Posted on Leave a comment

We Keep Going, One Tiny Step at a Time, and We Should Be Proud

“Don’t wait until you reach your goal to be proud of yourself. Be proud of every step you take.” ~Karen Salmansohn

One of the greatest ironies of being human is that we’re often hardest on ourselves right when we should be most proud.

Let’s say you finally find the courage to start a dream project you’ve fantasized about for as long as you can remember. You push through years of built-up fears, overcome massive internal resistance, and take the leap despite feeling like you’re jumping through a ring of fire, above a pit filled with burning acid.

It’s one of the most terrifying things you’ve ever done. It dredges up all your deepest insecurities, triggers feelings you’d rather stuff down and ignore, and brings you face to face with the most fragile, vulnerable parts of yourself.

The fact that you’re even willing to take this risk is huge. Monumental, really. Just getting on this long, winding path is an accomplishment worth acknowledging and celebrating. Most people avoid it. They do what they’ve always done and remain stuck in discontent, wishing they could know a life less limited.

But you? You’re trying. You’re taking a chance at being who you could be, knowing full well there are no guarantees. You’re a f*cking rockstar. A total badass for giving this a go. But you likely don’t see it that way.

You likely think you’re not doing enough, or doing it fast enough, or doing it well enough for it to count. You might get down on yourself for not learning more quickly, or having a perfectly honed vision and plan from the start.

Instead of giving yourself credit for every inch you move forward, you might beat yourself up for not leaping a mile.

Or maybe you’re not pursuing a dream for the future. Maybe you’re facing a pain from the past.

Let’s say you’re finally leaning into your anxiety or depression instead of numbing your feelings with booze, food, or any other distraction. Perhaps you’re in therapy, even, trying to get to the root of your complex feelings and heal wounds that have festered, untended, for years.

It’s intense, draining work that few can understand because there’s no visible representation of just how deep your pain goes. No way to fully explain how tough it is to face it. No way to show how hard you’re trying, every day, to fight a darkness that seems determined to consume you. So on top of being emotionally exhausted, you quite frequently feel alone.

Just acknowledging the pain beneath the mental and emotional symptoms is an act of immense bravery. And allowing yourself to face it, however and whenever you can—well let’s just say they should give out medals for this kind of thing. You’re a f*cking hero. A total badass for doing the work to save yourself. But you probably don’t see it that way.

You might think you aren’t making progress fast enough. Or you’re weak for having these struggles to begin with. Or you suck at life because sometimes you fall back into old patterns, even though on many other occasions, you don’t.

Instead of giving yourself credit for every small win, you might beat yourself up for being a failure. As if nothing you do is good enough, and you’ll never be good enough, because you’re not perfect right now.

Because if it’s not all happening right now—the healing, the growth, the progress—it’s easy to fear it never will. And it will be all your fault.

If it seems like I’m speaking from personal experience, that’s because I am.

I followed a decade of depression and bulimia with years of self-flagellation for not healing overnight and magically morphing into someone less fragile.

I responded to childhood trauma by abusing myself for acting insecure and emotionally unstable, even when I was actively trying to learn better ways to live and cope.

And I crucified myself for every cigarette and shot when I was trying to quit smoking and binge drinking, even though I quite frequently went long stretches of time without doing anything self-destructive.

Through all this internal whip cracking, I consistently reinforced to myself that I was weak for not changing overnight when really I should have acknowledged I was strong for making any progress at all.

It was like I was watching myself treading water, with broken limbs, while screaming at myself to hurry up and get stronger instead of throwing myself the rope of my own self-encouragement.

In retrospect, this makes sense. This is how most of us learn growing up—not through validation but punishment. We far more often hear about what we’re doing wrong than what we’re doing right. So instead of supporting ourselves through our deepest struggles, we berate ourselves for even having them.

Though I’ve made tremendous progress with this over the years, and I’m no longer in crisis, I still find myself expecting instant perfection at times.

I’m currently pushing myself far beyond the edge of my comfort zone—so far I can’t even see it from where I’m precariously floating.

I’m writing more here on the site after years of working through an identity crisis I’ve never publicly discussed.

I’m trying to get funding for a feature film I wrote, with themes that are deeply personal to me, knowing the “low budget” is still no easy amount to raise, and I might fail spectacularly.

I’m working on multiple new projects with third party companies—something I’ve avoided in the past because I’m a control freak who doesn’t easily trust others to take the reins.

And I’m doing it all while pregnant—six and a half months to be exact—at almost forty years old. So on top of all the usual fears that accompany big risks and changes, I’m juggling your garden-variety new parent concerns, with a few geriatric-pregnancy-related worries for good measure. (Yes, geriatric. My uterus could be a grandmother!)

I’m pushing myself into a new league, far outside my little work-from-home introvert bubble, while frequently feeling both physically and emotionally exhausted. And I’m finally giving myself the leeway to evolve after years of saying I wanted to grow but refusing to let go of my comfort to enable it. Really, I should be proud.

Every time I take a meeting when I’d rather do only what I can accomplish myself, every time I send an email for a new opportunity when it would be easier to passively wait for whatever comes to me, every time I push myself to be the brave, fulfilled person I want to be for both myself and my son, I should throw myself an internal parade. A festival complete with a float in my own image and endless flutes of the best champagne. (I know, I’m pregnant, but it’s internal, remember? Keep the bubbly flowing!)

But do I do this? To be fair, yes. Sometimes I do. And I’m proud of myself for that. I’ve come a long way from the self-abusive girl who only knew to motivate with intimidation and fear.

But other times I can be pretty hard on myself. It’s like I have this vision of how this all should work, and when, and I blame myself if I can’t meet my rigid expectations on my ideal timeline.

I don’t always step back and see the big picture: That there are many external factors I can’t control, and I need to be adaptable to deal with them. That it’s hard to learn new things, and no amount of willpower or dedication can make the process instant. That some things simply take time, and this isn’t a reflection of my worth or my effort.

I get impatient. I get frustrated. I get anxious and resistant.

And really it all comes down to attachment. I resist this slow, uncertain process, and bully myself into making things happen more quickly, because I want these things so bad I can taste them, and I fear they may never happen at all.

I want the freedom these new opportunities could provide. I want the fulfillment of bringing my creative vision to life. I want the things I tell myself I should have made happen years ago, and I want them now so I can focus on the joy of attainment instead of beating myself up for having “wasted time.”

But none of this internal drama is useful or productive, and it certainly does nothing for my motivation or focus. It’s nearly impossible to create from your heart when it’s totally eclipsed by anxiety and fear.

The only way to do anything effectively is to accept where you are, let go of the outcome, and throw yourself into the process.

So going forward, when my mind tries to bully me into doing more than I reasonably can or shame me for my pace or my progress, I’m going to remind myself I’m doing better than I think. We all are. And we all deserve more credit than we likely give ourselves.

We all deserve credit for facing our demons, chasing our dreams, and showing up every day when it would be easier to hide.

We all deserve acknowledgment for every tiny step forward, no matter how slow or timid, because creating change is hard.

We all deserve recognition for the many internal hurdles we overcome, even though they’re not visibly apparent to anyone else, because often they’re harder to tackle than even the most challenging external obstacles.

And we all deserve the peace of knowing that who we are right now is enough. Even if we have room to grow, even if there are things we’d like to achieve, we are good enough just as we are. And it’s okay to be right where we are.

It’s okay to be messy, inconsistent, and not always at our best. It’s okay to feel insecure, unsure, lost, confused, and scared. It’s okay to make massive advances on some days and just get by on others.

Would it be nice if we could instantly transport ourselves to the idealized future we see in our heads? Sure. But that’s not really what it means to “live our best life”—despite what our YOLO-promoting culture would have us believe.

Living our best is embracing what is, while working to create what can be. It’s doing the best we can with what’s in front of us, and accepting that nothing else is guaranteed. Because this is the only moment we know for sure we have.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to get to the end of my life and realize I missed most of it because I always felt it needed to be more—and that I needed to be more—to fully appreciate and enjoy what I had while I had it.

So today, I’ve decided to be proud. Of my strength, my efforts, my progress, and the fact that I keep going. Whether I’m wounded, weary, or worried, I keep getting back up. I keep moving forward. I keep evolving. I am doing the best I can. So are you. And that’s something worth celebrating.

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha. She’s also the author of Tiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal and other books and co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. An avid film lover, she recently finished writing her first feature screenplay and is in pre-production now.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

The post We Keep Going, One Tiny Step at a Time, and We Should Be Proud appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

Posted on Leave a comment

What to Ask Yourself When You Feel Lost, Unsure, or Confused

“The quality of your life is a direct reflection of the quality of the questions you are asking yourself.” ~Tony Robbins

I am naturally inclined to do—to go, to move, to take action. Slowing down takes a lot of patience for me. But I often find that moving too quickly actually causes me more confusion.

One day, my head felt overwhelmed with questions. What had started with a simple idea of little ole me living in a tiny house on wheels (one of those under 200 square feet homes built on a trailer) had turned into a big undertaking of building a tiny house community.

I had just driven across the country towing a twenty-nine-foot Airstream trailer. It was my first ever purchase on eBay. I had another tiny house in the process of being built and yet another I was about to pick up.

Things were moving. But I felt like inside I was battling with a doubt that wanted me to come to a screeching halt.

The predominant question that kept pounding in my mind was: Is this going to work?

Then I just gave in, sat down, and started to write.

I wrote down this question and all of the related and unrelated questions that were circulating in the cloud of doubt in my mind.

In that moment, I discovered a personal practice that I’ve used many times since when I feel lost, doubtful, or unsure of which way to go. It helps me take intentional action toward my goals, and it’s really quite simple:

I evaluate the questions I’m asking about my work and life and change them to questions that empower me instead of stressing me out.

We all want something in common, and that is clarityWe want to move forward with integrity and purpose.

No matter if your life feels like a roller coaster or it’s running as smoothly as ever, there is one thing that never changes: You will always ask yourself questions.

I personally believe that when you are stretching yourself to grow and pursue a dream, you will have more than one question floating around your mind. They may even bombard you most of the day.

Questions aren’t inherently bad; they can help us go deeper to understand what we need to do to move forward—if, that is, we ask ourselves the right questions.

A lot of times, we ask ourselves questions that undermine our confidence in our ability to do the things we know we need to do.

Some undermining questions include:

  • Is this going to work?
  • Why can’t I figure this out?
  • What’s wrong with me?
  • Why does it seem easier for everyone else?
  • How do I get this person/these people to think/do xyz?

The problem with the above questions is that they place you in a victim or scarcity mindset instead of giving you a sense of control and empowering you to take responsibility.

You know a question is undermining if it meets the following criteria:

1. It makes you feel bad.

Although empowering questions can be challenging, they won’t make you feel like crap about yourself. An undermining question makes you find fault with yourself, others, or your situation. An empowering question prompts you to focus on patterns that are causing or contributing to your challenges, and it also helps you find a solution.

One way to convert an undermining question is to flip it to the opposite.

For example, change “What is wrong with me?” to “What is right with me?” or “What behavior can I improve?” This helps you focus on your strengths, what’s working, and how you can learn and grow.

2. You can answer it simply “yes” or “no.”

This might seem counterintuitive, because we ask ourselves questions to find clarity, and what can be clearer than “yes” or “no”? But the reason you are asking the question in the first place is because there’s more to it than that.

Often we just want a quick answer because it feels uncomfortable being in uncertainty. But there’s something more to explore, and there is greater power in a deeper answer.

Another way you can convert an undermining question to an empowering one is to change it to something that requires a thoughtful answer.

For example, like the undermining question I was asking myself about my tiny house community, change “Is this going to work?” to “How is this going to work?” By changing the question, you are presupposing that it will work—you simply need to figure out how.

3. It defers the power to someone else rather than yourself.

We all fall into potholes where we defer power, blame, and control to someone else, even those of us far down the path of personal development. When we ask questions to figure out what other people will think about us or how to get someone or a group of people to do something, we are placing our problem-solving energy outside of ourselves, where we have little leverage.

A way to convert this kind of undermining question to an empowering one is to change the focus to yourself.

For example, change “How do I get this group of people to do what I want them to do?” to “What actions do I need to take to achieve what I want to accomplish?” This allows you to lead by example, putting all of the power back in your court.

Changing your undermining questions to empowering ones can help create a lot more peace, expansion, and clarity. And when you answer those empowering questions for yourself, you may feel like you just unloaded a bag of bricks from your head.

Try this Exercise…

Here is a simple process for unloading, examining, and finding answers to your own questions:

Step 1: Unload

Grab your journal and write down every question you are asking yourself about your business, work, relationships, and life right now. Write until you cannot think of any more questions and you start repeating yourself.

Step 2: Examine

Look through your questions. Are any of them undermining? If so, convert them to empowering questions, using the tools above.

Step 3: Answer

For the questions you have remaining, take time to journal your own answer to each one. Don’t think, just write and see what comes out.

You can do this process as often as you like. I find when I do it, I feel clear for a substantial amount of time, and confident, because I know I have a process I can use whenever I feel lost.

About Danielle LaRock

Danielle LaRock’s mission is creating a space for changemakers to be themselves and take aligned action in their business, movement, or cause. As a seasoned facilitator and coach, she believes making a difference starts with who you are. She is also the founder of Tiny Haven, a tiny house community. Meet Danielle at www.daniellelarock.com and join her free changemaker community, Project Changemaker.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

The post What to Ask Yourself When You Feel Lost, Unsure, or Confused appeared first on Tiny Buddha.

Posted on Leave a comment

Overcoming Intergenerational Trauma: We Can Break the Cycle of Abuse

“Our ancestors knew that healing comes in cycles and circles. One generation carries the pain so that the next can live and heal. One cannot live without the other, each is the other’s hope, meaning and strength.” ~Gemma B. Benton

I thought I had no value, my opinion meaningless. My sense of self was decimated. Finally, I got angry and attacked.

“You can’t imagine the pain you’ve put me through!” I yelled. “You don’t even know who I am. You can’t see it. You’re refusing to take responsibility for the way you raised me! Not thinking is not an excuse! You don’t even care to try to understand what you’ve done to me!”

This was me to my retirement-age parents about a year ago. Those yelling sessions happened several times. They called the police on me once.

None of it did an ounce of good. They can’t see it.

The more I have experienced with depression, anxiety, and recovery, the more I am convinced that the events and circumstances of my past—and my parents’ past—have shaped me much more than my brain chemistry.

I’m pretty confident that the problems I’ve suffered from are derived from generations of unhealthy behavior. I believe the effects of intergenerational trauma shape us much more than we might realize.

I’m not a researcher, so I only have my own experiences to base this on; it very well could be different for someone else. But from what I’ve seen from my grandparents through my kids, this succession of trauma is difficult to break. It takes different forms, but it always rears its ugly head. In my grandparents, it was alcoholism; in my parents, physical abuse; me, emotional abuse.

I don’t consider any of us to be bad people, but we have each passed horrible things on to our children.

My mom’s dad was an alcoholic and very strict. Her mom didn’t actively do anything wrong, but she turned a blind eye to what her husband was doing. Mom won’t talk directly about it, but reading between the lines, I believe her brother abused her as well.

My dad’s dad was killed in a car accident when my dad was five. That left my dad as the man of the house, with no father figure. His mom never remarried and worked full time to support the family, meaning my dad was mostly on his own.

So then, this is how it all added up for me: Because of the abuse she suffered, my mom became a narcissist with no empathy. My dad became an absentee father who always blindly agreed with my mom. I was raised so that every good thing I did reflected well on my mother, and every mistake I made was my own fault.

It took me forty-four years to unravel all this. I’m still trying to figure out who I really am. I know I crave attention and approval from women. I’m insecure and selfish. At times, sometimes for long stretches, I distance myself from my wife and kids. But I’m working on it.

I’m also working on forgiving my parents. It’s not easy, but I know it’s necessary for me to keep progressing. They’re just flawed people, like me, after all. I’m mainly having trouble with my mom, a selfish, self-centered, and ignorant woman.

If I forgive my parents, it will be for my own peace of mind. I will know then that I did everything in my power to make peace with them. That doesn’t mean, though, I want to keep them or my extended family in my life.

Some people aren’t going to change, and we each have the right to decide whether we want that kind of person around us. I feel that most of my family is dysfunctional. It’s a really tough decision.

My mom’s favorite excuses for her behavior, which she refuses to acknowledge, are “That’s the way I was raised” and “I never thought about it.” Must’ve been glorious to live a life and raise a child without responsibility.

I know I need to do better. I need to take responsibility for creating change and break free from the intergenerational beliefs and behaviors I see as unhealthy. My family sees this as a rebuke.

To find my hope, meaning, and strength, I may have to leave my entire family behind. That’s a heavy decision, but it’s one I will probably need to make.

It will mean that I’ve learned the lessons of my parents and used them to bring power and strength to myself and my children. I can only hope that happiness and peace come along for the ride. That would be the greatest gift I could give to my kids.

I can’t sit around waiting for the negativity and condescension to go away, or for them to make an effort to understand my problems. In order for me to get better and start living my own life, I need to be the one making the rules. I need to be positive and I need to take care of myself.

In being raised as children and in raising our own children, we receive many messages. Some are helpful, some are hurtful. We need to be aware of those messages as adults, discarding the harmful ones and emphasizing the healthy ones. We need to be honest with ourselves and others, and willing to admit when we’re wrong. We need to constantly question everything.

Some of the messages I received growing up were “You’re not as good as you should be,” “Conformity is good, being different is bad,” and “You don’t matter enough,” sprinkled in with healthy doses of guilt.

My wife and I have tried to instill the opposite in our kids. Everyone matters. Your opinions and feelings are valid and important. Be yourself and follow your dreams.

None of this is easy. It takes awareness, courage, and the determination to live a better life.

Some will have bigger hills to climb. Some will look around and find the support they need has been around them all along. Others will be alone and will have to dig deep inside themselves to find the strength to live better.

No matter our situation, we all deserve the happiness that comes with living our best lives. And the secret isn’t money or success; it’s filling our lives with love. This requires us to heal any childhood wounds that prevent us from giving and receiving love.

Your present may be built on your past, but it doesn’t have to be controlled by it. In order to break the chains of intergenerational trauma, you will most certainly face some serious challenges. Here are some recommendations from my experiences that may help you.

Have courage.

If you look at your past with clear eyes, you’re likely to see a fair bit of unpleasantness. Pain, abuse, manipulation, deceit could all be there. And they could be coming from people you love.

Facing all of that will take courage and energy. It’s difficult and emotionally exhausting to look at your life objectively. You have to keep reminding yourself to see what’s really there rather than what you’ve always thought or what you want to see.

Going against the tide of several generations of family is a daunting prospect. You might alienate or offend people you love, but you are worthy of living your life your way.

Things don’t have to be the way they’ve always been. You don’t need to suffer just because your family chose to suffer in the past. But, understand this is difficult work.

Have confidence that doing this healthy work for yourself is worthwhile. Stay focused on self-care and keep your eyes on the bigger picture.

Have a support group.

A support group can be built of any mixture of people. Friends, relatives, co-workers, or even strangers. It can be formal or informal. The best support groups possess various experiences, perspectives, and personalities.

What you are doing is huge, and it’s going to be a significant help to have at least one or two people you can lean on while you do this. If you have more, great. But don’t try to do this alone; find yourself a support system before you start.

My support group is patched together from people who have read my articles and responded to them, people I know from online interest groups, and a few people from real life, too.

My group has layers, an inner circle I hear from often, a group that checks in every couple of weeks, and a group that is just more encouraging when they hear what I’m up to.

I’ve had the gift of actually growing my support group while I’m going through this. I’ve opened up to some people and found that we’ve been through similar circumstances. This can give you new ideas and solutions to your problems.

And don’t forget, a doctor, clergy member, or a therapist can be part of this group for you. You can also consider trying organized local support groups if that appeals to you.

The more love and support you can gather around yourself, the more strength and conviction you will find you have. This love and support feeds off itself. The more you give, the more you get back.

Have motivation.

Remember why you’re doing this. You’re setting out to build a better life for you and your children. The thought of overcoming this pain can be a liberating and positive force.

Being aware of what put us where we are today will not only give us the motivation but also the direction we need to create positive change for ourselves and our children.

Not all the changes we make will be successful, but if we keep going and correct our mistakes, we can still help ourselves and our kids learn healthier behaviors. We can stop perpetuating a lineage of abuse, domination, neglect, hurt, and unhealthy coping mechanisms.

There’s no finish line in overcoming intergenerational trauma. Keep being aware. Keep moving forward, and be the force that is constantly pushing toward healthy change in your family.

About Jason Large

Jason Large has been experiencing depression and anxiety for twenty-six years. He has recently made a link between his own troubles and his family’s history. He writes with the hope of helping others in similar circumstances. If you’d like, you can reach Jason on Facebook.

Get in the conversation! Click here to leave a comment on the site.

The post Overcoming Intergenerational Trauma: We Can Break the Cycle of Abuse appeared first on Tiny Buddha.