Last week I was working with a coach mentor of mine, and we were discussing what is holding me back from truly living an authentic life. I shared with him that living that way has been a challenge for most of my life. Experience has told me that being myself is dangerous, and I should behave the way everyone believes I should.
I have tried to let go of the past, but the past never seems to go away, and it keeps creeping up, refusing to leave you alone. We are constantly told, don’t forget your history, for if you do, you are damned to repeat it.
That past can be full of shame and discomfort. My pain comes from a life of mental illness and all the things that come with that – it has been challenging to make and sustain relationships, make devastating financial decisions, and act out in destructive ways. I experienced intense bullying growing up as a gay man; one morning in high school, I awoke to my father mowing the lawn. When I looked out the bedroom window, I saw that he was trying to remove “Jason is a fag” spray-painted on the yard and the sidewalk. An experience like that is branded into your memory. Logically I know that none of that is my fault but knowing is not enough. The oldest part of our brain, the amygdala, creates a strong emotion that overshadows what you know to be accurate and puts you into fight or flight mode. This is a natural reaction for every human – to protect ourselves. Moving beyond the past and into your future requires new skills such as reframing your perspective into one of possibility and action.
My mentor proposed a challenge to reframe my assumptions that the past will drive what happens in the future, answering the question, If I felt safe, I would… This took me a few days to muster the courage to answer that question. Once I did, I began to see how my future was full of possibilities and extraordinary growth. As a coach, I need to go deeper than I expect my clients to go – If I cannot demonstrate courage to my clients, how can I expect them to do the same.
Below are my answers to the challenge presented to me; there are several themes in the list. The biggest one my mentor says all the time, “What got you’re here will NOT get you there.”
If I felt safe, I would…
Speak into my power; the ability to help others find an easier path is my calling in life.
Be able to speak of the past without shame or pain. What got me here will not get me there.
Stop hiding in the shadows behind excuses and falsehoods
Learn from the past and grow into my future. While my past is mine, everyone has a part of their life that they wish to redo.
Lead from my heart and not my head; when I do, I am my authentic self.
Listen to what people say about me – stop dismissing their support as not truthful, condescending, or silly
Acknowledge that no one is out to get me; I am the only one in my way
Welcome help from others as something from love. I am not incompetent
Listen to my advice – I know how to help other people – I will start helping myself
FULLY LOVE MYSELF
I MUST STOP BEATING MYSELF UP
One of life’s most challenging jobs is letting go. It may feel like I’m too heavy to fly, but I’m not. The first step towards living my best life is learning how to let go. Everyone has things in their past that they wish hadn’t happened. I am constantly feeling wrong or shameful about my mistakes, and I must STOP! So, beating myself up about things from your past won’t make them any better. I am stuck in my present state (like running on a treadmill that never takes you anywhere). The only way out is through – by forgiving myself for what happened and moving forward. Letting go doesn’t mean giving up. It means taking control of my life so I can move beyond whatever situation is causing me pain. Once I let go, growth will become inevitable. Just as a tree will grow more quickly once its roots have been cut, I’ll start growing more rapidly once I stop being weighed down by mental baggage from my past. While it can seem daunting at first, once I start reaching for those stars, I will see how much better life gets when I release that which holds me back from greatness.
Start small and take it day by day
While it’s easy for us to forget how far we’ve come—and that we have more enormous than we used to be—it can help us immensely if we take a day-by-day look at our lives. No matter what is going on, there is always something positive happening in our lives every day. Practice focusing on these positives. It will help keep your mind from being overwhelmed by all of life’s negative things. The more you focus on them, the worse they become; they seem to appear more often when you focus on the good things in life. With time, you can train yourself not to notice negative feelings like fear or guilt; instead, embrace positivity whenever possible. And remember: every scar has a story and a reason. It is up to us to stop living in the story and to grow into greatness.
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