Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
How small daily efforts reap great rewards and free us from the places we get stuck
I’ve always been someone who feels very deeply. A few years ago, I would have rephrased that statement with, “I’m someone who feels too deeply.” Most of my life I’ve tried to feel less in order to fit in with others who seemed to have it all together, even when their world was falling apart. Why must I be so affected by everything? I’d ask myself. Why can’t I close myself off from the depth of my emotions?
I used to think intricately and meticulously about everything. I’d overanalyze and project onto others. I’d often mistake a person’s silence as anger or resentment, and if I didn’t check all my boxes for what I deemed as ‘perfection’, I’d judge and ridicule myself. I guess you could say I was both a hypersensitive person and a perfectionist. Sometimes these traits worked to my advantage. Others, they were my Achilles heel.
I remember one instance years ago after leaving a meeting with my boss where I was convinced that she was upset with me.
She wasn’t as friendly or talkative as she usually was. I could swear when she looked at me, she seemed aggravated. And when I brought up a project I was working on, she didn’t have any comments on my progress. I left her office with a flood of thoughts that analyzed the previous weeks to locate where I could have slipped up. What did I do or say that caused her sudden dislike of me? Was my work performance not as good as it usually was? Why wasn’t she excited to discuss my new project?
I had to send her an email later that week and when I received no reply, even though the email didn’t require a response, I descended into the deep end of self-analysis. I talked it over with a co-worker, carefully detailing every unspoken word or gesture that could have indicated our boss’ disapproval of me during our meeting. After spending far too much time describing empty nuances, my co-worker politely said, “Do you always question yourself this much? I doubt her behavior has anything to do with you and everything to do with her own busy schedule. You need to trust yourself more.”
Ah, yes, trust. That tricky and elusive relationship I always felt was out of arm’s reach.
Self-trust was foreign territory for me…if you couldn’t already tell. The worst part was feeling like I was the only person who had these types of thoughts. Going through something challenging is difficult but feeling alone in the experience is even harder.
The following week after my meeting I learned that my boss was dealing with personal issues at home which was why she was distracted. Her behavior had nothing to do with me, as my co-worker alluded to. The most uncomfortable epiphany from this experience was realizing how long I’d been walking through life as though the world revolved around me. Looking back now, I can laugh, but when going through it, I began to question my sanity if something as minor as a difference in behavior caused an internal breakdown.
The beauty of landing on the other side of your fears and insecurities is that you can learn to eventually love them. But there’s another nugget of wisdom for self here. This speculating on the source of another’s discomfort consumed a great deal of energy. Suppose my boss had been upset with me and my intuition had been correct. I really had two choices: address it head on or ignore it because it was out of my control. Those options were always there for me to choose from, I just couldn’t see them because I was focusing on my faults.
There have been countless times in my life where I told family and friends to embrace their presumed ‘flaws’. Why can’t we find beauty in our imperfections? Why don’t we harness the power of our shortcomings and use them as a catalyst for growth and enhancement?
I always say that our power is in our perspective.
So, if you’re moving through life believing that your weaknesses and bad habits define you and hold you back, they will, in fact, do just that. Not only because you’re allowing them to, but because you believe they hold that type of power over you. And sometimes, you just don’t trust yourself enough to overcome inner obstacles.
Most of us think that we simply are the way we are. We believe there are qualities about ourselves that we just can’t change despite the number of self-help books we acquire, the self-development workshops we attend, or the number of times we meditate, journal and exercise our insecurities away. To most people, there’s an innate core structure to our beings and regardless of how hard we try to alter our DNA, we’ll forever remain true to the root of our genes.
This used to be my thought process. Even when I spent countless amounts of money on improving my overall health, personality and well-being, there was this underlying conviction that told me my efforts would eventually dissipate and I’d be back at square one — still wishing I was stronger, more confident, and less affected by life.
The truth is you can change in any moment.
In any moment that you choose to think about yourself, your circumstances, your relationships, and life differently, you’re sparking the fires of transformation. Sometimes it’s easy to ignite those flames, but it’s difficult to keep them burning. Saying you’ll do something and then actually doing it is the starting point for improving yourself, but to create lasting change you must proactively work on yourself every day. It doesn’t have to be all day, every day. It can be short periods of time in the morning, afternoon and night. The key is sticking to it and remembering that with a little daily effort, you will see results.
A few months ago, I worked with a personality trait development program, Dharma Life Sciences. This was the first program I ever used to help me understand why I think and behave the way that I do. The mission of the program is to help people rewire their natural thought processes to heal the parts of themselves that provoke anxiety and discover new ways to become balanced. Between talking weekly with a mentor and spending fifteen minutes a day playing rewiring games on the program’s app, I noticed how my weaknesses transformed into steady inner strength.
The key to healing my hypersensitivity and perfectionism was not outside of myself. It merely took tuning into my thought processes and rewiring the thoughts that were no longer in alignment with who I wanted to be.
The first changes that took place were in moments where I’d catch myself over-analyzing a situation and then consciously change my thoughts about it. So, if a coworker didn’t say hello to me at work, I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that I did something to bother him or her. I’d look at the whole picture and realize that maybe this person was dealing with something unrelated to me and simply didn’t want to socialize.
In other cases, I didn’t beat myself up if I wasn’t able to complete every task on my To-Do list. I didn’t castigate myself if I got distracted. Instead, I chose to redirect my attention onto other things.
Many times, when I was writing, I felt the need for unadulterated silence. If my windows were open and I heard landscapers mowing lawns or neighbors blasting loud music, I got frustrated and stopped working. I couldn’t focus on anything but the clamorous sounds preventing me from writing. It was a viscous cycle of pressuring myself to finish daily projects in as little time as possible, and then scolding myself for being so easily distracted.
When working on healing the hypersensitive perfectionist within me through the Dharma Life Sciences program, those noisy disturbances didn’t interfere with my ability to work. I changed my thoughts surrounding the type of person I inherently was – someone unequipped to work if not in her desired settings – and prove to myself that I’m capable of overcoming any internal obstacle if worked on the right way.
Over time, I didn’t catch myself in those triggering moments because I had naturally transformed into someone who wasn’t overthinking or projecting. It’s kind of like upgrading an old, outdated system to a higher level of programming. It didn’t happen overnight, but with small daily efforts, the programming I was living with for years slipped away and was replaced by conscious awareness.
Conscious awareness means that I choose the thoughts I want to think which in turn creates the emotions I want to feel.
What’s so powerful about this DLS approach is that it increases your ability to be consciously aware, while also implementing unconscious changes that help you become the person you desire to be. By becoming more conscious of your patterns, you unconsciously create new ways of being that support your ideal lifestyle.
I always believed that the best version of myself would arrive in my later years, so it’s been refreshing to take the driver’s seat of my life. This doesn’t mean that I won’t experience feelings of self-doubt, frustration or overthinking. I’ll always feel those emotions at some point or another, but now I know how to deal with them. I’m no longer the passenger sitting in the backseat while my flaws steer the vehicle. I’m the one leading the way, and for the first time in my life, I feel comfortable doing so.
Instead of playing the victim to a predestined personality, I’m altering the parts of myself that no longer serve who I want to be. I choose how I want to show up for my life.
How do I want to show up for my life?
With less fear, more balance and a deep-rooted trust that my thoughts and emotions are as powerful as I make them. And with that awareness, I’m already stronger, happier and more at peace.
I want you to know this is possible for you too.
You may also enjoy reading Never Here, Always There: Learning to Live in the Present Moment, by Danielle Bertoli