The hardest part about dark moments is not just the pain, it’s feeling alone. Because going through something hard when you have a friend still has camaraderie. It brings you closer together and you have someone that’s going through it with you. When you’re alone it reinforces all the things that you hate about yourself. It’s almost like the fact life is hard is because you’re a screw up. It’s a punishment. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy.
It’s also hard to lean on others in those times. Personally, I don’t want others to see me when I’m limping. I don’t want them to know I have bad days and sometimes I feel miserable. I want to lift them up and I want to help them but it’s very hard for me to ask for it. That’s my own issue and it’s one that I’m working on, but recently I found the next best thing.
Since I had read a ton of self improvement books I was half-mocking myself in my pain. “Why are you suffering so much? Why are you in so much pain when you’ve read 1,000 books on how to be happy and healthy and effective?” I felt amused that despite having so much of that information in my brain, I was still feeling absolutely pathetic and miserable.
But the contradiction perplexed me. What would those authors say to me right now? Was their work BS or did it apply here? So I made a list of my favorite books and considered how each one would apply to what I was going through.
I heard Stephen Covey’s voice telling me about Circles of Influence and Circles of Concern. He asked me what part of my situation I could control and which ones I couldn’t.
I heard Carol Dweck reminding me about the Fixed Mindset and the Growth Mindset. She asked if my situation really defined me as a failure or if there were just some things I hadn’t learned yet.
I heard Ryan Holiday quoting the stoics. He adamantly pointed to all the things I could use to grow in my current situation. He enthusiastically pointed to the opportunities for learning and adapting and refining how I handled this the next time.
Then I heard Kristen Neff and Dale Carnegie and Jocko Willink and Angela Duckworth and Spencer Johnson. They were all there. So many different perspectives and different ideas that applied perfectly into what I was going through. It was like I had a room full of friends with the best advice in the world, all ready to help out.
When I finished writing down what each one would tell me I was amazed. My mood had taken a complete 180. I had personalized advice for my situation with tons of tools and methods and perspectives on what to do and how to dust myself back off.
Here’s the bottom line: Just reading self improvement books won’t fix your problems. Drinking or distracting yourself or hiding from your pain will not fix your problems. Feeling torn apart by loneliness that you can’t ask anyone for help won’t fix your problems.
Only you can fix your problems. Luckily, you already have the tools. I’m begging you to use them.
I’m begging you to rescue yourself. I’m praying that you’ll get out a sheet of paper and think of the books or mentors or friends that you’ve looked up to. Those books really meant something to you at one point.
If you step out of your own head for 5 minutes and write down what they would tell you, everything will change. Get out of your negative head and into a positive one. Take that positive perspective and give yourself good advice. Follow that advice and be the reason you feel better.
You have so much power over your situation, it’s time to dust off all that great information you’ve read. I’m not asking you to boil the ocean. The tiniest step here is good enough.
Your favorite books resonated with you because they were compatible with the way you see the world. They were what you needed to hear at one point. Maybe it’s not Covey or Dweck for you, doesn’t really matter. Maybe it’s the advice your grandfather would give you if you were still here. Sometimes I write the advice my father would give me if he wouldn’t have passed away when I was little. It’s really comforting to hear the words you wish someone could tell you. They would comfort us if they were here, and just because they are not doesn’t mean we can’t take the hand that they wish they could hold out more than anything.
You’re not alone. You’re not broken. This hurts but it is not enough to defeat you. You might be in your room alone, but there’s a lot of people on your side. Hear the support they are cheering for you and let them lift you up. You can do this, I believe in you.
Typically I recommend helpful books at the end of my posts/blogs, but that doesn’t really fit the message of this post. Is there advice from your favorite author that you could apply to a problem you’re facing right now? It could probably help other people reading this as well. We’re all in this together, I’d love to hear anything you have to share 🙂