Trigger warning: please note this blog contains triggering content. If you are experiencing mental distress and feeling overwhelmed, please contact your local help line. In Australia, LifeLine is 13 11 14.
Until I was 33 years old, I spent most of my time living with regret. Oh the stupid things I had done! The remainder of my time was spent being “kvetching” at the unfairness of life. (Kvetching is yiddish for someone who complains a lot but isn’t willing to do anything to change their situation.)
Is your hand going up too? Don’t worry, we’ve all been a kvetch at one point of our lives. And heck, sometimes it feels damn good to just vent.
One day, I was particularly kvetchy while concurrently crying so hard that I could barely speak. My friend, trying to console me, had no idea what was going on. I just rambled about why I couldn’t meet a nice guy, why I couldn’t get a job, how unfair life was, and on and on.
He turned to me and said “You do realise you’re the common denominator of everything you’re complaining about?”
You know in the movies when someone gets punched in the stomach, but it’s filmed in slow motion? That’s how that comment felt.
But fact be told, I knew he was right. Everything that was happening in my life was, at the end of the day, my responsibility.
“My life, my responsibility” is a mantra I now tell myself every single gosh darn day. Because here’s the thing: you can continue to use your limited energy to blame, or you can use that energy to change.
Sometimes I wish I would have learned this sooner, however what I’m finding as I get older is that the important lessons in life are like a good Bolognese - just like you can’t rush depth of flavour, you can’t rush self-knowledge either.
I know what you’re thinking: “well thanks Captain Obvious, but how can we help ourselves to learn more about ourselves?”.
Well, young grasshopper, it’s easy in theory, but more challenging in practice.
Essentially, we need to learn from the experience as observers.
Let’s try a little exercise together.
In my talks and workshops I get people to write down a secret, something that they feel guilty about, something that they’ve never told anyone, or something that they feel is holding them back from moving forward.
I’ve collected thousands over the years, and I’ve read them all. Some are quite funny, such as “I blame my husband when I eat my kids showbags” or “...
But all of the stories, although many of them painful or heartbreaking, are incredibly relatable and provide a wealth of personal insight.
Have a look at these secrets - can you relate to any of them? What do you think the authors are going through? Can you find a lesson through their stories? What do you learn?
*Please note these secrets have been shared with written consent by the anonymous authors.
How exactly do these secrets provide personal insight?
You are learning about yourself through the eyes of another person by connecting with their story, but with the comfort of psychological distancing.
It’s similar to relating to a character on your favourite TV show, you are going through what they’re going through… but in the safety of your own home.
Think about it - have you ever watched a movie and thought… wow, that could have been me?
So the question now is… how can we learn AND then let go of things that no longer serve us?
Step 1: If you could erase 1 thing of your past, which memory would it be? Write it down in as much detail as you can. Included all persons involved.
Step 2: If someone else was involved, how would the situation look from their point of view? Why did they act the way they did?
Step 3: What responsibility do you need to take for what happened?
Step 4: What did you learn from the experience that you can use to do good moving forward?
I don’t need to tell you that steps 3 and 4 are not easy. Heck, they took me years to figure out. But once you do, you’ll understand that you may not need to let things go, but rather use them to help you build wisdom for the rest of your life.
Onwards young grasshopper, look ahead to a bright future while learning from the storms of the past.