“We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are.” ~Anais Nin
When I was young, I used to stare out into the big, blue sky and ask, “Is this really the right place?” “Did they drop me off on the wrong planet?” I wondered.
It felt like I didn’t fit in or belong. Things seemed so much easier for others. They moved forward with ease even when something was painful, while I felt an arrow pierce my heart every time a loved one was in pain, or a difficult situation arose.
When I looked around, I saw so much suffering. Being incredibly sensitive, I did more than watch, I jumped right in the suffering. At the time, I judged myself vehemently for being emotional. I didn’t know that about 20 percent of the population is highly sensitive and that it’s a trait filled with gifts as well as deep feelings.
Quietly observing my surroundings, I watched with teary eyes as my family struggled. I felt with deep-rooted sensitivity when my mom felt afraid. I watched the news and thought, “Look at all the horrible things happening out there.” Everything I saw and felt reflected back to me what I decided was true as a child: the world isn’t a safe or good place.
It was during these early years that I developed a habit of worrying about my loved ones and the world. For me, life was a tornado of worst-case scenarios, and the what-ifs consumed me.
I didn’t realize at the time that thinking was my way out of feeling my feelings. The pain felt so earth-shattering that I never let it touch me. Instead, I tried to control situations with my thoughts. I didn’t wait and see how things would unfold; I began making negative conclusions so that I could feel safe. If I already knew it was bad, I wouldn’t be shocked when horrible things happened.
I took on the role of helper to save others. They were in so much pain. I believed that if they weren’t suffering, I wouldn’t suffer and could finally live. I believed I was more powerful because I could hold their pain, connect to it, and help them.
Since I was in a constant state of overwhelm, my nervous system was on overdrive to protect me from all the thoughts and perceptions I’d adopted about life. Years later, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease and saw firsthand the way years of stressing, living in my head, and avoiding my emotions impacted my health.
A turning point came for me when I realized that all this suffering was my own doing. After receiving painful news about a family member, I had a breakthrough. My reaction to the news was filled with so much pain and fear that I sensed it wasn’t about the circumstances at all.
It was about me. I had created a life that revolved around fixing others. Needing to help them so that I could feel safe. Believing that the pain I felt was because of them, their hardships, and this dark world we live in.
The truth was, I was in a lot of pain that had nothing to do with them. I put on my super woman cape with the hope of saving others because it was easier than focusing on myself.
At the time, I had no idea who I was or what I wanted. I’d been hiding behind the mask of “perfect helper” so I didn’t have to acknowledge that I was struggling with my identity and purpose and commit to the work of discovering and embracing my true self.
With this sudden awareness, I realized there must be a different way of looking at life. I let my guard down enough to feel, and the emotion erupted through me like a volcano.
I looked a little deeper and saw that beneath the murky, dark water of my emotions there was a golden door, and the only way into that door was swimming through the water. I used the deep-rooted love I felt for everyone around me and sent it inwards, to the one that needed it most, myself.
I did this by hiring my first life coach. It was the first time I’d ever invested in myself for the sole purpose of loving and caring for myself. It wasn’t to change the way I looked, to earn more money, to gain a relationship; it was for my heart and soul. To speak up, to be heard, to receive love, and to shine a light on the tangled web I held inside of me.
I knew that life could be filled with laughter, joy, and confidence if I started focusing more on my own issues and needs than everyone else’s. I was ready to take the weight of the world off my shoulders. I began imagining my life as exciting, filled with adventures, romance, and most of all peace of mind!
When I turned on the light inside, I discovered I had a deep-rooted belief that my life was in my hands, I held the reins, and I knew wholeheartedly that anything I wanted was possible.
I recognized that my worries and fears were within me too, and that meant I had the power to shift them.
That golden door began to feel closer each day as I empowered myself with love and awareness, swam through the waters of pain, and challenged two limiting beliefs—that I needed approval from others to be safe and needed to appear perfect and strong to be worthy.
I learned that my body was constantly on guard trying to protect me from my worries. Our bodies can’t tell the difference between actual danger and perceived danger. Since I was constantly thinking negative and fearful thoughts, my nervous system perceived danger and was ramped up in case I needed to fight. As I practiced breathwork, yoga, and physical exercise, my nervous system calmed and neutralized.
Instead of fighting to give up my addictions to worry and anxiety, I began to add in self-love, compassion, and acceptance. I sat with my feelings and invited them to tea. It was scary and shaky but with time and support, I trusted that my life experiences were happening for me and not to me.
There would always be unknowns in life. Rather than fear or control them, I began to embrace them and accept that whatever was happening was for the highest good. In fact, all the difficulties I encountered became the catalyst for reconnecting with my true self. Rather than see life as good or bad, I removed the label and saw it as all as part of one whole experience.
The trust and love weren’t hard to find, they were within me. Just as everything is within you right now. The difference was my focus and perspective—instead of leaning on fear and worry and trying to fix and change the world, I began to slow down and let go of the illusion of control.
Putting myself first and seeing myself meant looking at the broken pieces along with the whole and saying I love it all! I accept it all! I trust it all!
When I think about life now and the planet my soul dropped onto, I am in awe and wonder of the beauty and magic I see all around me. It is in my daughter’s bright eyes, the warm hug of friend, the sound of the waves crashing on the beach. I now can see what was hidden from me when I was in constant fear.
The boundless love I have given myself has created a sense of safety that enables me to experience life with far less fear and worry.
I know that no matter what happens in life, I have my own back. I am listening to my needs and honoring what is present by loving myself through the difficulties that may arise instead of judging or hiding from myself.
The first step to any great change is awareness. When you meet your awareness with loving arms, magic can happen.
If you too feel overwhelmed by all the pain around you and think you need to control it to be safe, shift your focus back to yourself. Trust that both the dark and light serve a purpose—for all of us—so you don’t need to save or fix anyone else. You just need to take care of yourself, honor your own needs, and trust that no matter what happens, with the strength of your own self-love, you can handle it.