“Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.” ~George S. Patton

Much of the difficulty and struggle that we go through in life comes from our resistance to change. At some point, we get stuck in painful circumstances, yet we fear facing our reality and doing the work required to ignite a positive change. After all, the enemy we know is better than the enemy we don’t know. It’s not that bad, we tell ourselves.

So we settle, give up on our desires, try to make the best of what we got—and that works for a while. Until staying stuck becomes unbearable. Until we acknowledge that not dealing with our realities is making us sick. Until we realize that resisting change is self-betrayal. Until we say, enough!

In retrospect, I heard the call for change my whole life, only I didn’t realize it because of my weak sense of self.

I was a sensitive child who experienced everything on a deeper level. Growing up in a difficult environment, experiencing trauma at a young age, and feeling unloved and uncared for all contributed to my issues around self-worth.

Standing up for myself only brought more pain and rejection, so I turned inward and buried myself deep within. I became invisible, quiet, and a good girl on the outside, but inside I felt broken and alone.

As the years went on, I learned to mask my pain and shame with denial, arrogance, and control. As BrenĂ© Brown coins it, please-perfect-perform became my unconscious state of being—and it led me to success by conventional standards. Yet, internally I felt restless and disconnected from myself and the world.

Eventually, this conflict between my inner turmoil and outer persona started to take a toll. Anxiety, depression, and symptoms of C-PTSD

 came crashing down on me, and I began to unravel.

They say that transformation starts when the desire to change overpowers our fears of it. Here I was on the bottom, admitting defeat, sick of living life in pain, ready to finally take responsibility to change it, however difficult the road to recovery might be.

In my thirties, it became clear that running from the pain wasn’t serving me. Sweeping things under the rug and pretending everything was alright allowed me to stay in control in the moment, but the problems only grew stronger. Eventually, running from, neglecting, and betraying myself was no longer an option. I had to choose myself, show up—I had to find my way back home.

1. Committing to heal—shifting from self-abandonment to self-ownership

The pain that built up over the years was starting to come out in all the wrong places. There was a lot of conflict all around me, and I felt enormous shame for failing as a mom, wife, and friend. I blamed myself for everything that was wrong in my life, thinking I should know better, do better—be better.

This only ramped up my efforts to control everything and everyone around me, which of course led to more conflict. I was stuck in a vicious cycle of trying to fix things but going about it all wrong—until I surrendered control and pulled all the energy back into myself.

Most of us will seek change in our external circumstances first if we are not happy with our lives. This works well to a degree, but at some point, we hit a wall and realize we must look within and change ourselves too.

Making an appointment with a therapist was scary, but in retrospect, it was the best decision I’ve ever made for myself. I had to tell my story, and having someone listen empathically—and without judgment—was something I’ve never had growing up. I worked with an EMDR specialist to integrate past trauma. I wrote about my pain. I walked it off. I screamed and I cried.

It was painful to face my demons. To allow myself to touch the rage I kept bottled up for decades, afraid of what it might do to me if I let it all out. To face the fact that I have been abandoning myself all these years, just like others had abandoned me when I needed them the most. To touch the rawness of my pain. To say things out loud. To hold space for myself as I dared to feel what needed feeling.

Healing is not for the faint-hearted. That’s why so many choose to never do this work. It is taxing, confronting, and there are no guarantees. You have to be willing to do difficult work, to take action, and move out of your comfort zone in order to face fears you may have been running from your whole life. You have to be willing to take a punch and risk emotional pain while you move through your fears. Often, you will be tested and tempted to give up.

Keep going! Show up for yourself and do the work—your future self will thank you!

2. Radical self-care—shifting from self-neglect to self-worth

Only after I started putting myself first did I realize how neglectful I had been of my own health—physical, mental, and emotional.

Being everything for everyone might make us feel productive and valued, but it’s also draining. And it’s unsustainable. This is a recipe for burnout and feeling powerless and neglected.

Self-care starts with creating healthy habits that promote relaxation, grounding, and growth in order to discharge stress. It’s also about eliminating stressors by setting clear boundaries of what you will allow—by saying “no” when you have to and “yes” only when you want to. It’s taking time to recharge before you get overwhelmed, and filling yourself up—body, mind, and soul.

Radical self-care goes one step beyond that. It is recognizing your addictions and the habitual behaviors that are keeping you stuck and shifting to new ways of being and behaving. It’s not chasing people or giving energy to relationships that are toxic to your well-being. It’s dropping the compulsive need to control the outcome. It’s realizing your worth and putting yourself first, recognizing that only then you can be truly present for others.

If self-care was not modeled for you as a child, this might feel selfish initially. Don’t fall back into neglecting yourself. Do the work of reparenting yourself and give yourself the love and care you need and deserve. You have the power to take control of your well-being and meet your own needs—this is how you shift from chronic overwhelm, anxiety, and depression to a more balanced way of living. It’s how you take your inner power back!

3. Mindfulness—shifting from autopilot to awareness and compassion

One of the ways in which I was neglecting myself and blocking change was by keeping myself busy. Work, kids, home, relationships—there was always so much to take care of. This prevented me from addressing the bigger issues—feeling disconnected from myself, overwhelmed by my circumstance, and alone in my struggles.

Searching for anything to help with my crippling anxiety, I started practicing mindfulness. I learned to breathe through my reactive impulses instead of acting on them, to observe what was happening in my body in times of stress, and to notice the habitual thought patterns and beliefs running through my head when things didn’t go my way.

I began observing how my thoughts contributed to my stress. I noticed, for example, that when something went wrong, I would judge and criticize myself for every misstep and question my character in shame (self-rejection). If my husband was late from work, I worried he had an accident (catastrophizing). If my friend didn’t check in for a few days, I assumed she didn’t care about me anymore (assuming). I would not let myself rest unless the house was clean and the kids were happy (perfectionism).

4. Healing trauma—shifting from self-betrayal to acceptance

Healing is an exploration of who we are at a deeper level. As we go through discovering ourselves again, we find what was lost, reconnect with our wounded parts, and remember what we wish to honor, support, and strengthen in ourselves going forward.

Once you create distance between triggers and your patterns of reacting, you allow space for healing. This is where you discover you have the power to transform your pain into strength.

Anchored in mindfulness, you stop glossing over your wounds and—with compassion for your pain—you show up to deal with what hurts and has been hurting perhaps for decades. You’re no longer willing to betray yourself. Instead, you face our fears, breathe through the pain locked in your body, and slowly dismantle your story around your inherent worth and your place in the world.

5. Empowerment—shifting from self-rejection to self-love and wholeness

Many of us have negative beliefs about ourselves that we’ve been shamed into believing, and now accept as truths. Deeply hidden, these stories keep us stuck and feeling “less than.” Unexamined, they sabotage our life and stop us from being who we truly are. Challenging and rewriting those beliefs can get us unstuck and moving forward again.

Growing up in a largely invalidating and disconnected environment, I believed that I was different from everybody else and that there was something wrong with me. I didn’t feel loved, seen, or heard. I thought I didn’t matter. I wasn’t important to anyone. I believed that no one would ever love me.

Mindfulness helped me to reconnect with my heart, recognize my true nature, and realize what falsehoods needed to be let go. As I worked through realising past pain and long-held beliefs about who I thought I was, I began to express myself in a more authentic way. I became better at recognizing where my life wasn’t in alignment and started taking conscious steps toward building a life more attuned with my authentic self.