Part of transformation is asking, “Why not?”
I’m a volunteer public speaker. I tell my recovery story to college students, new employees, health professionals, civic organizations, and legislators. I recently guest-spoke at a university to a class of nursing students. Afterwards, the floor was opened for a Q and A session. Questions ranged from my personal perspective on the mental health system to best practices and preferred coping skills. One woman noted my bravery for speaking and explained that she’s from a country where the subject is taboo. I began and ended my presentation with how much I appreciated them for entering nursing and shared the hope I saw in front of me – opportunities to speak with audiences that actively listen are catalysts for effective change.
For me, real transformation takes place inside ourselves. We make the decision to improve our lives and we commit to it. Two years ago, I realized I had to change my perceptions of humanity and money (as it relates to economic mobility). I learned to tell myself that these things needed to happen if I were to function optimally within society and maintain any semblance of happiness. And it started with self-compassion, a literal and dogged effort to learn to love myself. It was a revolution of sorts in this intense time of consumerism and materialism.
A prime skill is mindfulness. Meditation or contemplation challenges us to accept what is, to let go, and to welcome emotion and feeling. We learn that not only is judgement natural (particularly of ourselves), but also to release it and not be attached and swept away by it. Feelings like fear or anger are seen as manageable, human, and temporary. And we learn to enjoy ourselves and be fully present for the highlights of our days and weeks. Time is no longer our enemy, but it becomes something which we truly relish, cherish, and respect.
Why not? What’s the worst possible thing that might happen if we choose self-compassion and self-awareness over enabling or self-denial? We may not like who we are; and consequently, there will most certainly be things we dislike about ourselves. Mindfulness meditation teaches me that this too is expected, but the key to personal victory is looking beyond – beyond words and labels, beyond marks and scars, and beyond the experiences that singe our souls – because beyond is the beauty. It’s the beauty of who we really are despite circumstances, however good or bad. It was Lucius Annaeus Seneca who penned, “Prosperity does not elevate the sage and adversity does not depress him.” The hardest part is looking in the mirror every day and convincing ourselves of our truth, our worth.
Stigma factors into sickness, suicide, and mental health. Because someone said “why not,” I have opportunities to speak and share; because I said “why not,” awareness and ideas are reshaped. Self-knowledge is priceless. Why not help others by helping ourselves first?
By Kim Bragado for The Authentic Thinker