One of the root causes of anxiety is falling prey to the ego’s tendency to divide life into polarities – good/evil, right/wrong, black/white – in an attempt to control the outcome of our choices and find a guarantee. In other words, your ego believes that if it could find a definitive answer to this one question, or make the “right” choice, you would find peace and happiness. The irony is that, in its attempt to stave off anxiety by finding the one right answer, it actually creates even more anxiety.
Why? Because life is not a black-and-white checkerboard where the answers are neatly hidden behind each square; it’s complicated, multi-dimensional, and mysterious. And when we exert massive amounts of energy trying to determine the “right” answer, we become absorbed in a rumination process that takes place in our heads. And the answers – if there are any – don’t live in our heads.
They live in our bodies. Our bodies carry our wisdom, and when we can connect to our natural and intrinsic navigation system – one that every human being is born with – we’re able to relinquish the addiction to finding one right way and instead live from a more embodied experience that allows for multiplicity and paradox. And, speaking of paradox, when we let go of the belief that one right way exists we open up to our body’s wisdom which can guide us toward a loving way – not the loving way, but a loving way.
One of the other ego’s sneaky little tricks to try to control the future and how others view you is to lure you into a belief that if you choose “right”, you will be happy and receive approval. This choosing “right” often spans the spectrum of insignificant decisions like which cereal to pick at the supermarket to choosing your life partner. The underlying belief is that if you choose right, you’ll be happy and if you choose wrong you’ll be unhappy and, perhaps even worse, seen by others as a failure.
The antidote to this negative belief system is to adopt a mindset of learning. If you approach every decision you make as an opportunity to learn no matter what the outcome, you can start to shift out of paralysis and move into more flow. Obviously the stakes are lower with a box of cereal than a life partner, but in the end, every mistake we make is an opportunity to learn. In fact, studies now show that mistakes are not only opportunities for learning but also how we learn. In other words, we need to make mistakes if we’re going to grow.
Yet for many people the goal isn’t to learn and grow but to be seen a certain way: as happy or successful or having it all together. Guided by a culture that encourages us to externalize our sense of self from the moment we’re born, for many people their priority is, above all us, to try to control how others see them.
This is where the shift in mindset becomes essential, where we have to take our minds by the horns and say, “Is the way I’ve been operating bringing me peace?” If the answer is no – and it probably is otherwise you wouldn’t have found your way to my site – then it’s time to have a good talking-to with yourself and recognize that you have the capacity to choose another way. You can choose to experiment with letting go of control, turning your attention inward, and connecting to your Self with a big S. You can choose, in essence, to practice the skills that will grow your self-trust so that you can stop looking outside of yourself for your answers.
When you trust yourself, you can tolerate ambiguity. When you have enough self-love derived from a sense of your essential worthiness (which is one of the essential prongs of self-trust; the other being self-knowledge), you can review your life and recognize your mistakes without equating mistakes with unworthiness. You may feel sadness about those mistakes, and probably even some remorse, but you can allow those natural feelings to wash over you as you review your decisions through the lens of learning and new awareness. We are intrinsically flawed as human beings, but we are also intrinsically whole, which means that making mistakes is part of the plan and learning from them from the mindset of our wholeness is part of the plan as well.
And this is how we move toward more wholeness: by learning to widen our lens to include multiple realities, and finding the courage to take risks without guarantees. This is how we shift out of the stuck state that arises when we equate the outcome of our decisions with worthiness and instead know in our bones that our worthiness is inviolable. This is how we jump off the cliffs of our lives – backward – and trust that wings like parachutes will land us gently on the ground again.
Are you ready to learn how to jump off the cliff of your life and trust that your parachute will open? Are you ready to learn what it means to trust so that you can shift from feeling stuck to living in more flow, from caring what others think to connecting to your own guidance? If so, please join me for my next round of Trust Yourself: A 30-day program to help your overcome your fear of failure, caring what others think, perfectionism, difficulty making decisions, and self-doubt. The program begins TOMORROW and space is limited. I look forward to seeing you there.