At some point in your life, you’ve probably woken up and thought, “I would rather do ANYTHING than get out of bed and go to work today.” There’s nothing wrong with feeling burnt out, anxious, or stressed, but letting these emotions build and fester can lead to problems at work and with your mental health.
Taking time off for your mental health is becoming more of a priority (as it should!), but not without some pushback and feelings of guilt. Keep reading for tips on getting past the guilt and how to spend your mental health day once you take one.
How to tell when you should take one
Are you dreading going to work? Does the idea of sitting at your desk another day make you feel heavy and overwhelmed? Does thinking about the pile of work waiting for you cause your stress and anxiety to go through the roof?
It might be time to take a mental health day.
Burnout or overworking could be contributing to these feelings of overwhelm and stress. In order to continue to be productive and not completely hate your job, it might be a good time to take a step back and take care of yourself for a day or two. Giving yourself permission to have time to recharge can help you get back to 100% and ready for your job.
What to do during one
Focus on activities that bring you joy and comfort. That could mean many different things depending on what you enjoy. For some, it could mean cleaning the house and doing yard work; for others, it could be getting a massage and baking. Think about the things you WISH you had time for during a hectic work week.
Try not to go in totally blind. Not having a plan could add stress to a day that’s meant to relax and recharge. It doesn’t need to be rigid and down to the minute, but a flexible outline with a few activities you enjoy. Having at least an idea of what you’d like to do during your mental health day ensures you partake in something that brings you joy.
What NOT to do during one
Avoid catching up on emails, housework, laundry, etc. Unless the actual act of these tasks is therapeutic for you, try to focus on other activities.
It’s tempting to use your mental health day as time to catch up on everything that collects throughout the week, but this won’t leave you feeling recharged the same way taking this time for yourself would. Again, if these kinds of activities are therapeutic for you and bring you a sense of calm, then by all means, go ahead! It’s important to plan your day to bring you calm, comfort, and relaxation.
How they benefit your overall well being
Taking a day to recharge your mental batteries can help you be more productive at work. Some findings even claim that taking a mental health day and returning at 100% is more beneficial than staying at work while struggling with your mental health. The level of productivity is higher for those who take care of their mental health and return recharged.
Learning when and how to put yourself first helps you connect with yourself on deeper levels. Self-care activities are a great way to get to know yourself, take care of yourself, and recharge your mind and body.
How to get past the guilt of taking one
For some careers, taking a day off requires more work than just staying and powering through it. Others create a mess for coworkers. To try and avoid these complications, plan ahead for when you want to take your mental health day. Get your work done early so your coworkers don’t have to pick up the slack. If you’re in education, have a couple of emergency lesson plans on file to take a little stress off when you do need to take a day for yourself.
If you don’t put yourself first, who will?
While taking a mental health day is not a replacement for a prescription or professional mental health services, taking a day for yourself can help you relax, de-stress, and prepare to return to work at 100%.
At the end of the day, it’s all up to how you feel and what you enjoy doing in order to connect with yourself. Mental health days are an important step in getting to know yourself better and allowing yourself time to recharge and take on the world when you’re ready.
To be adapted and repeated for as long and as often as needed. It’s your journey – how you take it is entirely up to you.
Day 1: Name Your Pain
Take your time with that one, and be extremely specific. Don’t worry if you have to start a few times over if you have to tear out pages and cover them with ink blotches and arrows. The main point is to have your story out, for you to have a name for what causes you anguish. “The thing that happened in high school” is too big and nebulous to move on from; “letting go of the voices of my bullies”, on the other hand, is something to work with.
Day 2: Set Your Intentions
Try to whittle it down to a single sentence, but if you need more space, that’s fine too. At this point, you’ve been living with this pain enough to be sick of it. You know that letting go of it will have a positive impact on your life. Write down what it is that you want to let go of and why, then stick it somewhere you will see it every day: Your fridge, your night table, the front cover of your journal; set it as your desktop, your screensaver, set an automatic email to come to you every morning, whatever works. Just make sure you have a regular reminder of why you’re doing this and what you are letting go of.
Day 3-5: Take Stock
There’s probably a tonne of things in your life that remind you of whatever it is you’re trying to move on from. Some of it may be obvious – here’s that knick-knack she got me, or this picture from a tournament he took me to – some of it may be less so, like how hard you work to please everyone. Reminders of a person, or an event, may come tumbling in front of you like dusty candy in a coat pocket for weeks to come – what’s important now is to figure out where the bulk of it is. Think of it as a scavenger hunt, and make a list of all the reminders in your life – take a few days to comb through your house, your car, and finally, your habits, and locate those dusty candies so that you’re ready for the next step.
Day 6: Enlist Help
Find your meanest friend – the one who liked him the least, or the one who told you she did not deserve you – and tell them what you’re doing. Be specific – use your script from day 2 if you have to. “I’m on a mission to reclaim my (head)space so that I can finally direct my energies onto healing. Will you help?” You don’t have to scream it from the rooftops or round up your whole coterie – at this stage, you need only one or two people. What is important is this: They need to love you, and they need to be merciless.
Day 7-8: Purge Your Physical Space
If there was ever a perfect excuse to do the full Marie Kondo, this is it. Have your mean friends on hand, put on some appropriate music (fun fact: according to Bruce Dickinson’s biography, Iron Maiden never released a proper love song) and then let the recycling extravaganza begin. If you can’t bring yourself to throw physical mementos away, stick them in a box for your friends to store (where you have no access), or put it in a donations bin. Don’t let yourself ruminate – the only questions you need to ask are: “Can this be used by another human being?” And, occasionally, “Would I need this in the future?” (Think Legal documents and professional qualifications.) Your friends will help give you a reality check – you don’t need to throw away a teddy bear if someone else can use it, but you equally don’t need to shred your Masters Degree if it reminds you of your controlling relative.
Day 9: The Dust Bunnies Will Run For Their Lives
Fact: tidying up makes a mess. Take this time to clean up your home, launder your clothes, scrub the toilet, banish the old spices from your cupboards, the works. Can you do that the previous two days? Sure. But I would advise against it. Firstly, your friends came to banish the ghosts from your head, not the grease stains from the kitchen, which is arguably not as fun. Secondly, being alone in a newly tidied house can make you antsy. No better way to get rid of that extra energy than to dust every nook and cranny of your home, and sending the dust bunnies running.
Day 10: Make Two Lists
Grab a piece of paper. On one side, write down a list of “Things that drove you up the wall about (the thing you want to move on from)”. On the other, write a bunch of thoughts, people, and activities that you liked, and that the person you’re healing after would absolutely DESPISE. Pick three things from the second list and research the ones nearest to you. What are they about? How much effort would they require? How much do they cost?
Day 11: Make A Plan
Pick one of the three things you researched the previous day and make a plan to do it within the week. Commit to it – pick up the phone, put down the card detail, ask your mean friend to take you there under pain of social media roasting. Be mindful of your budget, of course, as well as how much energy you can spare after work and helping your loved ones. But also, you need new passions in your life. If you feel hesitant, remember the first list you made yesterday, and remember that this is something purely for you.
Day 12-14: Adulting Stuff
Chances are if your mind and soul is hurting, your body wasn’t doing too great either. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating food that you find delicious? Have you got the bills and budget down pat, so that you don’t have to scramble to pay anything at the end of the month? Run through those things while you’re still on a high from doing the thing the person who hurt you would hate so that you can tick off all you procrastinate over. Dentist checks? Doctor checks? Nobody loves them, but get them done as much as possible now so that you can have 12 months of not having to worry about it.
Day 15: Forecast Of An Emotional Storm
It’s been two weeks since the challenge started, and you’ve accomplished so much! You wanna pat yourself on the back, except… your dentist found a cavity, or you pap smear was due, and even though everything went off without a hitch and you are fine now, you’re probably feeling a little bit raw. You can’t find your favorite comfy sweater and you remember it was a gift from That Person, and it just reminds you how kind and comforting they were, and why did you bother in the first place…
You may want to be mean to yourself, or else call the whole project off. What I’d like to invite you to do instead is putting your phone away and letting yourself have a nice, big cry about it. (Or shout and punch a pillow. Or turn up your music and scream along to Lorde. Whatever mood strikes you.) Take as long as you need, until the emotion has spent itself.
Day 16: Read Back Your Intentions
The previous day might have left you with an emotional (and a real) hangover. For recovery, take your story from day 1, and your intention from day 2. Reread both, taking your time to let the words sink in. Notice the anguish in your voice, the difficulty in writing the words. Cry a bit again, if you have to.
Here’s the tea: chances are, it was not all that bad. It’s human to feel sad, to remember the good times, to wonder if you weren’t the one in the wrong after all. Times like these, it’s okay to feel sad; but it’s also important to remember exactly why you needed to get away, to let go, and to heal. Specificity helps us parse out the good from the bad; it lets us acknowledge the happy times existed AS WELL as the bad ones. It’s not either/or: it was both, and the bad stuff made you want to leave.
Day 17: Make Another List
Write out a list of your achievements. Then write out a list of reasons why you, objectively, achieved them. Think: Master’s Degree – you worked hard, you did your research, you were passionate about the subject, you helped others, etc. Don’t be tempted to editorialize, aka “I only got it because the teacher liked me”. You got it because you worked for it. Make a list and put it near your intentions from Day 2, so that whenever you want to call yourself lazy or stupid, you’ve got a rebuke right there, on your eye level.
Day 18-20: Start Habits That Make You Happy
Remember that activity you tried earlier? On day 11 even? Did you like it? Did you want to do it again? If not, what would you like to do instead? What would make you excited to get out of bed in the morning? Starting new habits, hobbies, or re-focusing your energy on things that you were passionate about but let go of; these are all ways for you to remind yourself of your own power.
Day 21: Check In With Your Friends
Your mean friends may want to get rid of the stuff they stored for you, but they likely won’t until you say so. Have a nice catch-up, a roast, or just a day/night out with friends. Check in with yourself after that night is over – how do you feel now that you’re starting new things and looking after your body? How does spending time with your people feel like? Do you want to do more?
Day 22-23: Rescind Your Invitation To Emotional Vampires
By now, you’re probably seeing glimpses of your old self. Depending on how much time has passed, you’re either taking baby steps forward, or you are repeating self-healing steps that helped you in the past, and you are coming into your superpowers. Time to examine your friend group: Who are your allies in your quest for healing? Who are suddenly disinterested in you, now that you’re no longer miserable? Are they happy to see you improve, or are they forcing you to remember bad times?
In the past, you may have held onto the wishy-washy and the jerks because you had no-one else. Or, maybe they were just okay, but now you see you just hang out because of habit. Either way – there’s no harm in seeing people you like one-to-one, and “losing” the numbers of those you don’t.
Day 24: Cloudy With A Chance Of Boredom
Most self-healing is done quietly, alongside your daily life. You go to work, you come home. You fix the same food you always have, do the same things to unwind. Once the drama of the initial few days has settled and you have made self-asserting boundaries part of daily practice, you’ll find life becoming routine… even boring.
Remember: boredom is good. Boredom means the worst of your worries can be taken care of later, and that you are no longer living in a constant state of crisis. Yes, it’s not nearly as exciting, but it’s also self-protective and self-loving.
Day 25: Brace Yourself For A Surprise Storm
Remember those dust candies tumbling out of pockets? Or those emotional vampires you just banished? There’s a chance a few of them might pop out: a song comes onto your playlist that you forgot to purge, or some “friend” lets your ex have your new phone “accidentally”. Have your mean friends’ on speed dial, or plan for a few extra new and exciting things to do. Or clean up your house again, or run one more mile… whatever works to keep you occupied until the urge to call back has passed. Check-in with your intentions if you have to.
Day 26: Acknowledge You Got Through
So you survived the storm. Even if you gave in and returned the call, met the person for a drink, ate whatever shit they served you… you’re here. You may be rattled, but you got through. Meanwhile, if you didn’t give in, you may be wondering if it was a fluke. Pat yourself in the back either way. Your worst nightmare may be to return to the bad situation, but as long as you are here today, there is hope. Remind yourself that you are human, apologize if you have to, and resolve to keep doing the right thing. Next time, you’ll know better.
Day 27: Two Final Lists For You
Remember how tempted you were to ruminate about Those Good Times? Now you have a chance to – write down all the good about the person and the situation, or what you perceived to be good about it. Be specific. Once that’s done, turn the page. List out all the good that wasn’t there, but that you wanted to have, that you wish you can have. Take as long as you need, and be as extravagant as you want.
The first list is what you got out of the bad situation, the stuff that kept you stuck. The second list is what you want, what you could have ON TOP of the good stuff from before… but without all the bad.
Day 28: Allow A Private Moment Of Grace
Maybe you’re still feeling dubious or rattled. Maybe you think that your perception of the situation was wrong, or at the very least you need to acknowledge the good that the other person did for you. This day is your permission to do it – in PRIVATE.
Write a letter, listing out all those good things the other person did, and thank them for the ones they genuinely, honestly did to help you. What this means is, don’t thank them for every gift that came with strings, or the stuff that they did because it reflected well on them. Don’t thank them for supporting your studies if they constantly rubbed it in your face, or for raising your kids if they used that as a justification to cheat.
Thank them for the true moments of selflessness, for the honesty, for the support. You may still end up with a nice letter, but chances are, it will be a lot shorter than you think. Once you’re done, stick it in a drawer and don’t send it. Like with other times you exerted a special effort, the recipient is likely not to appreciate it as much as you would.
Day 29: Put It All Together
The lists, the letters, the intentions, the story. Put it in one place and look at it as a whole. The “good” list that seems excessive compared to the things that actually merited thanks; the qualities you undermined in yourself, the dreams you set aside while you settled for crumbs; the nonsense you tolerated and that you will not miss. What you have is a roadmap to the future – it’s not foolproof or anything like that, but it’s a start. You know what you want, what you need, what you deserve; what you won’t settle for, what is worthy of gratitude, and what is just a gift with strings attached. Smile. You know yourself better now.
Day 30: Keep Going
Writing your future happens every day. Sometimes you will have to repeat old steps, just to remind yourself of your power. Some things might set you back – that’s okay. The important bit is to keep going, to work hard, and to resolve to always do better.
You’ve got what it takes to move on and heal. Don’t stop.
Because it always does. The heartache, the pain, the sadness. It will always pass if you give it enough time. Time is something that sometimes we do not allow ourselves. We want to rush things, we want to control the outcome of situations and then dictate how things move forward. Our human nature lacks patience but has an abundance of desire of wanting to be the one to decide which way everything should flow. We don’t want to admit it, yet we all crave control and at times we all refuse to accept that we will never fully have it. Life is too unpredictable. Deciding when and how to move forward is something we do have control of, but we will never have control over time.
We’ve all heard it before, but struggle is temporary, even though sometimes it feels like it lasts a lifetime. We’ve all been faced with moments where we’re told not to dwell in our struggle, not to let it get us down. When we are in those dark moments, we can find it difficult to really see beyond the current suffering. But the struggle truly is temporary… the challenging part is understanding that the depth of “temporary” varies in each case.
When you face darkness in your life, no matter the situation, you have the choice on how you move through and forward from that darkness. You possess the power to choose your happy, choose your method of survival, choose how you overcome. This is not to say that you will not suffer, but to remind you that amidst the current suffrage you always have a choice. Do not allow yourself to become a victim to circumstance. You are so much more than your circumstances. You are so much more than the variables of life.
My wish for you is to understand that a life without struggle does not truly exist, no matter how things may sometimes seem. We show others what we want them to see, we share the moments of our lives that we want to share. We don’t always express our thoughts, our worries, our internal battles. But please always remember that no matter the circumstances you face and how trying times may get, the truth remains that you will be okay.
Give yourself the gift of allowing your life to be rich with experiences. You will face battles and you will choose how to get through them. You will decide how you can move forward, despite the obstacles in your path. And you will come out on the other side, confident that you made the right choices, even if they took you down alternate paths. Remembering that each path taken is a path that you will learn from. Every twist and turn will teach you about the person you are and the person you are becoming. There is never a lack of opportunity if you are willing to grow. Don’t be like those unwilling to change, don’t be like those who close themselves off to new experiences. Instead, choose growth, which is something that needs to be welcomed and sought after. Personal growth comes through struggle and grief just as much as it comes through triumph and joy. Allow yourself the gift of growth, allow yourself to be present in each moment, good or bad. Allow yourself to be here now, and I promise you that through it all, you will be okay.
I’m really sorry I don’t love you enough, that I haven’t loved you enough.
You’ve been through so much. I know that. You’ve been hurt most of your life, and a lot of the time that hurt has overshadowed any love you’ve received. I’m sorry it’s gotten to you this way.
It’s just that hurt is one of the most ironic things, you know? No one wants to be hurt. It hurts to hurt. Whatever you are grieving the loss of- a lover, a friend, a version of yourself you never wanted to become- it’s draining. It starts out as an emotional wound and then becomes physical.
This is when you stop eating because if you even think about it, you want to throw up. Or you eat to cope, to deal with the stress of everything. This is when your heart actually feels in pain; it’s not just a fluke. You start getting migraines from crying so hard. Your body is so tired from simply living and it’s the saddest thing you could ever see.
So yeah, that hurt takes you over. It uses your emotions as an excuse to host itself inside of you, to grow, to consume your soul and turn it into something you don’t recognize.
But when that hurt is gone you almost miss it, like a phantom limb. Like the last real summer day, where the sun and moon can still sneak glances at each other in the same sky before one leaves and the other arrives.
It hurts to hurt, and yet, it also hurts not to.
But I want you to know that from now on I’m going to try harder, to be stronger. To stop finding faults, to protect you from hurting without hiding. To get better at being alone, because the company I really should be seeking right now is my own.
I hope one day you’re proud of me. I don’t want to let you down anymore. I love you, always.
Do you ever find yourself being so comfortable with something that you actually start to become accepting of it, even though it’s not healthy for you at all? You find yourself holding onto it and not wanting to let go because you think what you have is the only good thing you’ll ever receive. You think it’s the best you can get, but that is absolutely false. I must say I find myself doing this sometimes.
Do you ever just find yourself questioning that one really good person in your life? About how God blessed you with someone so pure and kind-hearted. Sometimes you think it’s too much for you or you think you’re not worthy of them and you push them away because you’re comparing it to your previous interactions, friendships, and relationships. You think it will never work out or go as planned because everyone else in the past let you down, but that is the mindset of the enemy, because God gives you exactly what you can handle and he’s trying to give you exactly what you need. Just know that it may start off uncomfortable. It may feel uncommon from your regular routine and past relationships.
It’s something new.
We feel awkward when something new suddenly starts to happen within our lives. We don’t like the feeling of transitioning and transforming. We want new things, new opportunities, and new people in our lives, but how can we do that if we can’t embrace the uncomfortable changes in our lives for something better and new?
Being comfortable is our safe place. It’s home. It’s where we can run to in a place of need or vulnerability. We don’t have to achieve much in this area. We are simply just comfortable and fine where we are.
Being uncomfortable is a threat to us. We become so afraid that we think it’s wrong. We think we don’t deserve it. We think it’s out of our league, when really God is shifting our perspective to receive new things and embrace it in every way possible. Our mind shifts from old to new.
Stepping out of your comfort zone can be fearful at first, but staying in your comfort zone forever will destroy you and keep you boxed into a mentality you were supposed to outgrow 20 years ago.
Holding onto what’s comfortable feels safe—sometimes too safe. It’s harming you more than it’s keeping you safe. It’s keeping your mindset stagnant and settled into what feels right but is actually wrong and bad for you.
Free yourself from it. Whatever it is, let it go and release yourself from it. You’ll feel so much more alive.
Sometimes holding onto what feels uncomfortable eventually gets released because it feels weird and unusual. It feels rare. It confuses you and makes you feel like you deserve less when God wants to give you more. It feels wrong, but it’s so right, and you’ll slowly start to see that if you just hold on.
Don’t push away what God is trying to bless you with, and don’t welcome in what God is trying to keep you from.
Be that risk taker that takes new heights and tries new things. You don’t have to jump off a skyscraper or a building to be a true risk taker. You just have to be okay with experiencing new things and embracing uncomfortable changes throughout the different seasons of your life.
You have to be willing to accept it and not deny it. You have to be willing to endure the truth and carry that truth in your heart knowing that you deserve more and that you are capable of receiving new things.
Read this when your heart is aching and your spirit is broken, when you’re on your knees, depleted and defeated. Read this when you want to give up but there’s a tiny part of you that still whispers hold on for dear life; read this when your faith has been shaken and your life has been split into fragments you can’t seem to put back together. Read this when each day feels like a black hole, distorting and destroying every sliver of light you once had.
Read this and take a deep breath, because yes, this is so painful and yes it seems hopeless, but no, it rarely is. Sometimes, panic is a reminder that we still want to hope for the things we’ve lost hope for, and tragedy is a reminder that we can still feel in a world that doesn’t want us to. Sometimes, when we feel like we’re sleeping our way through life, we’re really reawakening to the truth. It’s never easy taking the red pill or casting light on the shadows of the cave you once mistook reality for, but sometimes, it’s a necessary evil we swallow, because each trapdoor could be the portal to the path that leads us anywhere but here.
The truth is, grieving is never a straight line, it comes full circle and we might be forced to live through it again and again. Healing is never linear, it’s a maze of distortions, confusion, smoke and mirrors, pain that was never spoken and invisible scars, battle wounds that never made it to the surface. The worst wars may be fought alone and in your own head.
Healing has no timeline, no deadline, and no concrete measure like pills in a cup – in fact, forcing yourself to heal or comparing your healing to others is a prescription for poison rather than a cure. Sometimes healing comes in a quiet silence or a less shaky breath when you speak. Sometimes it’s the courage to walk outdoors and confront the demons that don’t exist. Sometimes healing comes in the tiny moments that no one ever thinks to say “thank you” for. And sometimes, the best way to heal is to know that there are some things that cannot be healed, won’t be healed or aren’t meant to be healed in the ways we think they are – they’re meant to be channeled and transformed.
The truth is, what feels like your crucifixion doesn’t have any quick fixes, only slow movements in a never ending dance. Time or words alone can’t always soothe the wounds that can’t be put into language. Trauma can speak in a foreign tongue and weave its code into every cell – this is the type of pain where the body and the mind both keep the score. Sometimes the only band-aids you have are platitudes mixed with raw truth – the days where you feel like you won’t survive and the days where you learn you can, and all the beautifully horrific moments in between.
The shock of the pain may never fully go away, it’s just numbed and buried beneath tombs, beneath new memories, waiting to erupt through the cracks and crevices left open in your thoughts. Thoughts that wrap around your body like a choke-hold, never seeming to let go. But in these thoughts, there are gaps, opportunities to interrupt the old tapes playing in the background, frozen in time.
That’s because experiencing overwhelming pain doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to sketch new thoughts, or paint new memories, because pain can be as transformative as the art on a torn canvas. It can make you appreciate all the small joys you’d never think to relish. You are forced to remember the things you took for granted, the ones that appeared minuscule, and realize their larger-than-life roles in the grand scheme of things. In truth, pain is the excuse you needed to embrace all you have to be grateful for and all the things you fear losing so much you’ll now work even harder to keep.
Because when you feel like you’re dying, a life of pain reminds you to savor the things that matter, the things that are left worth fighting for.
The worst moments in your life can be both enlightening and severely unfair. They can be a melting pot of breakthroughs and breakdowns, the epicenter of your epiphanies and the core cause of your hopelessness; they can drown you, consume you in their quakes or they can be the push you really need, so long as you remember to come up for air.
And it’s always somewhat morbid to remember that the worst moments of your life now won’t be the same ones in the future – but then again, neither will the best moments of your life – those are still yet to come too. What you define as the worst and the best will change and ironically, the knowledge that there is an even worse hell ahead can provide some heavenly relief. Because if there’s still worse pain than the one you feel now, you know you can survive this to experience the best version of joy.
When you breathe through what you’ve been through and remember all the days that you survived and all the days you didn’t want to, you’ll remember the brief moments that were so important, the quick snapshots of your life that delayed you burying your head in the sand, never to come out again. The ones that made you use the voice you silenced – the voice trapped within for years. The strange happenings that made you smile for the first time in weeks, the rare kindness of strangers who lent a hand, or the surprising reminders that God still laughs even when you’ve forgotten how.
Don’t worry if you’re no longer running towards your destination or if you’re on your way to a free fall into the unknown. Don’t worry if you aren’t where you need to be, or if there are circumstances beyond your control that make you feel out of control. Don’t worry even if you are at the height of everything you’ve ever wanted and you’re afraid to look down to see how far you’d fall if you lost your footing.
Don’t lose hope if your worst nightmares came true in the past or if someone tried to crush your dreams into a pulp – because big dreams can never be destroyed by the small-minded people that were never brave enough to live out their own.
Don’t worry if one day, the pain seems to be at a standstill and you forget the old narratives running through your head, or if you rewrite your story even before you’ve lived another tale. Don’t be afraid of your own powerlessness, and don’t be afraid of your own power.
In the worst moments of your life, it’s helpful to remember that when a chrysalis appears to shake violently, it’s actually not breaking, it’s warding off predators – and that sometimes when it turns black, it’s actually unfolding into something new. Destruction can be the incentive for creation and self-protection. Crucifixion, the pathway for resurrection.
The pause in between, a much-needed hibernation that happens before rising once more.
Yet change isn’t always so immediate, or easy or even gratifying or desirable. Sometimes, change comes on a slow spin of the world on its axis and gravity is the only thing keeping you grounded. Even the most glorious changes are excessively painful during the time we go through them. We don’t look back at those deaths the same way we do when we’re in the midst of dying – we don’t see them as rebirths, we see them as cruel fates we are undeserving of.
But rest assured that one day in the future there will be the privilege of more awakenings and of more happiness than you can capture in photographs; new growing pains and new first drafts. Rest assured that if you do not give up now, you’ll get to change the course of everything that’s still unwritten.
By the same token, we learn the hard way that tiny miracles can begin in shaky missteps, the first time we learn how to walk instead of crawl.
We all have a certain sense of self. We have an identity that we painted for ourselves. A bunch of labels we cling to. “I am this and I am that. I love this, I dislike this. I fear this. Oh, I wouldn’t do that.” And we keep repeating these things to ourselves until they stick, until we really construct an identity for ourselves, one that is predictable, because we ultimately want to feel comfortable. We want to feel safe. We want to know where to draw the lines.
However, oftentimes people start focusing too much on themselves, on the labels they put on themselves, on limiting beliefs, making them shrink day by day. While we all need an identity, because through it we perceive the world and contribute to it, I invite you to be more flexible and to afford to take a little more risk, which could involve shedding skin from time to time. We could afford to let go of past selves and reconstruct them over and over again.
You really are a project, and identity is quite a fluid thing. Who you are is truly endless, and when you dissolve the ego, you can begin to enjoy the freedom that comes with it. Say, for instance, you want to give a Ted Talk, but all you think of is how foolish you might look and how everyone will be so focused on you and will find it uninteresting and how it will end up being so embarrassing and the thought of it all frightens you so you choose to never give it a shot. In that moment, your ego wants to keep you safe within your comfort zone, and on top of that, you come to the conclusion that you will be a crappy public speaker.
But what if you decided not to give in? What if you decide to not be rigid, to float freely, to try those fearful things, those things you decided don’t fit you without ever really trying them? The things you see others doing despite the fear and the people they evolve into. People who dissolve their egos, who don’t always listen to it religiously, are more about living openly than focusing on being safe and perfect. And let me tell you, even if you get hurt or embarrassed here and there, it is nothing but an indication that you have tried and that is honorable.
In a world where everybody is actually focused on themselves, absorbed in their own head, thinking everyone is paying so much attention to them, perhaps we can conclude that we could afford to be a little less self-conscious and a little braver so that life could become a beautiful adventure rather than a prison disguised as a shelter.
It doesn’t matter how talented you are or how much effort you put into something. Things aren’t always going to turn out the way you expected. And that is okay.
You shouldn’t spend forever beating yourself up over the fact that you didn’t land where you were hoping to go. You’re allowed to be disappointed. You’re allowed to feel sorry for yourself. You’re allowed to wish things turned out differently. But you shouldn’t give up on yourself, simply because you’ve experienced a single setback.
If something is meaningful enough to you, you aren’t going to quit that easily. You’re going to keep trying and keep failing until you ultimately succeed.
When you fail, it’s easy to throw up your hands and say that you’re finished. It’s easy to act like the outcome didn’t make a difference to you anyway, like you don’t care about what happened, like you’re completely fine with giving up your goals. It’s easy to stuff your dreams deep down in your chest and focus on the reality of what’s in front of you instead.
But the easiest path, the most tempting path, is usually the wrong one. Most of the time, the hardest option is the most fulfilling option. The hardest option is going to lead you toward your goals. It’s going to bring you closer to true happiness.
Remember, success isn’t the first step in reaching your wildest dreams. It’s the last step. Failure is the first step.
When you fail, it’s not easy to put yourself out there again. It’s not easy to brush off what happened to you and start back at square one. But you have to remind yourself, you’re not really starting back at the beginning. Your failure was a learning experience. It gave you tools you’ll need moving forward. You’re better off now than you were then. You know more. You’ve grown more.
If you want to make it to your intended destination, you need to stop taking your failures so personally. They don’t mean you’re an embarrassment. They don’t mean you’re a lost cause. And they certainly don’t mean you’re never going to achieve your goals.
The only way you know for sure you aren’t going to reach your dreams is if you stop trying, stop putting in effort, stop risking failure.
You have to remember failure doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve made a mistake. It doesn’t mean that you are on the wrong path and are better off giving up. Sometimes, you’ll fail because of bad timing. Sometimes, you’ll fail because luck wasn’t on your side. And sometimes you’ll fail because you weren’t ready to succeed yet.
Everyone is going to fail at some point — and you aren’t the exception. You’re going to fail, too. But you can either use your failure to learn more about yourself, to figure out how to do better next time, to grow as a person. Or you can give up and refuse to see your own potential. It’s your choice. It’s entirely up to you.
You have to stop thinking of quitting as a bad thing. You aren’t built to stay in the same place forever.
If your relationship or your career or your friendships have stopped challenging you, stopped encouraging your growth, stopped bringing you happiness, then you should move onto bigger and better things.
You don’t have to continue down the same path you started forging years ago. You’re allowed to diverge at any point. You’re allowed to decide it’s time to do something differently.
You have to remember that quitting isn’t always a negative. It doesn’t mean you’re taking a step back. It might mean you’re taking a step forward — or a step sideways.
You shouldn’t resist change simply because you’re scared of what the unknown might bring. You shouldn’t assume the best move is to continue chugging ahead, even though you’ve been miserable, even though you cannot picture things getting any better if they keep going the way they’ve been going.
Quitting is not always a sign of failure. Sometimes, it’s your best option. Sometimes, it’s going to lead to the best results.
If you’re in a toxic relationship, you shouldn’t waste your energy fighting for their love. You should call it quits. You should stop trying to make things work. You should stop giving them a million chances. You should stop assuming it’s better to stay together than it is to split apart.
It’s the same with your career. If you’re in a line of work that is draining you, that is making you miserable, that isn’t giving you any sort of satisfaction, then you should think about quitting. You should think about taking your talents elsewhere. You should think about whether there is somewhere else you could land that would make you feel more productive, more fulfilled, more appreciated.
Stop thinking of quitting as a bad thing because sometimes you have to walk away from your current situation. Sometimes you have to start from scratch. Sometimes you have to take a step back and realize that you’re heading in the wrong direction and need to regroup.
Even though it’s easier to repeat the routines you’ve already grown used to repeating, you have to remember you’re allowed to leave at any time. You don’t owe anyone anything.
It’s dangerous to stay in an uncomfortable situation out of obligation. You aren’t required to stay in a relationship because of your history. You aren’t required to stay at a job because of the hours you already put into it. You aren’t required to give anyone your time, your energy, or your effort — and you don’t need to explain yourself to anyone.
You’re allowed to quit because you’re stressed about your current situation. You’re allowed to quit because you’ve grown bored. You’re allowed to quit because you believe another direction would grant you more peace and excitement and self-love. You’re allowed to quit if you want to quit.
You have to stop thinking of quitting as a bad thing. If it helps, call it moving on instead.