We live in a world that values winning. We prize looking like we have it all together and are accomplishing great things with ease.
Because of this, most of us try to hide the areas where we are struggling, don't have it all together, are in pain, or aren't meeting our goals.
I know I'm guilty of this in public and in private.
It doesn't matter how I'm struggling—financially, emotionally, physically, keeping up with my to-do list, or in business goals. In every case, I react with embarrassment and shame.
My fear of being seen as a loser causes me to beat myself up in private and downplay my struggles around others.
This reaction not only leaves me carrying the additional (unnecessary) weight of my shame and self-criticism on top of whatever I'm struggling with, but it also makes it impossible to ask for help and causes me to live in inauthentic ways as I try to appear more together than I really am.
It also makes it harder for me to take risks, to stretch myself with big goals, or to try things I haven't done before.
None of that is helpful.
I've been working hard to shift my own internalization of our culture around this, and it starts with challenging my unconscious beliefs.
I discovered that somewhere along the way I've internalized the belief that if I'm "good enough" and "doing things right," then I should never struggle with anything. According to this belief, any time I struggle, it's a sign that there's something wrong with me. (Thus my secret fear that I'm a loser—something our culture deplores—because I struggle so often.)
The truth is that struggle is a part of life. For all of us!
Struggle means that we are doing something hard, something that challenges and stretches us, or something we haven't done before. It means that we are stretching and growing and challenging ourselves.
Our struggles are actually a sign of our courage because it shows that we are willing to face the hard things in life head on. We are willing to take risks, to be challenged, to push ourselves when things get tough.
That's pretty much the opposite of the losers we are so often afraid we actually are!
As I have worked on shifting that belief system, I'm also working on shifting my behavior around this.
I'm paying attention to my self-talk and inner shame when it shows up around something I'm struggling with, and intentionally changing my self-talk to acknowledge my courage in dealing with my struggles head on instead of calling myself a loser for them. I'm focusing on the ways I'm risking, challenging myself, and growing instead of calling myself broken or not good enough.
I'm also pushing myself to be a little more transparent with others about the ways I struggle (in safe and appropriate ways, of course). I'm discovering that it leads more often to deeper, more authentic relationships and to support and encouragement from others rather than the condemnation I feared.
With each shift in this direction, I'm dropping so much shame and fear, which leaves me more free to spend that energy tackling whatever struggles I'm facing at the moment.
It's easier to take risks, stretch myself, and take on bigger challenges because I'm less afraid of the struggle involved. I see myself as winning for being willing be struggle, and that means I can't be a loser no matter how my struggles play out.
How do you respond to the struggles in your life?
What beliefs (conscious or unconscious) to you hold around struggling?
If any of those beliefs place a negative value on struggling, how might you benefit from shifting those beliefs to see struggling in a more positive light?
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