There's a deep dissatisfaction about where you are in life and a longing for things to be better. You see things are "greener on the other side" and you jealously see "that person's life looks so amazing." You ask yourself, “Why can’t I be like that? Why can’t I do that?”
Don't let those questions be rhetorical. If you search for answers, this arduous time is an opportunity for self-growth and reflection.
I suffer from a few chronic illnesses and honestly I am frustrated when they interfere with my personal and professional goals. Working through that frustration was a process I struggled with internally; it challenged my sense of self-reliance and accomplishment. "I can do it all! I can reject this part of me!"
Not quite. Those illnesses had other plans.
Chronic conditions are part of who I am as a person and acceptance is part of the growth and healing process. In my journey of frustration, I reflected on a few topics and questions that might be helpful to you all.
1. What is important in life?
What do you value and what matters to you in this life? What drives you and gets you motivated about your day, week, and beyond? Powerful motivators include financial security seen in a positive light, knowledge, family, truth, connections with others, and spiritual well-being.
That itchy, unsettling feeling inside? That’s incongruence when you don’t live according to your values. You wouldn’t be getting upset over something that didn’t matter.
The more aligned you are to your values and beliefs, the greater authenticity is in your life. If you can focus on what's important to you and work to align your actions and values, the richness and meaning outweighs, I’ve found, the hardships that occur.
2. What can and can’t I control?
I often explore this concept with clients and it’s amazing what our minds want to believe. You want to believe that you have a sense of control. It's normal to grasp at a sense of security. But the world isn’t safe and you don’t have control over tomorrow's events. Even with a good plan, you never know what will really happen.
Is that just accepting defeat? Absolutely not.
Defeat comes when you give up on things you do have control over. I’m reminded of a quote by Melody Beattie.
“The only person you can now or ever change is yourself. The only person that it is your business to control is yourself.”
― Melody Beattie, from Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself
You’re in control of your thoughts, feelings, and actions. You're responsible and have agency over yourself and only yourself. Once you understand this, you can see what areas you can release and focus on what’s within your command.
3. Lastly, what grounds me?
The term “being grounded” refers to being in the present moment. This process of self-soothing can occur through a connection with a constancy. Is there something in your life that anchors you in a safe way? Something that keeps you from drifting off into feelings of frustration, of historical trauma, or of overwhelming pressures?
These grounding connections come in all forms. Maybe it’s an affirmation about your identity and what brings you back to reality: "I am a wonderful, work in progress." Maybe it’s a relationship you can depend on with a friend or sibling. It could be drawing on the constancy of God.
"Faith begins when self-sufficiency ends. It starts when I realize that my best is not 'good enough'. And that’s okay. I’m not perfect. It formulates when I understand that I cannot always do what I plan to do. I do not have the capacity, skills, knowledge, or power to save others from their own hells. I cannot generate miracles and make good things happen by myself. I cry out to my Abba Father, my Heavenly Father, my Savior. I release whatever that is weighing on me and I know that I cannot give up. I will not give up. I am powerless and flawed. And that is fine, because my faith is now starting to begin."
So at the end of the difficult day, whatever you may be experiencing, consider these questions:
1. How can I zoom out and see the direction I want to take in life?
2. How can I zoom in on myself and reality test what my control capacity is like?
3. What or who can I attach to that is unchanging and gives hope I can draw on during a challenging chapter in my life?
The act of asking and sincerely seeking answers to these questions changes a complaint into a powerful exercise in reflection and self-efficacy.