Sometimes, life is hard. Really, really hard.
Most of us attend twelve or more years of rigorous academic schooling before being thrown into adulting. We learn about mathematics, sciences, languages, reading, writing, language arts, and history. The problem is, where are all of the classes on making valuable connections, meaningful conversations, self-love, authenticity, loving relationships, insightful reflections, cultivating and maintaining self-worth, and having an open-mind? If you went to a fancy private/charter school that offered this (does it even exist?), consider yourself lucky.
I was never given these classes.
How My Journey Started
No, this is not going to be a blog post about how something horrific happened to me. I was not forced to navigate my way through recovery and, in turn, found “myself.” Also, I did not wake up one morning and think, “You know what… I am ready to learn how to live for myself and practice self love! Let me begin to explore self-help.” Nor did I see a SIGN that it was time.
My self-help journey kind of happened accidentally. Having a moment of curiosity was all that it took to transform my life slowly, but enough to genuinely make me feel like I a slightly better version of myself each day. It was as if the universe brought this gigantic gift to me in a very, very tiny package. Then, it waited, patiently, for me to open it.
My Silent Inspiration
For the past year, my husband has been listening to podcasts on his way to work (an hour each way on the train to NYC) and when he works from home on Fridays. He would always tell me about his podcasts and I would nod and listen. I was happy he found connection through them, but not intrigued enough to investigate them myself. Ehh, I was more of a reader. So, I figured listening to podcasts was his alternative route for entertainment and information, which is all fine and dandy. Over dinner, he’d discuss stories of war, resilience, how to work with others, dealing with ignorant people, navigating through failures, and recognizing how to play to your strengths.
As I type this out now, I am thinking to myself, “Wow! These are some major life lessons my husband was learning and discussing with me. How did I not realize how podcasts could do the same for me?” Well, in this instance, I guess it was one of those things where I had to experience it myself to understand the benefit and power of peeling back the layers of myself through the guidance of someone else’s words.
A Rocky Start
One December weekend while I was about to start my house chores in my kitchen, I opened my Spotify app (love, love, love this app!). I was clicking around to see which station I wanted to turn on. I decided to open the “Browse” window to find something new that Spotify recommended for me.
As I was about to click “Discover” to locate a new station, I noticed a “Podcast” category that I never was attuned to before. Without thinking, I decided to peek to see what podcasts were all about and why they were on my music app. No, it was not a perfect story where I clicked and right away found one that spoke to me (cue the angel voice). I am pretty sure I listened to 5 minute tidbits from at least thirty different podcasts. All of the hosts were great, enthusiastic speakers for the most part, but the content was not holding my interest (how to, history facts, technology and gaming, news, comedy…ehh…I’m good).
My husband walked in from outside and I was almost embarrassed when he heard that I was listening to podcasts. He said, “Ahh, are you listening to podcasts? Look at you! I am proud that you’re giving them a chance.” I was as surprised as he was, but disappointed. I explained that I could not find something I liked. He told me to have patience and keep poking around podcasts to find topics that relate to my life. My husband also recommended I looked at YouTube or the iphone Podcast app. After about ten more minutes, I lost interest and opted for a John Mayer station.
I am glad that was not the end of it.
The Day My Journey Began
A few days later when I was at the gym, I went to put on music and, instead, found myself searching through the iphone podcast app. Through a little exploration, I found my way to the popular podcast list and clicked one by Chalene Johnson (honestly, because the picture looked fun and interesting and was about the fifth on the list…totally judged it by its cover!).
I saw that she created podcasts about things like overcoming perfectionism, not worrying what other people think about, navigating difficult friendships, and exercise. Yes, I KNOW it sounds so cliche, but it was as if she was speaking to me. But, I needed help in my life in ALL of these areas! So, I popped on a 40 minute podcast for my workout and continued to listen to another in the car and while I made dinner.
It may seem anti-climactic, but it took me listening to just a few of her podcasts for me to begin to find dozens of tools and little nuggets of advice. As simple as her advice was, hearing someone say the words to me was inspirational and I was immediately intrigued to listen to more. I clicked the “related” tab on her podcast page and found other podcasts
I also felt connected with that made me dive deep into a reflective journey within myself (see my top 3 Podcasts post). It has only been about five months since that day at the gym and I have already found myself worrying less, having more self-love, as well as letting go of trying to control every aspect of life.
Tools I am Using to Navigate My Journey
Below is a list of the ways I have taken on the role of a student, again, by educating myself on how to become a better version of myself (and, boy… I realized that I have a lot to work on!).
I love listening to podcasts because I don’t need my hands and I can get other things in my day done while learning some advice to apply to my life. I usually listen to a 20 minute podcast on the way to work, one on the way home, and a 40 minute podcast during working out and/or cooking dinner. Sometimes, I even play one while getting ready in the morning if I immediately feel as if I need some motivation before my day really begins.
I found three podcasts I loved and flip-flopped between each so I didn’t get tired of hearing just one person. It is nice because different people can give similar advice in various ways. Also, since I was just starting out and the women I listen to have been recording for a few years, I had SO many episodes to choose from (it was sort of addicting!). Definitely check out my post about my favorite podcast Queens that really kicked my self-help journey into gear!
As I would find podcasts I enjoyed, I found my way onto social media to follow the ladies I was drawing inspiration from and, in turn, found their blogs. It was nice to see how many people rallied behind these strong women and the amazing, supportive comments that people were leaving about podcast episodes, quotes, and challenges posed to followers. It was also nice to do some more in depth reading of the topics I was listening to. The best part was finding that there were online workshops periodically held by two of the women I was following.
Now, before this journey, I had never taken a workshop that wasn’t related to my job as a high school teacher. I was confused, at first, as to what a workshop could do and how I would be perceived. I didn’t want to share my life’s struggles with people I didn’t know! Well, turns out that is not true for me.
I ended up joining a free workshop that was co-hosted by two of my favs, Andrea Owen and Amy E. Smith. A M A Z I N G!! What was nice was that viewers could see a presentation and hear Andrea and Amy speak and all the students in the class communicated through a group chat where you chose what you wanted your identity to be. And, let me tell you, realizing you aren’t alone with topics about perfectionism, control, caring what other people think, and self-doubt is life changing.
I recently took another workshop that lasted over a span of seven days hosted by Andrea Owen with over 500 women across the country. It was held through a private Facebook group where each of us journaled about various topics and prompts Andrea sent us each morning through e-mail. Again, seeing that a LARGE amount of women faced similar issues made me feel a sense of community. This was the first time I had ever joined a Facebook group.
I never really understood the purpose of them, especially since I am not an avid Facebook user. Now, my goal is to find one or two groups that speak to me so I can find my tribe of women and develop a community outside of those I personally know when I need to get advice without feeling judged.
It is interesting that reading has been the most recent part of my journey because I read on the regular (I teach English!). While listening to my favorite podcasts, a few of them kept mentioning The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brené Brown. After reading it, now I understand the hype! This self-help book is one that you can’t put down.
I did not realize that self-help books would have that affect on me. I highly recommend you check it out! Also, I recently read You Are a Bada** by Jen Sincero and…. wow. It it such an empowering book told in a funny, real, tell-it-like-it-is way.
>>Related: Book Review: The Gifts of Imperfection
>>Related: Book Review: You are a Bada**
Steps To Help You Start Your Self-Help Journey
I hope this post reveals to you that there is not one way to tackle getting to know yourself or ways that you can find inspiration in your life. To be honest, I wish I immersed myself in all of this self-help back in high school. But, I did not know it existed.
The tools I mentioned above have helped me in these short five months to deal with everyday fear, worry, and conflict. I am slowly having more inner peace and I wish this for everyone else.
If you are ready and want some guidance, here is a list of the ways you can begin to dip your feet into the self-help world.
>>Related: 7 Ways to Deal with Stress & Anxiety
1. Decide that you deserve this.
Not because you want to compete with others and become the best. But, because you want to become a better version of the person you already are. Decide that it is your time and you wish to not to live with _________ (fill in the blank–fear, anxiety, OCD, self-hatred, poor relationships, a lack of worthiness, control, perfectionism, etc.)
2. Tell someone.
It might be scary and you will definitely be vulnerable and emotional through the beginning of this process. But, it helps to have someone to unpack these feelings with (family member, best friend, or even a therapist). It also is a good idea to tell someone you are taking action because they can help hold you accountable.
3. Be open-minded.
Easier said than done, but if you choose to take this self-help journey, it is because you want to grow. Even if topics you come across in self-help have “nothing to do with you,” give them a chance. Many times, you didn’t realize you needed help in areas in your life. Also, my journey is not yours. Find what avenues work for you (yoga, meditating, journaling, etc.).
4. Practice patience.
Going through self-help is a lot like trying to lose weight. It is not an immediate fix and you won’t wake up a new person overnight from learning tools. Personal growth involves constant practice and some days you will feel like you hit a wall. It is difficult to open up wounds and navigate your past, as well as your present. But, it will be worth it.
Find ways to measure your journey in some way. Like stated in #4, it is sometimes hard to notice your progress since it is not tangible. For me, I take notes on lessons I learn in my Notes app on my iPhone. I frequently look at to remind me what I have learned. Looking at these notes often gives me hope and guidance in difficult situations. I also call my close friend once a week to debrief her on what I’ve learned (she is also navigating her own journey!). For you, it might be therapy, a mentor, or simply keeping a journal.
Click below to download your FREE starter journal for self-help! xx
What are other avenues you take to explore self-help?
Let me know in the comments below!