Monday, April 8, 2013

Empower Yourself: Lesson #2 - It Starts with You

In this five-week series, we will look at what you can do to empower yourself and take control of your life. Remember, "If it's going to be, it's up to me!"

A lot of the things that make life unfair are out of our control. The death of a loved one, the decision of someone you loved not to pursue a relationship with you, a potential employer choosing another candidate or an unexpected layoff. In these cases, even your best may not be good enough. Then there are the things that are completely unfair and arbitrary, childhood abuse, being the victim of a crime or of a terrible accident. You may not be responsible for the decisions or behavior of others but you are responsible for what happens next. It all starts with you.

This does not mean whatever happened was your fault. This does not mean you brought something horrific on yourself. What it does mean is that what happens next is yours. Victim or victor? It is up to you.

A very good friend was the victim of a crime. It was almost a decade ago and it has affected every area of her life. It changed the way she dresses down to the undergarments she wears. It changed her weight. It changed the way she approached men and even how she has approached life in general. She still dreams about it.

I know what happened was horrible. However, I think it is just as horrible the way it has changed her life since then. Confronting personal horror is never easy or fast. It is difficult, tine-consuming and it doesn’t happen overnight. Yet, it is necessary. I wonder how her life would be different if she had sought help earlier.

You cannot change what has happened but you can decide whether you live closely with it – making it an intimate part of your everyday life or you move beyond it – you don’t ignore it but it becomes an event of the past, something you have handled and dealt with.

Yes, it starts with you, but how do you start?

You admit the nature of your problem or challenge. Recent events led me to come to a very personal decision. I suffer from depression. Looking back, I’ve suffered from it for a while. It has affected my relationships with men, family and friends. It has held me back in a number of ways. I wasted a lot of time denying this. Yet, for me to make real change, I had to accept this reality. For you it might be confronting the affect that a past incidence has on your current life, maybe you need to admit you have a substance abuse problem or other detrimental issue. The first step to owning it is naming it.

Next, admit you need help and seek it. During one episode of major depression, I sought help from a therapist. A lot of people don’t take that step, they suffer because they few therapy as narcissistic, or something rich people do. In the worst case scenario, they believe that it is a sign of weakness. Therapy is nothing of the sort. First of all, whatever problem you have is impacting those around you. Seeking help helps you and those in your inner circles, so it isn’t narcissistic. A lot of health insurance includes mental health so it is affordable. There is also a lot of free and low cost services available. Finally, admitting weakness is a sign of strength. Hiding behind pain and not confronting your issues is really what is weak.

Then again, after you admit your problem you might not need help at all. What you need is a swift kick and a desire to make a real change. 

Whatever you decide to do, know that it is up to you to do it. If you came home from work and found that you had been robbed, what would you do? Would you just accept that you no longer have a television, a computer or any nice jewelry? Would you sit in the middle of the floor and wait for the thieves to have a change of heart and return your stuff? Would you call the police and the insurance company and file a report? Would you start thinking about what you have to do to replace your things?

Chances are you wouldn’t just accept the robbery and do nothing. You wouldn’t expect the robbers to change their minds. You would do something. You would put in the work and the time to replace what was stolen. Isn’t the quality of your life at least as important?

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