Pay attention to what’s bothering you.
My anxiety rushed over me before I even knew to fret.
A friend had posted yet another picture of her perfect self with her perfect family, living their perfect life as perfect people.
I love this friend dearly. The two of us together, talking and laughing, our kids hanging out with one another, is one of my favorite activities in life.
And yet, here I was, envious…or so I thought.
For a long time, when I’d encounter women like her–peppy, put together, perfect–I would believe I was jealous of what they had. Hadn’t I always craved normalcy and never gotten it?
But what I eventually realized was that I actually was not envious. Deep down, I didn’t want the life my friend leads; if I did, I would have strived harder for it.
No, I was angry. Angry that this was the picture of what was “right” that was held before me, this belief that as a wife and a mother in the South I should want my children to dress a certain way, participate in certain activities and choose certain friend groups.
We should live in a certain type of house in a certain neighborhood.
I should look a certain way, work out a certain way, eat a certain way.
I hated the certains.
Even after discovering it was anger, not envy, driving my anxiety, I couldn’t seem to stop the feeling. I wanted to be able to scroll past and not care, but I couldn’t.
Because this whole “not having what I thought I was supposed to” deal had been stuck with me for quite some time, seeping into my life somewhere around the age of 12 and setting up home in my bitter heart.
It took the season from hell to force me to dig out issues that had embroiled my thoughts and held me captive for so long.
One of those issues was figuring out exactly what triggers me.
By no means are perfect posts on social media my only trigger. Male patriarchy (super controlling father), drinking mothers (cleaned my mom’s vomit off the floor), evangelical church (destroyed my family of origin), and sexual abuse (abused by men close to me), cut me to my core.
When I find myself up against stories, situations and scenarios where these triggers are present, I must employ three tactics to help me make it through:
- I STOP and breathe deep.
Closing my eyes, I breathe in through my nose and exhale out of my mouth. I do this two or three times and try to move more slowly each time.
2. I REMEMBER that whatever it was that caused this trigger has no power over me.
The past is over. And even in the present, the truth is, whatever happened to me only had the power to hurt me that I gave it. Is it okay to let something hurt you? Absolutely. But there comes a point at which the pain will take over if we don’t put it in its proper place. We have to remember that we have control of our own life.
3. I PRACTICE my reframing techniques:
I go back to the memory, put myself in the other person’s shoes (when possible–I don’t advocate this in situations of sexual abuse), and I tell myself that me, the person or the event that hurt me was human and fallen, too. Then, I imagine myself forgiving everyone in the situation.
The final trick up my sleeve is what I call the trick of Absurd Self-Esteem.
Self-esteem has gotten a bad rap as of late, but I think it’s foundational to understanding our value. We were created and bought at a high price (in my view) and the value of anything is the price someone was willing to pay for it.
Humans were created with a built in need for affirmation. We want to be wanted, loved and valued. So sometimes we have to choose this for ourselves–no one is going to do it for us.
My trick is to tell myself I’m living in the best of all possible worlds. What is happening in my life is exactly what is supposed to happen. I am creating the life I’ve chosen. This is the life I want. And if there’s anything I don’t want in my life that is in my ability to change, I change it immediately.
Practice! It takes time, but using these tactics has helped me tremendously on my journey to a best enough me.
Triggers help us figure out what’s still bothering us after all this time on earth.
What are your triggers?
I’d love to hear from you.
Check out my monmilgoods store to find goodies to help you on your journey. Reward yourself!