difficult emotions / how to

Why Fixing Yourself Never Works

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Stop Trying to Fix Yourself

We tend to think we are broken. It’s a natural instinct really, we see other people and imagine that their lives are better, that their internal mechanism is somehow created more perfectly. We long for that sense of wholeness, for that sense of competency, and for that sense of happiness.

Then we look back at ourselves and we see problems. Habits we don’t like, body parts that aren’t shaped the way we’d like, and less glamorous lives. We think we came with a factory defect, or that somewhere we’ve tweaked an essential cog. No matter the reason, we see ourselves as broken.

Then we go out and try to fix ourselves. But it doesn’t work.

Recently I was talking to a client with this exact problem. He was telling me about all the techniques he used to manage his anxiety when I asked his a very simple question…

  • Me: What if you didn’t manage your anxiety? What if you just sat with it?
  • Client: Well if I did that I would feel sick and tired. I would be letting the anxiety win.
  • Me: If you are letting it win, doesn’t that imply that you are still fighting it.
  • Client: Well of course I’m fighting it. If I don’t fight it, it would just always be there.
  • Me: Are you sure? What if I told you that fighting your anxiety was the exact thing that made it last? What if the key to relieving your anxiety was to stop pushing it away but to invite it in like a honored guest?
  • Client: ::Stunned Silence:: Can I do that?
  • Me: Yes you can.

My client’s reaction is a common one. It’s so easy to think of certain feelings or thoughts as bad and do everything we can to stop them. So we avoid them, we distract ourselves, and we try to fix these ‘broken’ parts of our lives. But these parts of ourselves aren’t broken. In fact, I believe and my experience tells me that there is no part of you that is broken.

The problem is not the anxiety it’s the struggle the anxiety creates, it’s your own desire to be free from the anxiety that causes you to feel trapped. But what’s great about this is that all you have to do to find relief is to STOP: stop fixing it, stop trying to change it, stop making it a problem. Instead, just be willing to sit with the feeling and accept it.

Three Questions To Help You Be Present

Of course saying we are going to do accept something and actually doing this are two very different things. So together my client and I came up with three simple questions he could ask himself whenever he felt anxiety.

  1. Is there anything essential I need to do?
    If you are feeling anxiety because you are about to run out of gas then you should probably stop for gas. Nevertheless, it’s important to wonder if this action is essential? If there’s nothing you have to do right now, then this is a good time to pause.
  2. What am I looking for or what am I trying to avoid?
    Often we use work, social media, television, coffee, alcohol, sex, and a whole variety of other things to satisfy some deep desire. We feel anxious so we reach for some relief. But to truly find relief we have to see what we are trying to find or trying to avoid. The key is to notice this without trying to find a solution.
  3. Don’t I have everything I need? Or In this moment what is lacking?
    This last question points our minds to look at the wholeness found in every moment. It also helps us see all the ways we see our lives and ourselves as broken. When we ask this question, we might hear all sorts of answers about what our lives are missing. The key is to ignore these thought and instead ask the question from our hearts.

As you begin see that this moment is whole, it becomes much easier to sit with whatever feeling is arising. A moment of feeling anxiety is not broken, a moment of feeling anger is not broken, if you are willing to just be with it.

Feel the wholeness of this moment. Breathe and accept what you are feeling. Watch at this feeling changes and watch as it begins to fade.

After this exercise my client left with a whole new sense of freedom around his anxiety. He was able to see that the constant battle he was having with himself wasn’t eternal. That in fact there was a simple way he could find relief for this feeling that had haunted him for years.

You Are Not Broken

While I’m happy my client discovered this truth, I hope you can learn from his experience. I hope that you remember that feeling anxiety, sadness, or anger are not indications that you are broken. If anything, these things indicate that your life is rich and complex.

I urge you to stop trying to fix yourself. It won’t work. Instead, step into the faith that you have everything you need to live the happy and mindful life you were born to live.


To find out more about what working with me one on one is like check out my new coaching site.

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