Have you ever looked at your life and thought, “This is not where I thought I would be by this age?” This is something I struggle with and I often hear my clients in their 20s make that statement. There seems to be a timetable out there for all of us and if we don’t make those appointments when we think we’re supposed to, fear, regret, and even shame creep in.
Why wasn’t my life course linear? Why haven’t I gotten everything I wanted right when I think I was meant to? Why have bad things happened to me? These are the questions we begin to ask ourselves when life feels chaotic or we’re in the doldrums of depression. When I find myself there, it’s not too long before Albert Einstein enters my thoughts. He said, “The most important question a person can ask is, ‘Is this universe a friendly place?’” The core of me answers with a resounding, “Yes!” That’s when the work to keep that belief kicks in.
There is new research emerging on the aftermath of trauma. Survivors of trauma are sharing that not only did they live through and learn from their trauma, they feel they have become better than who they were before their trauma. How can this be so? In my own life, I see that any grief or loss I’ve experienced has drawn me closer to others. When I experience a friend showing up for me in support and love, I feel a deepening of gratitude and connection. When I recognize that the scope of my life experience allows me to let go of judgment and love more, I see the value in my struggles. When I witness life unfolding, without trying to get in front of it or trying to control it, I see that all the lessons are there for me. In fact, they are tailor made for who I am.
It takes time to get there. We don’t have to be grateful for all the hard stuff all the time. We can cry, be angry, or have a day (or two) under the covers. We move out of those places by leaning in and asking what these emotional messengers are here to teach us. Most of the time, we will find that even the most difficult emotions are there to teach us something about love—including and even especially being more compassionate with ourselves.
One of the most important tools I’ve learned is the power of validating my own emotions. I can give myself what I need emotionally and spiritually. If I’m having a down day, I can talk to myself and say, “That makes sense. Of course this is coming up for you.” That simple act of honoring my emotions, rather than pushing them away does something profound. I show up for myself by doing this—I become my own friend.
It’s taken most of my young life to truly understand the power of befriending myself. This concept only truly gelled for me as a result of the more difficult times I’ve weathered. When I see it that way, I am grateful things didn’t go as I planned–my life has been more interesting, richer, and more connective this way.