Last winter was full of storms. In the months of January and February, it was rare for me to work a full week, in my teaching job, due to the ice storms. We always kept our pantry stocked, because we never knew when we would be snowed in. It was so cold that we closed off the main floor of our house and lived in the basement, so that we would save money on heating.
The storms of that winter were a perfect metaphor for the events happening in my life. After 10 years of predictability, stability, and perceived security, life as I knew it was unraveling. I found myself job hunting and talking to my mortgage company about signing over the deed to our house. It was a time of tremendous fear, and tremendous self-doubt.
I did not weather this storm as well as I could. My constant negative dialogue caused me to become overwhelmed by life rather easily. Fortunately, I had a terrific external support system, and it was the kind words and encouragement from my friends that carried me through. With their help, I was able to find the courage to leave my old life behind, and start over, 1,200 miles away and closer to my dreams than ever.
One would have expected it to be “happily ever after,” but it was not. I was barely able to handle the many challenges that come with moving to a new place, and, again I found that I was overwhelmed all too easily. I continued to call upon my friends for help, but I found that their praise and encouragement quickly lost its effect.
I was quickly becoming very needy, as I sought out more reassurance, when I felt like I was in over my head. I sought it out, but it wasn’t filling my need.
And it never would. Because external supports alone will not build resilience. †The strength and assurance I needed, had to come from within.
And thus began my journey, to rewrite my internal dialogue, and to build my resilience. Because encouragement only works, when it allows us to tap into our internal resources. And my internal resources were non-existent.
It was a lot of work, with a great deal of backsliding, but in the end I was successful. I was able to build enough strength, and change my thoughts, so that I am more prepared to weather life’s storms.
I went from beating up on myself constantly, to viewing myself (and, in turn those around me) with compassion and understanding. And if I can do it, so can you.
Here are some tips, for building up your own inner resources:
- Take care of yourself physically. Not feeling your best will make it much easier for life to overwhelm you. Eat healthy foods, exercise, and make sure you are getting enough sleep.
- Give yourself some quiet, solitary time each morning. Spend this time doing whatever it takes to renew yourself spiritually. If you don’t pray, then watch the sun rise, do some yoga, or just take a quiet walk.
- Forgive yourself. Hanging on to anger toward yourself or others uses up your resources and sets you up to become overwhelmed. Understand that dwelling on past mistakes actually makes you more likely to repeat them. Examine why you did what you did at the time, and understand that you did the best you could with the resources and understanding that you had.
- Question negative assumptions. Any thought or assumption that doesn’t feel right should be questioned. Ask yourself why you believe that – is it helping you or hurting you? What misunderstanding could it be based on?
- De-personalize every interaction. People’s words and actions are almost never personal. They are manifestations of misunderstandings and fears that the other people have. Just understanding this, can help you to be less afraid, less defensive, and more understanding.
- Practice asking questions. In your daily conversations, be curious about others. Practice gently asking for clarification. Then, when someone says something that makes you feel defensive, asking them to clarify will be a habit for you. In clarifying, the other person will be more likely to see their misunderstandings, and you will be able to de-personalize the situation.
In building up my internal resources, I found that I became calmer, happier, and much less needy. My relationships with those closest to me improved, as I was no longer using my friendships to seek validation and approval.
In spending a little time on myself, I found that I was able to give back much more.