Spirited Life: Are you Living with the Emergency Brake on?
PHOTOGRAPHY: Hannah Millerick
You know when you are holding back.
You avoid eye contact.
You fight the tears.
You tone it down.
You cover it with a smile, you cover up your smile, you take cover.
You say "I don't know" and "I don't care" – even when you do.
It doesn't matter if you are holding back on enjoying the good, or avoiding the bad.
When you are playing it safe, it doesn't feel right.
You pretend it feels better than it does. You really want it to feel right.
But it doesn't.
It just doesn't.
Most of the time, you don't consciously know that you are holding back. Our minds are amazing like that, protecting us even from the subconscious dangers. And we go about our lives, wondering why we aren't making progress. Wondering why we don't see results. Wondering why nothing ever changes.
You start to wonder what is wrong with you.
You give everything, and you receive nothing.
Or so it feels.
But are you really?
Are you really giving everything?
Or are you holding back?
When I was released from hospital, I was always optimistic. This time I would make it. I would get my shit together, I would work harder, I would start making a real effort at getting better. I would stop self-harming, I would start eating, I would stop making a big drama. And every time, I would end up hospitalized again. Eventually, I would break to pieces and need extensive care to make sure I didn't hurt myself seriously. It happened again and again and again.
And then it didn't.
I had an epiphany the day I realized that although I thought I was doing my best, I really wasn't.
The thing was, on one level I really wanted to change. I wanted to get better, I wanted to be happy, I wanted a "normal" life.
("Normal" as in mentally healthy, not as in 2,5 children and a station wagon.)
But on the other hand, feeling sick felt safer than getting healthy. And being protected by watchful eyes and locked doors felt safer than being on my own.
So, in effect I was working incredibly hard to move on – and at the same time holding back.
It's like driving with the emergency brake on.
In effect, I was making the change process unnecessarily hard.
And I think we all do it, to a certain extent. One way or the other.
We self-sabotage. We give enough to avoid unpleasand consequences. We aim lower than we could. We settle for less.
Sometimes we hold back in a different way. We fight the emotions, numb out, and pretend like nothing. We count to 10, we cry in bathrooms, we load up on coffee when what we really need is to rest.
Any time you find yourself playing it safe, avoiding emotions, trying to please everyone – you are holding yourself back.
And doing something about it will require you to take full responsibility so that you eventually can take full credit.
First you need to switch on the light and get real with yourself. Where are you holding back? Where are you playing it safe? Where can you give a little more, dig a little deeper, up your game? Where are you avoiding the risks you need to take? Where are you not giving your best self?
Doing this may require shining the light on some of the corners of your psyche you have been avoiding. You may have to face some difficult emotions. You may have to swallow your pride.
When you know where you are holding back, you have to face the fear and start giving it all you've got. What is the worst thing that can happen? What are you afraid of? What changes do you need to make?
To make this happen, you have to get out of your head and into your life.
Because limited thinking ... is just that. Limited thinking.
Thoughts that start with "I can't" are just thoughts. It is not the truth.
The truth is, you can always give a little more. There is always another way. Nothing is impossible.
Especially when you have an extra gear that you haven't tried yet. Especially when you haven't been running at top speed.
Especially when you have been riding the station wagon with the emergency brake on, without realizing that you have a Ferrari in the garage.
You can't give up before you have really tried.
Since I identified where I was holding back, my life has changed completely. I am not toning it down anymore. I am present. I am diving into my goals with full force.
And most importantly, I am facing the fear.
I am writing raw and vulnerable posts, even though I am scared to share my true self. I am hosting conferences and planning to lead workshops and events, even though I am scared of being seen, being visible. I am feeding myself, even though I am scared of putting on weight. I am staying out of the hospital, even though I am scared of handling (and not handling) things on my own.
When you are living life to the max, there will be moments when you are more tempted to hold back.
Living fully, means living with fear.
And to live with fear you have to be willing.
You have to be gutsy.
You have to be #Spirited.
Are you ready?