Some time ago, I became aware of how much I would have liked to love and support myself more during certain phases of my life, to somehow accept who I was then, how I thought, and what I did, instead of continuously criticizing myself for not being wiser, more responsible, conscientious, kinder, or whatever else… There were things I was ashamed of for a long time, and I thought, how could I have done, said, or been that… But most of those phases are actually extremely endearing and funny to me now, or I see a deeper purpose and meaning in why I had to be that way back then. I believe that those phases and periods are simply a natural path of someone’s growth and maturation, and I’m glad they were part of me and my life.
On the other hand, there were also those phases when life seemed like an endless abyss… I remember those phases with great sadness. Not because they are still triggers for me, but because I wish I had been a better friend to myself during those times.
I wish I had known how to treat myself in those phases simply as a person who is suffering.
Taking responsibility for oneself, one’s life, and ceasing to live “unconsciously” and on autopilot is something that is highly emphasized today. That is essentially the story of Mindfulness, what I’m actually trying to teach others through my work, and also what I practice in my own life on a daily basis. However, the way I perceive Mindfulness and the whole personal development story today is very different from the way I saw things three years ago.
What I recently realized is that in the moments when I was struggling the most, yearning for major changes but unable to find meaning in my own life, the whole narrative of “taking responsibility,” personal development, and everything else made me feel even worse and honestly caused me more harm than good. Firstly, because there was some arrogance within me that I should be some kind of quasi-example of mindfulness practice, meditation, and elevated values and a life that is not on autopilot, taking responsibility for oneself and one’s well-being. And at that time, I couldn’t be or achieve any of that.
There was this inner critic within me that was ruthlessly criticizing and condemning me for allowing myself to act in ways that were not entirely correct, compassionate, “mindful,” good for myself and others.
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If I were to summarize that period of my life, it would simply be – I was unhappy. And now, from this perspective, I know that I needed that period to simply suffer, make mistakes, not know where I was, have no guidance, directions, or solutions to the problems I was facing… I needed that terrible fall to be able to see who I am, what I need, and how I can find my way back to the surface.
It’s Okay Because You’re Human
What I would now tell myself in that period is that it’s okay that I can’t always meditate, that I don’t know where I’m going and what my goals are, that I have outbursts of sadness, anger, and crying that can last for days… It’s okay that many things no longer make sense to me, that I’m not sure what is good and what is bad, and that I’m completely lost in the whirlwind of plans, goals, desires, and needs…
It’s okay because I’m a human being.
It’s okay because each of us has our ups and downs. Each of us has moments when we get lost and struggle with ourselves without knowing why or for what reason. I believe that if I had resisted that process of pain and sadness less, it would have been much easier for me… Instead, I constantly pushed myself to find a way out of that tunnel, to come up with something, do something, solve something quickly and as soon as possible.
What I actually lacked was that understanding, compassion, and someone (in this case, myself) to hold my hand in that process, to simply be there with me, to listen, support, or just remain silent while things were breaking inside me. I didn’t need solutions, advice, strategies of what, how, and where, but simply that silent self-understanding and belief that I would be fine, that I would be better, that I would come out of that phase sooner or later. I lacked faith in myself, not a plan of personal development and books on how to happily rush into the future.
I wish I had given myself time, patience, and faith that no matter what happens, I have the strength to come out of it, at my own pace when I’m ready.
Faith in life that it will bring me the people who will support and help me.
Faith that what is happening may be necessary for me to become stronger, more resilient, and more aware of who I am, what I am, and where I’m going.
What I was missing was that radical acceptance of myself, my life, and my relationships, and the courage to see that things are the way they are now, no matter how difficult and bad they may have seemed to me at the time, instead of constantly escaping into what I should actually be and how I should feel.
Acceptance as Part of the Process
I don’t want to emphasize the story of passivity and surrendering to the waves of fate, but simply the cessation of tormenting ourselves with the idea that we must know who we are, what we are, and where we are going at every moment… If we are constantly in that process, then in essence we do not give ourselves permission to truly live our truth – and perhaps in some period, our truth is that we are notwell and that we are not okay, or that we simply have no truth to tell ourselves and others because we are still searching for it.
We are humans, and part of the human experience is suffering, struggles, defeats, and unfortunately, some incredibly difficult moments that we sometimes can’t do anything about except to accept them as part of us and our life. We don’t always have to rush to make things better or different.
Sometimes we need time to grieve, mourn, and let go of what we used to be but are no longer.
Sometimes we need time, sometimes the support of another person, and what can most help us in that process or what is often called the “dark night of the soul” is understanding, compassion, and faith in ourselves.
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