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If you have teenagers at home who challenge and delight you, you might be forced to remember how it was for you to grow up. Have you had a great time and were supported by the people around you? Or was it a struggle to be heard and to find your identity?
For me, being a teenager meant dysfunctional family communication, high expectations and pressure from society. It made my life a misery. Mental Health wasn’t a thing back in the ’80s. Or more it was a thing for rich people and celebrities. The rest of us just had to get on with it. No matter, how much anxiety I felt and how depressed I was I simply had to get on with it.
I have since worked with several counsellors and therapists to fiddle out the hidden messages I was given as a child and teen that always made me feel less than and insecure. The interpretation I’ve given these subtle messages were:
- I need to know the “right” action
- And I need to do this “right” action perfectly straight away
In my mind, there was no space for trying things out or learning from mistakes. Mistakes were unforgivable. And I had to come up with the solutions. Asking anyone for advice didn’t even occur to me.
3 Things I Wish Someone Told My Younger Self
Looking back at my teenage self I feel a lot of compassion for the young lady I was. And there are three things I wished someone I trusted would have told me:
- Try things out but use common sense
- Try to see it in a different way
- Keep trying ( doesn’t matter if you stop or it doesn’t work keep going until it works)
Try Things Out But Use Common Sense
Since then I worked a lot on self-improvement and many “traditional” ways of seeing things or how to deal with things never made them “right” for me. It needed decades for me to understand that we all experience things differently and that “solutions” work better when they are tailor-made.
Over the years, I tried everything from binaural tones to deal with my teeth grinding (it worked for me) to visiting a Medium for guidance (it didn’t work for me). I have no idea why I was so open to trying out different forms of dealing with anxiety and stress besides the more traditional anxiety meds and therapy.
What accompanied me in all these endeavours was that slight fear that something could go wrong. It never did though. Some methods simply didn’t work. But some did and if I would not have tried them out I would still struggle with the issues.
If I’d had the chance to speak to my teenage self I would tell her to not wait for knowing the “right” way but simply try things out that seem safe to try out. It’s common sense not to drink bleach to stop grinding teeth but listening to some funny sounds is not dangerous.
My experience with counselling and therapy is that you try things out too. Just with the help of a professional. And that is just fine.
Try to see It In A Different Way
One of the most effective strategies for dealing with issues in my life have been positive Affirmations or simply seeing an issue in a different light.
Positive Affirmations are statements that we repeat to ourselves and that rewire our negative thinking patterns. When I started to work with the concept about 20 years ago it was still thought to be a little hocus pocus. Today coaches and therapist work with affirmations and they are strewn all over the place from T-shirts to calendars.
One of my deep-felt unhelpful ideas about myself is that I simply do not have the energy to do what I want and need to do. I have no diagnosis of ME or such but I often feel my energy leaving me and I simply need to rest even though I haven’t done that much. I struggled for years with this automatic thought. To make me more productive I chastised myself for years. I thought myself to be lazy, incompetent and simply a bit stupid.
When I had therapy I got the feedback that I had managed quite a lot in my life under rather difficult circumstances which is an exhausting experience. At first, I laughed it off but I could not forget what my therapist had said. I pondered: Is it true? Have I managed a lot? And I figured that yes, I did. It was much harder to accept that challenging life experiences and the healing process does take their toll. Being exhausted is a natural way of reacting.
From then onwards I often asked myself: “How else could I see this situation?” Oftentimes, that changed everything. And especially, if I added a positive affirmation. One I still work with is simply: I have the energy! It seems to make all the difference 🙂
If I could talk to my younger self I would tell her: “Try to see it differently and see where it leads you!”
Keep Trying Until It Works
This advice for my younger self has two parts. One is “Keep trying what you figured is a good strategy” and “Keep trying different strategies”. Now that sounds rather contradictory, doesn’t it? What shall I do? Keep trying what I always did or shall I try something new?
My experience is that I usually know when a strategy doesn’t work and I need to try out a new one or when a strategy simply needs strengthening and repeating for it to reap its success. I strongly believe that we do know these things but we are often too occupied with doing instead of being that this wisdom isn’t accessible to us. Because you need to listen to yourself with mindfulness, meditation or journaling to let this knowledge surface from the depths of your mind.
If I could meet my younger self I would tell her to listen to and trust her wisdom and to try until it works.
A Song That Kept Me Trying
It works for me very well to accompany changes I want to make with a song. Oftentimes a fitting song just appears out of nowhere. I simply hear it everywhere. At other times, a song that fits came to mind when developing a strategy for dealing with issues.
One song that keeps me motivated and trying is Pink’s aptly named “Try” from the album “The Truth About Love” (affiliate link). Even though it is a love song and describes the struggles you go through in a relationship its refrain kept sticking in my mind: “You Gotta Try and Try and Try”. It simply motivated me to keep going until I figured the issue out.
My “present” for you today is Pink’s song “Try”. May it motivate you to keep trying until your life rocks! 😉
Jenna Hushka at Thought Catalogue put the “Keep Trying” into wonderful and touching words. Please check it out here.
Happy Thursday despite everything.
Good vibes your way
You can do it!
Disclaimer: I simply share my life experience and have no professional training in mental health. My methods do not substitute for professional help. If you feel you need help to deal with an issue check out these links.