What can’t you do? When you look back over your life what is it that keeps you from making decisions or moving forward, or keeps you from simply running your life more effectively with less angst and drama?
Most of us have something, what we most struggle doing, our own Achilles heel that emotionally derails us and gets ourselves in our own way. Here are the 5 most common ones:
Fear of confrontation
You really would like a small wedding, but you know your parents have big plans and you don’t want to face the blow-back and guilt. Or you really don’t like how much time your girlfriend spends on Facebook, but you try and “let it go,” say to yourself she needs her down time, but basically you don’t want to start a fight. Or resent the fact that your sister is always asking about your babysitting her kids, but never offers to watch yours; you try and brush it off as “that’s the way she is.”
Consequences: You hold onto your feelings until you periodically blow-up or act-out, feel like a martyr, or you become depressed. Others don’t really know and understand you and what you need. The biggest of all is problems are never addressed and put to rest.
You have a big project due at work, but you can’t think straight because you feel so overwhelmed with worry. Or you quickly flare up at your roommate when she complains about your dishes being left on the counter, or snap at your boyfriend because he changes his mind about going out on Saturday night.
Consequences: The anxiety can paralyze you, keeping you from doing what you actually need to do to reduce the anxiety, that is, move forward and solve the problem; it also colors what you do making everything feel like a priority. The anger can make others feel resentful and cause them to walk on eggshells or eventually walk out; they can see you as entitled and demanding, and dismiss your concerns as you and your moods.
Consequences: You tend to blame yourself for problems rather than seeing the role of others. You are prone to tolerating abuse from others. Because you need to do everything right, every decision is a big deal, requiring lots of cautious steps, double-thinking, and emotional energy.
Can’t let go of the past
Your mind is constantly drawn back to past hurts or past regrets, guilt, which keep you from focusing on the present and future.
Consequences: The hurts and regrets stay alive as painful emotions. They also temper the present and future: Rather than learning from history, you are constantly wary of repeating it, making you cautious and afraid, or hyper-alert and on edge.
Being reactive is the opposite of being proactive. You wait or act only in response to others.
Consequences: You are passive, often anxious. Basically, you are not in charge of your life, but instead constantly adjusting or giving into what is happening around you. Because you lack a strong center, others don’t really know you, there is a lack of intimacy in your relationships. You accept what you get or don’t, but your life lacks a clear forward path.
Obviously, these obstacles can overlap with each other and many of us have primary and secondary ones. What they all have in common is that they undermine your ability to run your life effectively, keep you from getting what you need most, keep you from successfully solving problems. The way out?
Identify your own stuckpoints
As you look back on your life and relationships, see what emotionally seems to always get in the way, what keeps you from being clearer, more honest, more proactive; what interferes from making your relationships the way you would like them to be. This is what you most want to work on. This is the fulcrum of change that will make your life better.
Approach your anxiety
You essentially want to practice taking baby-steps towards doing what you find difficult. If you fear confrontation and struggle tolerating the strong reactions of others, plan experiments in doing exactly that — speak up even if it takes you a couple of days to summon your courage to let your parents know about what you really want or how much the Facebook time bothers you. This is not about wedding and Facebook but about courage and building your courage by facing what frightens you.
Regulate your emotions
If you are emotionally driven by anxiety or anger, you need to recognize when your emotional mind in taking over, have ways of calming those emotions down and then getting your rational brain back online to sort through the problem. If you need help doing this, get support and skills from a therapist or safe friend.
Experiment with making mistakes
If you are self-critical, realize it is the self-criticism and not the need to do-everything-right that is the way out. Here you will need to either push back against those voices or do your best to ignore them as move forward in spite of. Also step back and counter the self-blame by rationally looking at the behavior of others and their role in the problem.
Get closure, move forward
If haunted by the past, it’s time to put it to rest — reach out to the person that hurt you and finally get off your chest what has bothered you for so long. Tell yourself over and over that you did the best you could at the time, and you can learn from your mistakes rather than continue to punish yourself. Finally, focus on the present and future as much as possible, and actively resist that urge to fall back into the past.
Step up and out
If you are reactive, the first step is actually stepping backing and deciding what you want. This is your life to create and live. Be the driver not just the passenger. Allow yourself to dream big dreams. Then step up and out, doing what is important to you. Focus on you, rather than others, focus on initiating rather than waiting.
Easier said than done? Absolutely. But by thinking about the one or two things you struggle doing most and by focusing entirely of these, rather than getting lost in the 100 tons of content of the immediate circumstances, you are creating a path toward self-empowerment.
This is your unique challenge, your quest towards creating a satisfying life that…is yours.