There isn’t a more important teacher than experience.
I have resounding respect for experience because I know that without it, there is no growth. But it can be such a b*tch sometimes to have to learn things the hard way.
And no, all the self-help material and the magic of the internet and its many lists—much like the one I am about to write—is an adequate substitute for the real thing.
There will be times we have to go through it to fully grasp it. On the bright side of that, we then (hopefully) develop empathy for others struggling through similar things.
I say hopefully because I have seen people do the exact opposite, myself sometimes included, on a horse called “high and mighty.”
Having written all that as a tribute of honour to experience, there are times when I feel I would love to travel back in time to my much younger self.
I’d sit myself down and say, “Right, this is what you need to know, got a pen? You’re going to want to write this sh*t down. You’ll probably ignore it, but I advise strongly against that.”
These are some of the things I wish I had known sooner:
1. The more you hate a trait in someone else, the more likely you are avoiding it yourself.
Connections are mirrors—plain and simple. If we are looking around at the connections in our life and thinking, “WTF?” there is a strong possibility that we have a f*ck ton of internal work to be doing.
I spent the majority of my 20s being surrounded by people with who I felt completely and utterly disconnected, only to realise that I was disconnected from myself. I was attracting myself to myself. Yup, it’s a bit of a mindf*ck, but trust me, it’s a realization that will make us want to show up to the world wholly and completely as ourselves. How freeing is that?
Often, when we are confronted with an uncomfortable feeling of hate or annoyance with someone else, there is a recognition within us, a familiarity, and something we most likely don’t have the guts yet to face.
2. People who can’t trust, can’t be trusted.
This one’s a real doozy and requires a level of self-awareness that will make us extremely uncomfortable.
I was one of these people.
I wish you could see the frown on my face as I type that because the denial I was in for this one wasn’t just a dark hole—it was a goddamn abyss.
Hurt people hurt people, right?
We know this to be a universal truth, and when it comes to the big T, hurt people who can’t trust will invariably do distrustful things to “protect” themselves from getting hurt first.
I am in no way saying we should be naïve and trust everyone; I am saying we should catch the signs of someone projecting their own trust issues onto us.
Be firm in your boundaries and ask yourself if the connection is worth it. Trust is a vital component of any real, valuable connection.
3. The best way to meet someone else is to not need to be with someone.
Yes, I know, it’s a cliché. I sighed a little even typing it—but only because I learnt this one the hard way. I could have saved myself a decade of bad decisions.
If we don’t have the capacity to be fully and wholly complete on our own, we will destroy our romantic relationships with codependent behaviour.
We have this one precious life, and although there is a euphoric bliss when we fall in love and share our lives with someone else, we need to have our happiness, our mental health, and our priorities in check.
There are many relationships we can grow in, but when we enter them from a place of unhappiness, discontent, loneliness, or desperation, we set ourselves up for failure.
We essentially lose ourselves in the distraction of another person.
4. Your growth will aggravate other people’s demons and vice versa.
Doing what’s best for ourselves isn’t always an easy path. Some things come naturally, and we take to the waters of change like a duck, but other things are quite simply…hard.
I have been in countless situations where I can see with clarity that my growth on something aggravates someone who clearly needs to be working on that aspect of themselves.
And it goes both ways—there have been other situations where I say to myself, “I really should be making that change because I know it resonates with me on a soul level.”
Rise above the aggravation and don’t take it personally from other people—because sometimes it’s not about you.
5. Establish your values and stick to them—as soon as possible.
Our values are our guidance system.
When we aren’t clear on them, we don’t know how to say no, we don’t know what to search for that will bring us happiness, and most importantly, we can’t protect ourselves from other people who exert a strong influence.
This leads to struggle, establishing connections that hurt us more than help us grow, and we land up in constant conflict with ourselves.
Investigating what our values are will help us make clearer decisions and increase our sense of identity.
6. The more honest you are about your faults, the more people will think you are great.
When I entered recovery, I had one goal to start off with, and it meant everything to me. I wanted to get really f*cking honest—with myself and the people around me.
I didn’t want to hide in shame anymore; I wanted to be open, authentic, and vulnerable.
I did that with some hiccups along the way, but the one thing I started to see more and more was how drawn people were to me.
It’s the proverbial moth to a flame, and it makes us wonder why we spent all that time trying to hide the real and awesome us.
7. If it scares the sh*t out of you, you should probably do it.
This is with the exception of genuinely life-threatening or physically harmful activities, but you get that, right?
Fear is often activated when we are confronted with the chance to pursue the things we really want—the things we know are going to remove us from our comfort zones.
And yes, it’s really comfy and cozy in the familiar, safe space, but I can almost guarantee that when we take a leap out of those zones, it’s a way more fulfilling experience.
Use the fear to motivate you to move forward, speak to that attractive person, apply for that job you want, start that business!
The possibilities are endless if you break the fear bubble and go for it.
These are the things I wish I had known sooner, but maybe it’s the spiritualist in me that keeps telling me, “Everything in its right time.”
So I’ll be grateful that regardless of when I learnt these, I learnt them.
May we all continue to bow to experience and what it has to teach us—and continue reading internet lists for the secrets to being a happy human.
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