I am now 34 and whether or not I am having a premature mid life crisis, I do not know?! But one thing I do know is that for the last few weeks or so I have certainly being having a bit or crisis in several aspects of my life. One thing I really struggle with at the moment and which has caused me a lot of feelings of frustration and inadequacy is that I never became anything (at least not until now) and whilst that has motivated me to endure another year of counselling training, it has also made me feel pretty unsuccessful at times. I know I am lots of things and have many things in life I have accomplished and am proud of, but what I am referring to specifically in this post, is a career/education or training in something.
As a younger version of myself I wanted to teach, go to performing arts school, work in Law or join the RAF (because they’re all so similar right?!). I know part of my “problem” has to do with being a dreamer and wanting to do so many things, that I consequently become indecisive and a bit of a drifter. But whether it was that, or whether it was fear, not working hard enough, not fighting hard enough for it or not enduring enough when I struggled with certain aspects, there are ample reasons why I never accomplished any of those things. And, as hard as I try to be okay with not having had those things in my life, I do live with a lot of regret here in my almost mid 30’s. I can’t help thinking that life right now would be so much easier if I had stuck at courses or fought harder to be more than I am!
As I have tried to be more comfortable with this and not let it consume me, I have highlighted 3 areas which I have analysed and feel can be improved on. I hope they help you too if you struggle with regret or inadequacy in your life.
My definition of Success
What is success and what does it look like?
I have had this question written in my journal for what seems like forever now because I haven’t been able to define it – until now. I have realised one of the biggest sources of feeling in a state of crisis and regret, is how I was defining success and what I was chasing in order to feel that.
I was seeing success only as a title, a job, a bank balance, a lifestyle even. But those things are all so temporary, and whilst it may be some of them, it isn’t JUST that – it is far more! Success is self acceptance and loving yourself. Success is liking what you do and how you do it (yes that is straight off of Pinterest but it says it so well). I have this written on the home screen of my phone, as a reminder to gain some perspective that this mindset can endure all seasons of life.
That means that whether you choose to be a teacher, a Dr, a Mother, a blogger, a wife, a pilot, a traveller or anything else – it really doesn’t matter. Success isn’t about the title you hold or how many pounds you are making by doing it (though yes it does make life a whole lot easier) it is more about liking what you do and how you do it. It is happiness and satisfaction in life in those things you are doing and ultimately being comfortable in who you are and how you are doing it.
Some questions to reflect on, to determine how you feel that might be…
Are you happy with how you parent and do you like how you are raising your family?
Are you happy with the relationship you are in? Do you like what you do together and how you do it?
Do you like what you do for a living?
Do you like the lifestyle you have? The hobbies you have? Where you choose to spend your free time?
Are you happy with yourself and do you accept who you are and what you can be?
I have a lot or life experience, have been to some incredible places (and continue to) have a gorgeous happy family, write a blog and love it, but no qualifications in anything – does that mean I am not successful? Well the latter, for far too long has overshadowed my ability to see and feel the success in my children and in my marriage. It has overshadowed my ability to realise I like so many things about my life and how we do life, as well as my ability to see all of my talents and the satisfaction I have in how I am living my life in other areas beyond “career”.
Sometimes, the problem isn’t with our entire life at all, it is simply in the weight a word holds for us and allowing that definition to overshadow our ability to shine in the rest of life!
Regret – why it’s bad and why I’m trying to be okay with mine!
Regret in any area of our life is painful. Its emotions can range from guilt, upset, low self esteem and even anger and frustration. Those are each very destructive and heavy things to carry through life and as we fail to let go of them and overcome them, they will cloud our decision making in the present and overshadow our ability to be grateful in the here and now. Living with regret can make us impulsive as we don’t want to make the same mistakes again or we try to relive the past to have “a second chance”.
None of these things are healthy – especially long term and what helps me to deal with regret are 2 things – firstly, I have started to accept who I am (which I will talk about more in my next point) and my ability to grow and be who I want to be. And secondly I have allowed myself to see what I do have instead of what I don’t and be grateful for those things. The wonderful thing about life is that it is constantly moving. We can acknowledge the pains and frustrations of regret and move forward with life – embracing new opportunities, or we can stay stuck on the merriground of regret – churning through anger, heartache and guilt!
The biggest thing with regret is not to feel guilt or sadness about how the picture looks now – however different it is to how you imagined. Imagination Vs reality is an issue in itself, but also we must accept that in each chapter of life we make our choices based on our individual experiences, goals and feelings in each moment and that isn’t a bad thing as often it is right for then. Some of our choices grow with us, others don’t and that isn’t something to feel bad about or be angry at.
It is okay to realise that you want certain compartments of life to look different, but what we have now is what is real and, we need to accept that and embrace it, whilst we work on the things we hope to improve!
Self acceptance is not the same as self-esteem, though it can have a huge positive impact on that too. As I have worked these past 9 months on it (both with clients and myself) I have found it quite hard, but also learnt so many things about it. Ultimately – if you want to improve it, you need to be willing to allow yourself to be weak and vulnerable at times, because accepting these more painful areas of you and your life, help you to be satisfied and love yourself despite your deficiencies and past choices or behaviours.
Self acceptance is knowing your whole self (warts n all) and being aware of both your strengths and weaknesses, but also being able to embrace all facets of yourself. Society has given us an expectation for perfection and we tend to only embrace our strengths and what we are good at, whilst hiding or being embarraseed by our shortcomings. But those are equally important elements to who we are. I am sensitive for example, at times it is a weakness because I overreact or am easily upset/overthink and worry. But to get rid of it or overlook it would mean I wouldn’t be able to relate to people the way I do, or have so many ideas and thoughts to reach out to them. Ultimately it would mean I couldn’t be a counsellor in the way I want to be. And so I see that accepting I am sensitive has become a wonderful thing.
And just because you have feelings of anger or shyness, or moments of weakness with certain things doesn’t mean you are a weak person or an angry person or a shy person. Theses are just parts of you and I bet if you look at them again in a different light, you will see some benefits to them too in your life – even if it is just that it keeps you humble, helps you relate to others or gives you passion. The problem isn’t that thing, but often how we view that thing…Our weaker parts are all just elements of a larger whole. Realising that is so liberating and makes them less dominant in being a barrier to loving and accepting the rest of ourselves.
My next hurdle to self acceptance is most definitely how I see how I should be Vs how I feel I am and want to be. Sometimes I end up living my life to please others and their ideals as opposed to what I want my life to look like and who I want to be. This way of living – giving into feelings and expectations of others, doesn’t bring happiness and also causes us to feel like we are not good enough in who we are and want to be. Why do you need to be who they think you should be? You are you – uniques and brilliant.
Another element to this is also in the battle between realising my shortcomings and wanting to do more and be more/make them strengths (like education and training in something or being a better mother) and allowing that part to overshadow being happy with all that I am now (back to the success and regrets stuff!).
Only when we stop judging ourselves and comparing our lives to others or their expectations, can we truly accept how amazing we each are.
In writing this post I have realised that whilst there are areas I do not feel I am successful in, it does not mean I am not successful. I do like so many things about my life – who I share it with, the things we do together and how we do them. I have things I wished I had done, we all do, but I don’t need to regret the things that led me to this point.
Who I am now isn’t who I always will be and the wonderful thing about life is that I, and each of us can change that and start now to become more and learn more. But we have to be willing to accept where we are and who we are. We need to let go of perfection and be real.
It’s okay to desire more and make a decision to go after that become it or do it. But remember we are always becoming and enjoy the process, don’t allow regret or the lack of that currently to overshadow all that you are now!