasant it can be to face what hurts.
And I know what it’s like to think you have no right to your feelings.
I also know that ignoring your pain isn’t the same as releasing it. I don’t know how often I used to say, “Oh, I’ve dealt with that and it’s behind me now” — and I believed that was the truth.
In reality, I was actually shoving away all thoughts of “it” (whatever “it” was at the time) and telling myself it didn’t matter anymore. And inevitably, there were those moments when something triggered all of it to erupt. It was the proverbial straw on that poor old camel’s back…and it was never a good thing.
I’ve known plenty of others — both personally and professionally — who have said those same words. If you’ve said them, too, you’re in good company.
How do you get past it?
The only way to do truly release your pain is to be willing to accept and embrace it. Until you’re ready to do that, you can’t begin to heal.
I’m not condoning wallowing in self-pity either, playing the victim forever, and choosing to stay stuck, blaming other people or “bad luck” (or anything else) for your ongoing miseries. If you’re not doing something to actively create a better life for yourself, you’re choosing to continue suffering.
That’s your choice, but it’s certainly not going to bring you any joy.
What I am saying is that you’ve got to allow yourself to acknowledge the pain in your life so you can then begin to move forward. Otherwise, if you ignore it, it’s going to find an escape route at some point. More often than not, those events are not pretty. And the cost can be quite high.
Those events would certainly not be helpful to your own healing journey and they might actually damage relationships, too.
Once you’re ready to acknowledge your feelings, you can begin taking steps toward healing.
Below are three important steps that will help you to begin building a bridge between dismissing or minimising your pain, and being able to move forward again.
1. Honour your pain
If Life is beating you up and it’s getting you down, you have every right to be upset. When you’re directly impacted by stresses and challenges or when your whole life has blown up in your face, it doesn’t matter who might have had “more” troubles or “a worse life” or “a more abused childhood” or “tragic background” than you.
What matters is that you hurt, too.
In that moment, you’re the one who is suffering. Don’t discount it and say you have no right to complain or to feel bad. Don’t diminish your own pain and tell yourself it’s not as important as the pain that others have experienced. It’s not a competition.
What’s most important is finding a way to handle your pain and troubles, finding acceptance, peace, problem-resolution — whatever needs to happen in order for you to continue moving forward in your life without letting the bumpy bits slow you down.
2. Honour your strengths
A plummeting self-esteem is one of the first demons that can rear its ugly head when we’re in the midst of personal challenges or crises. Especially when we’re not coping quite as well as we’d like — or as we’ve done in the past — and the negative self-talk kicks in.
“Other people don’t fall apart.”
“Suzy handled her divorce so much better than I’m handling mine.”
“Why does everyone else seem to sail through their problems while I can’t seem to get a grip on my feelings?” (Answer: I can assure you, most people are like ducks…they seem to be gliding along on the water but their feet are paddling like mad below the surface)
Again, it doesn’t matter how things seem to be going for others or how they seem to be handling their problems. The only thing that matters is how you are handling yours. The more you compare yourself with others and beat yourself up, the worse you’ll feel.
Seriously. That’s not helpful. It’ll just make things worse.
One way to help keep your self-esteem at a decent level is to remember your strengths.
We’ve all got them. We’ve all got talents. We’ve all got abilities, skills, natural gifts. Do not diminish yours and treat them as though they are not as valuable as those of other people. Do not wipe out your accomplishments, your creativity, your uniqueness, just because you believe (mistakenly) that other people’s gifts are bigger, better, “more” than yours.
No one can be you. No one can give exactly what you give.
If you don’t know what your talents are, poke around and find out. Try new things, or ask good friends because sometimes we don’t see our own gifts and abilities but others do. Your friends might point out something you’re really good at that you hadn’t thought about in that way.
3. Honour your experience
Everything about you is valid. Everything about you is worthy of being acknowledged. Whether it is your pain or your triumph, your disappointment or your joy — or anything in between. It is valid and worthy because it is part of you.
There is nothing about you that needs to be compared with anyone else, for you and your own experiences are unique.
There never has been and never will be another you.
Celebrate how special you are.
This post was previously published on Liberty Forrest’s blog.
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