Throughout my life, I have experienced significant hardship. In my mind, I felt as though I had the worst luck and if things could go from bad to worse in a heartbeat, they always would. In many ways, I had accepted fatalistic thinking. I was resigned to a pessimistic life full of anger, sadness, disgust, feelings of defeat, loneliness, and worthlessness.
The negative piled up plentifully (as it does when left unchecked) and the positive shrunk to almost an imperceptible size.
I felt justified. After all, I had experienced sexual assault four times, been very poor, gone hungry, gone without dental or medical care and been homeless. I had a father who imbibed too much alcohol and suffered from severe PTSD. My mother who was wonderful also suffered from Bipolar Disorder. My family was fairly unsupportive, mostly because they were simply trying to survive their own days and could not be bothered by assisting me with mine. I also experienced an abusive relationship of almost ten years, lost both my parents by the age of thirty-four (orphaned in my mind) and was unhappy with my job choices/career path. I gave everything I had, including my health, to the United States Air Force.
You could stack and count the amount of trauma I languished in. I was a truly sad soul filled with depression and anxiety. All in all, my life had a high rating for sucking the big one. I had most assuredly received the permanent short-end of the stick and it was highly likely I would never be enough for anyone, let alone myself. Pessimistic to the core.
So, what happened?
I had a realization I was wasting precious time and life energy on circumstances and people I could not control or change; while simultaneous realizing how much of my life I really did have the opportunity to alter if I was willing to look at it and try.
I picked myself up out of my pile of persistent and poignant misery, dusted myself off and turned my face toward the sun.
I turned my mind on and became really curious about what my life could look like if I truly wished for it to be different than it was. I swallowed my pride and accepted my single-handedness in the responsibility of the direction of my life goals and dreams. I made tough decisions and came to honest realizations when it came to my personal role in my past circumstances; which then allowed me to make different choices for my future. I set my eyes and my heart on a new path and made a promise to try not to let myself down again. (When you allow others to define who you are and your future, it is easy to feel stuck. Especially, if you feel dependent on them and their opinions of you. Once you realize your own power, skills, and abilities; you can become unstuck.)
When the challenges came like they almost always do, I chose to view them as problems to solve or puzzle pieces to account for, rather than defeating and/or defining moments.
This was the beginning of my optimism being born! Which, I also believe was the beginning of true freedom and happiness for me. I learned that our mind can either be our jailor/persecutor or it can be our champion/cheerleader; it is all in our perspective. Note that I said, “our own perspective” and not other people’s. This for me was fabulous news! This meant, I did not have to wait for others to believe in me or to help me to succeed. Other people did not define who I was or what I was capable of and the best news of all; neither did my past. Not my past trauma, not my past abusive relationships, not my past mistakes and certainly not my environment, for that, could certainly be changed with a bit of work.
Life is full of opportunities and second chances if we are open to experiencing them.
If we are able to dig deep for the faith and courage we need to forge ahead; not much can stand in our way. I now believe we can cultivate positive experiences, happiness, and joy in our lives. I say cultivate because they are not just going to show up just because you feel you are deserving of them! Which, of course, you are! We are all worthy and deserving of good in our lives. However, cultivate them we must. It takes work, commitment, flexibility and a positive attitude; especially in the face of challenges and hardship. I know for some, those might feel like dirty words but add these traits up, take neuroplasticity and our ability to change our environment into account and whalaaa! There-in lies the recipe for success.
Changing my perspective. Seeing my mind as a force that can work for me vs against me and working to cultivate positive experiences in my life, by changing my environment and the individuals I chose to connect with, has created an optimistic person within me.
Is there an optimist lying somewhere inside of you and if so, how might you bring him or her to the forefront?