“I’m growing despite the pain.” I said this recently to a friend while referencing the death of my father earlier this year. We were talking about the difficult circumstances that often accompany these kinds of life passages.
The phrase reminded me that most of my adult life has been spent learning and practicing how to relate to life challenges in a way that furthers my growth and evolution. Sometimes, admitting that I’ve used painful experiences to grow feels morbid to say, but, mostly, this mindset has guided me, and I embrace the opportunity to benefit from the many ways life opens us up to hard-earned wisdom.
In the early days of my growth path, I would often experience these challenges as intense upheavals accompanied by severe emotional turmoil, or by seeing myself as a victim. Experiences were fraught with amplified suffering — the kind of that occurs at your own hand by adding a dose of shame, blame, judgment, and/or resistance. The circumstances were hard enough. How I was relating to them made them even harder. The distressful states would last days or weeks. And they occurred so habitually, I didn’t believe there could ever be another way to experience them, let alone to be able to recover more quickly.
Things shifted greatly when I prioritized being loving to myself during difficult times and learned how to be more present and caring toward myself… in all ways. The improvement throughout my life shows me why it’s worth the effort to commit to a life lined with inner work, including learning to love yourself as the ultimate focus. Nothing can replace being there for yourself in real time while dealing with the sh*t sandwiches that inevitably show up along the way.
Imagine what someone who loved you would do for you if you were in distress. Do this for yourself. ‘Try on’ being there for yourself when life is hard and when feelings come up, no matter what those feelings are.