Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Moment I Decided to Stop Holding Myself Back

The Moment I Decided to Stop Holding Myself Back

A few years ago, I had fallen to my rock-bottom in life. It was definitely the darkest period I’ve ever been through. For a while I thought that the spiral wouldn’t end – I went through a string of bad breakups, I was getting nowhere with my career, I still hadn’t finished my book (out of fear that it would bring me ridicule or judgement to admit to my vocation in life), and it felt like I was becoming more and more disillusioned with everything. I had a major falling out with my parents who were struggling to accept the fact that I’m gay, of which I was still very ashamed and self-hating even though I had been out for a long time. I felt like all of the safety nets I had relied on for my whole life were disappearing, and that I had very little to rely on anymore. It was definitely one of the make-or-break moments in my life.

I remember that sense of hopelessness clearly. I turned to alcohol, one of my vices when I need to numb my feelings, and it became a habit that made me feel even worse about myself. Some of those nights are still very clear to me, just feeling that sense of overwhelming dread that I had based my entire life on very weak foundations and that there was nowhere to go but down. I would obsess over why so many people abandoned me in life, and why so many of my relationships failed, thinking that it must be my fault and that it was a reflection that there was something wrong with me. I was being very self-destructive in how I handled other people, pushing them away because I felt like I was toxic to be around. I started to internalise a lot of blame, even excessively, for everything that was going wrong.

But why had I really fallen into such a dark place? What were the factors that led me to get there? And was there any hope for me to get through it?

I only started to see the patterns once I went back to journaling and when I found good friends that I could talk to. One of my dear friends helped me to laugh and have fun, and to see that life can still be adventurous, silly and light. I could also tell him about all of the pain that I was going through, and he really listened to me. This made it feel like the burden was not all mine. I realised that the sense of community and connection with others was essential for me to function at my best. Asking for help and relying on others for support are some of the necessary steps in getting better, and I highly recommend it if you are even going through a similar period in your life. If I ever have such a dark time again, I will definitely ask for help a lot sooner.

Through the support of others and my own self-reflection, I realised that what was actually holding me back was that I was afraid of being authentically myself and letting other people see me as I really am. In relationships, in the work I do, in honouring my talents and respecting my own body and emotions. I was afraid that if I were truly honest about who I am and living the life that I wanted to live, doing the things that I wanted to do, it would lead to me being unlovable. How could people possibly accept the full extent of my weirdness, my (perceived) ugliness, my weakness or the fact that I had no clue about what I was doing in life? I was afraid of being vulnerable around other people because I thought that they would judge me as harshly as I judge myself.

I had to go back and write six more chapters for my book (because everything I write is usually a lesson to myself, and I hardly ever learn these lessons fully anyway). I wrote chapters on “Failure, Disappointment and Regret”, “Vulnerability”, “Worthiness”, “Forgiveness”, “Gratitude”, and “Habits”, which were all invaluable lessons for me as I went through the research and reflection process for each chapter, and also produced some of my most personal chapters when I tend to be very conceptual and abstract in a lot of my writing.

I learned that I could fail and still keep going and that failure did not make me worthless; that only through making myself vulnerable to criticism, meanness and judgement can I ever do anything worth doing; that I am worthy of love and good things in life; that I needed to forgive my parents and the people who I had ended friendships or relationships with, and ask for forgiveness as well; that I needed to be grateful for the good things in my life; and that there were essential habits I needed to foster and maintain in order to be joyful and whole.

I also started to identify even more with the title of my book; there was joy to be found in all of these imperfections and in the fact that I still was and always would be incomplete, because it gave me the opportunity to be courageous and to fight for who I am and what I want. Being incomplete gave me the chance to reach towards growth and betterment, and to fully participate in being my best self.

I started to turn my life around with these realisations. I began doing yoga regularly, which brought me peace and also made my body feel strong and capable. I engaged with good, kind people on twitter and spiritual blogs. I forced myself to finish and release my book, because it is a symbol of who I am and the life I want, and also what I want to offer to the world, even though it is imperfect (just like me). And I decided to only go after the life I want rather than the life that I thought I should have. I didn’t want a lot of money, but I wanted authenticity in my work. I didn’t want a whirlwind romance, but I wanted stability, love and mutual respect and support. I didn’t want a perfect body, but I wanted to feel at home in my own skin.

I also decided to compile a list of the things I wanted in a partner, and I made it quite clear and specific. I reflected on this list often and used it as a guiding light, respecting myself enough not to settle for anything less or to waste my time on people who made me feel worthless. I made a separate list about things I wanted in my career, and realised that I wasn't that interested in prestige or status, but all I truly wanted was to write, teach, create, share and learn (all of which I am now doing). I started to be more assertive and set better boundaries in all aspects of my life (I’m still working on this). And these lists helped me to make better choices; whenever I recognised something that was in alignment with my authentic goals, I would move towards that and away from anything that was holding me back.

A few months later I met my partner Malan, the most loving, gentle, genuine man I have ever met, and we have been together for over two years now.

I am still in the healing process, and I believe the healing process from the pain we suffered in the past is lifelong. But with good, authentic things and people in my life, who really reflect the person that I am, and doing work that is authentically what I want to offer, I feel like I am moving in the right direction.

What became apparent to me was that fear was holding me back in my life, and I was actively practicing and manifesting the symptoms of that fear every day by denying myself. I was dating people who were clearly wrong for me, or sabotaging relationships that might have been good. I was expending my energy on things that would lead to goals I didn't even want to achieve.

Since then, life has mostly been a constant, joyous surprise, and the thorny days are not as tough to handle as they once were now that I've built a stronger foundation. I often find myself thinking, wow, how did this happen? How am I so lucky? The truth is that our circumstances usually reflect our intentions in life. And now that my intentions are to only work towards the things that really matter to me, and to honour my own truth in everything I do, I’m astounded by where my life is going. I still have failure, disappointment and even some regret, but now I’m able to notice the good things more and see the bad things as part of a process.

Get The Joy of Being Incomplete by Grant Andrews.