We all reach a moment where we say “I want to make personal changes.”
That moment comes when we are unhappy with our lives, or our relationships, or how we manage our chronic illness. When we say “enough,” we self-reflect. But when we self-reflect, we realize that there’s a lot of changes that need to happen to become our ideal self. And that’s where the desire for personal change can stop.
We should acknowledge that we don’t like making these changes, but that they still need to happen.
I Don’t Like This
Humans are complicated creatures, so there isn’t one source for what frustrates us. While I can point to specific influences in my life as the reason why I think a particular way, there is a lot more going on in the background. Many times, I am unaware of these background influences. I just know that I think I am inadequate.
Rationally, I know these thoughts are false. But these thoughts and actions have a hold of me and make it difficult to see past my flaws.
I am lucky that I can point to some situations in my past as the source of what I need to change. That isn’t always the case. There are reactions I have, and I don’t know where they come from. In these situations, it makes it more difficult to want to make the necessary changes.
Knowing the source of my anger makes it easier to acknowledge it and be mindful of it. I may not always successfully deal with it, or even attempt to deal with it, but I am more likely to try and do something when I am able to say “oh, that reaction stems from when the kids in the neighborhood wouldn’t play with me.”
In cases where I don’t know the source of my behaviors, I am more likely to be resistant to making positive changes. It’s stepping into an unknown, and I don’t like that. I don’t have control over what’s happening or what I am thinking. But I know I have to make a change because continuing behaviors that are unhealthy aren’t helping me manage my parenting or my MS.
Hopefully, this resonates with you. You may feel similar: I don’t know why I behave this way, and I don’t want to take steps to change because the idea is discouraging. Know that you are not alone, especially in your chronic illness, and you can make those changes because I know you can. You want to achieve your goals and the only way to do that is to make changes to the unknown and what you don’t like.
My Personal Struggles
I’ve had to make a lot of personal changes. It’s all I talk about on this blog. I suppose you could say this functions as a secondary form of therapy: I am making life changes, let me bring you along on this journey!
I have a lot of issues with negative emotions, thoughts, and actions. I’ve been forthright on the blog about some of these struggles and in other cases, I’ve been vaguer.
It’s embarrassing to be completely honest and open. I have a public persona I’ve curated about myself and anything that strays from this persona scares me.
My more popular posts are the ones where I am completely honest. So with that in mind, I am going to be more open with my struggles. Especially with my MS.
First up: I have anger issues. I’ve used the term “negative feelings,” or “negative emotions,” or even “unhealthy behaviors” as coded language for my anger. I touched upon it briefly in my posts about toxic relationships, but only to what I was comfortable revealing. I am ashamed of my anger and how quick I am to get frustrated with a stranger, a friend, Ash, or myself.
Growing up I was told multiple times that “no one wants to be around an angry person,” or “no one is going to want a negative partner/wife.” While I took this warning to heart, it ended up having the opposite effect on me: I grew into that angry woman I was warned against.
An aside: anger isn’t a negative emotion. There isn’t such a thing as a negative emotion. What we do with those emotions can be negative, but the emotions themselves are there to protect us in some way. I will talk more about this at another point in time.
I realized three years ago, while I was pregnant with Jai that I was addicted to anger. I thrived on it to the point that I deliberately put myself into confrontational scenarios with others just so I could spend the rest of the day stewing on the fallout. I would confront people, be mean, passive-aggressive and just downright nasty. I was proud when a friend told me that he never wanted to cross my path because my tongue was so sharp.
I realize now that I should have listened to what he was actually saying: you’re angry and it’s scary.
If I was going to break the cycle of anger in my life and be a good mother to Jai, I would have to deal with my anger issues. I was already in therapy when I had this revelation, but it wasn’t until I saw the positive impact of minimizing my personal stress that I started the process of taking action.
Living in a constant state of anger is stressful and it impacted my health. I think it hastened my body towards the MS diagnosis. If I wasn’t so stressed and angry all the time, I might have gotten a few extra years before my body gave into the disease. This is pure speculation, but the studies do back this up: stress can increase the risk of getting chronic illnesses.
I am working through my anger issues. I am light years beyond where I was three years ago, three months ago, and even three weeks ago. I wouldn’t recognize myself if my past self sat down for a chat. I know she would be impressed, but jealous and probably frustrated.
It hasn’t been pleasant getting to this point. I’ve had to confront a lot of ugly truths about myself. It’s taken hours of therapy; hours of internal thinking and reflection; and hours of reading self-help books. I learned to recognize that I did not need to give in to my anger. I could accept the emotion and what it was trying to tell me (that I am afraid of not being heard/respected) and then I could let it go.
I started finding that life grew a little easier for me. I was less stressed over someone cutting in front of me in line. I no longer felt bad for a verbal blunder I made. I learned to let a lot of things go. In the process, I became the person I wanted to be for myself and for Jai.
Dislike & Self-Compassion
I wanted to highlight my personal struggles because we all grapple with the same thing. Your internal dislikes may not be anger, it could be some other emotion, but we all struggle with something.
When dealing with a part of yourself you don’t like, embracing self-compassion helps. Here I go again with the self-compassion! But it does work. It’s what helped me deal with my anger issues, and it will help you deal with your personal dislikes.
Through self-compassion I started telling myself that I wasn’t taught the proper tools to handle my anger in a healthy way. Rather than being told how to healthfully deal with my anger, I was told not to be angry as I stated above. I was given mixed messages that fell under the old saying “do as I say, not as I do,” philosophy.
When you start the practice of self-compassion, with some time you’ll find what you dislike dissipate on it’s own even if you don’t directly work on it. You may even find the stuff you didn’t like before to not matter.
There will be moments where you’ll slip into old habits, forget to be kind to yourself, but with self-compassion, you’ll be able to take a few moments to say “it’s okay, I’ll try again tomorrow.”
You Aren’t Alone…
Understand that when you are making these changes, you aren’t alone.
We get so stuck in our own perspective that we assume everyone can see how raw we are. We feel so isolated that we cannot imagine that someone else is going through the same thing, nor can anyone else understand.
But with as many people out there in the world, I can guarantee you that someone else is feeling like you at this moment. In fact, they may be experiencing similar symtoms, emotions, and scenarios as you.
You are not alone.
I recently found out that someone I knew was going through their own wellness journey. This person hurt me multiple times with their anger, so I moved them out of my life to protect myself. But when I learned they were on the same path I was several years ago, I realized I needed to be open to giving them another chance.
While I haven’t reached out to them directly, I have made it known to our mutual friends that I would be interested in spending time again with this individual again.
Why mention this? Because I believe in forgiveness. If I do not forgive this person who has similar anger issues as me, how can I hope that others will forgive me? I know I’ve hurt a lot of people because of my anger and I wish they’d give me a second (or third, or fourth) chance, so should I for someone else who is going through the same thing as me.
Additionally, I found it to be a bit of a relief to hear that they were on their own journey. It meant that I wasn’t alone in dealing with my anger. There is always someone else out there that is going through a similar thing as you.
…and People Don’t Notice
Finally, this is meant as a small comfort but try to keep this perspective: most of the time no one notices what you are going through. You know how you don’t notice what’s going on in someone else’s life unless they confide in you? It’s the same for you.
People are so wrapped up in their own stuff that they don’t even notice what’s going on in your life. Take that as comfort. You may feel raw and exposed while making your personal changes, but people are probably not going to see that unless you share it with them.
Likewise, be prepared for the disappointment if people don’t notice right away that you’ve changed. Keep in mind, you aren’t making these changes for them. You are making these changes for yourself.
At some point, people will notice: you’ve lost enough weight, you are more relaxed, you talk less about a particular topic, etc. But chances are, people aren’t going to spot to internal changes you make right away. When I first started making changes I was worried that everyone would notice I behaved differently.
First, I don’t think people even knew I was making any changes. Second, the changes weren’t as drastic as I thought. They were more gradual so I was easing everyone (myself included) into my new life.
So relax in knowing that you will fly under the radar with these changes. It’s going to be rough, but you aren’t alone, and no one is going to notice unless you tell them.
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