I received an email from one of my students ("Maria") who is soaking in the blessings of a well-deserved and much-needed spring break at home. She came to me in early February struggling with anxiety and feelings of darkness as she tried to navigate the vicissitudes of college life. Recently, she came to a realization that seemed to give her perspective on why she has been struggling so mightily, and I thought I would share it with you since it might just help those that have been operating from a similar place.
When Maria arrived on campus in the fall, she had a very clear view of what her freshman year would be, and exactly how everything should play out. In her mind, this meant that her freshman roommate would become her best friend, her GPA would be close to a 4.0, she would thrive in her intended major without too much struggle, and her happiness would be guaranteed because she was at the University of her dreams so she would fit in with everyone and all would be well. What Maria didn't plan for was that if and when her beliefs and the thoughts surrounding those beliefs did not pan out, there was no plan b. And with no plan b, there was little to no ability to be flexible and adapt to the unexpected and often difficult things that life presented her with on a daily basis.
One of the key things that Maria and I set to work on was creating the awareness around her thoughts and recognizing that she had a set belief on exactly how things needed to play out so that she could be happy. Instead of being open to the process of the unfolding, she was completely wed to the outcome that she believed was best and if things deviated from this, she felt that she was a failure. Once she started seeing the pattern of her thinking and how it was manifesting in her life, she was surprised at the power of her thoughts and how it had dictated the misery she felt each and every day. Instead of appreciating the gift of having a roommate with whom she got along and enjoyed spending time, she focused on the fact that they were not best friends so somehow that was seen as a failure. Since she was not able to perform well in her intended major classes, she made the hard decision to shift into a different major that was more aligned with her true strengths and interests, but because it wasn't STEM related, she deemed this a failure. These failures in her mind kept compounding, and instead of approaching things from a more open and compassionate mindset, she felt more and more broken and unworthy of being.
Slowly, Maria has been peeling back the layers around her thoughts and belief systems, especially those that are not serving her. She is realizing that those things that she felt were non-negotiables and essential for her happiness, are no longer set in stone. Maybe there is another way of looking at things and seeing them from a new and softer place that allow her to embrace the unknown and not be as wed to the outcome. She is learning how to be true to what is best for her (which is another unfolding for her since she has never really known what she wants apart from what she believes that outside world wants and expects from her), and this is making all the difference.
May each one of you experience the grace and breathing space of living your best and most authentic life without believing that it has to play out a certain way. Bring everything you have to the table, and then let the pieces fall where they may. It often manifests not exactly as you might have envisioned it, but it can be better than you ever imagined. Stay open, be curious, have fun, and celebrate the unfolding! Happy Friday, dear ones! xo