Finding strength amidst uncertainty

Uncertainty; expected or unexpected, uncertainty always involves a fear of the unknown. Some types of uncertainty are welcomed such as starting a new job in the hopes of a more rewarding career or moving to a new city for a fresh start. The uncertainty in these situations is manageable since they’re predetermined and so there’s still some sense of control. But what about the moments when we’re presented with an unpleasant situation we were not anticipating? The instinct to panic overshadows any ability to trust and have faith that things will work out. Thoughts such as, “How am I going to get through this?” or, “I don’t think I can handle this” are way too loud for any self-assurance to be heard.

Certainty is a fundamental human need since it provides us with feelings of security and safety. We can relax and enjoy our lives when there are no feelings of instability bothering us. Nevertheless, uncertainties such as the sudden loss of a job, a health scare or a relationship falling apart will throw us out of our comfort zone and cloud any rationale. Change can be scary and unnerving especially when we feel as if we’re no longer the one in charge of our life. However we can always take charge of our actions and responses when faced with such situations. This doesn’t mean we won’t feel scared, instead we discipline ourselves to look past the fear and focus on a positive outcome.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela

Here are a few things to remember when faced with uncertainty which can help bring some peace of mind amidst the chaos:

Trust yourself – you’ve made it through every other hardship and hurdle you’ve faced before so you will make it through this too.

Tough times don’t last, tough people do – it might sound cliché but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. You might not feel strong right now but you will be wiser and more equipped in the future.

Things do always work out – maybe they’ll work out the way you want them to or not but remind yourself of times when you’ve worried about an outcome and after it’s all been resolved you wonder why you ever worried so much in the first place.

Life goes on – there will come a time in the future where this uncertainty will be gone and you’ll feel secure again.

Growth only occurs outside of your comfort zone – as Tony Robbins says, “get comfortable with being uncomfortable” in order to succeed in life.

Everything is clearer in hindsight – you will get the answers and clarity you seek once you’ve overcome this hurdle and you’ll see things from a newfound perspective.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” – Steve Jobs

It may be difficult to feel confident or see a clear path as to where you’re headed but periods of uncertainty are a normal part of life. When our world feels shaky we can perceive every circumstance as negative but they can often present us with a brighter future. If you’re willing to take risks, uncertainty can open up a new world of possibilities and opportunities for new beginnings which won’t happen when we cling to what we know. Periods of uncertainty can also bring our insecurities to light which provides the opportunity to work on how we can provide ourselves with feelings of safety and security which aren’t derived from external circumstances. Trust yourself and remember that in time, you will make it through and feel confident and certain again.

“Feeling lost, crazy and desperate belongs to a good life as much as optimism, certainty and reason.” – Alain de Botton

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Ümit Bulut

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Don’t feel guilty for feeling bad

“Positive mind, positive vibes, positive life”

“Choose happiness!

“Think happy, be happy”

Ah, the New Age mantras we find ourselves bombarded with which we’re encouraged to follow in order to lead a better life. We’re told that positive thinking is the antidote to all of our problems but has positive thinking become an addiction rather than a cure? Have these well-intentioned ideas which are meant to empower us actually become detrimental? I’m not condoning the power of positive thinking however the huge emphasis on it seems to have demonised negative thoughts and feelings to a point where we feel guilty for ever having them.

Messages which place such a high importance on only allowing yourself to have thoughts and feelings which are ‘positive’ neglects the fact that we cannot eradicate negative thoughts; they will occur, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Therefore the solution is not to force yourself into happiness but to take a look at why you think and feel the way you do before you can transcend to a better place emotionally.

“Negative emotions like loneliness, envy, and guilt have an important role to play in a happy life; they’re big, flashing signs that something needs to change.” – Gretchen Rubin

Since ‘positive thinking’ has become an obsession, whenever anything other than ‘positive’ arises within ourselves we judge and condemn those thoughts which as a result leads to feelings of guilt or self-blame. We perceive ‘negative’ thoughts and feelings as so ‘wrong’ that we either try to wrestle them or do everything we can to avoid them in an attempt to feel better.

We have been gifted with a vast array of feelings and emotions yet we’ve chosen to only love ourselves when we feel good. While emotional mastery is important in order to be a resilient individual and thrive in life, we’re all going to experience worry and fear at certain points in our life. Most of the time our fears are irrational but if we’re not giving ourselves the freedom to feel whatever comes up for us, how do we expect ourselves to transcend whatever is worrying us? Unless we look at those worries and realise how powerless they are, we’ll do whatever we can to avoid them and positive affirmations such as “think happy, be happy” will only cover up the issue.

“I don’t believe you should go to your garden and chant, ‘There’s no weeds, there’s no weeds, there’s no weeds,’ and think that that’s going to solve something. I’m a believer in find the weed and rip it out.” – Tony Robbins

While it’d be great if we could only accept positive thoughts and reject negative ones, if there’s a problem or you feel upset, don’t be afraid to acknowledge it. So what if we can’t always feel good or choose positivity? Keeping up appearances does more harm than good as we deny ourselves the time and freedom to simply be with whatever thoughts and feelings come to mind. Positivity is meant to be the antithesis of negativity however the extreme fixation on positivity with an intention to avoid negativity is counterproductive.

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” ― Sigmund Freud

As mentioned previously, most of our negative thoughts and feelings are irrational. Our brains have evolved since the primitive days of our ancestors but we still carry survival instincts which will always be with us. Therefore instead of feeling guilty for having a bad thought or for even having a bad day, let it be. Don’t pressure yourself into feeling better because you feel guilty for feeling bad (who cares if you can’t “choose positivity” for a moment?!) Sit with the negativity for a bit, just don’t wallow for so long that you become identified with it or reactive. Once you’ve let the negativity express itself, you’ll often realise it’s simply a phantom which you can then let go of.

Rumi’s poem, “The Guest House” eloquently describes how the natural flow of every thought and emotion we posses is better off accepted rather than rejected:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond

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Image credit:
W A T A R I

Overthinking will not change your life

There are times in life where we feel that things aren’t how we’d like them to be or how they ‘should’ be. We then fall into the trap of overthinking in a feeble attempt to find the solutions to our problems yet as Einstein says,

“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them” – Albert Einsten

Overthinking will never provide the clarity we desire since that’s what got us feeling so crap in the first place! It’s a vicious circle as we start to observe our life, think about what we’re unhappy with, go down an endless pit of over-analysing the problems in the hopes to find a solution, realise we’re creating problems that we didn’t even notice before, start to overthink every aspect of life as if we need to fix it (when in fact life is never ‘broken’ or something that needs ‘fixing’), then we’ll notice we’re overthinking everything and so worry about that, and then stress ourselves out trying to stop overthinking and so on it goes.

“Too much thinking leads to paralysis by analysis.” – Robert Herjavec

In my own personal experience, overthinking tends to stem from feelings of ‘not good enough.’

“I’m not good enough.”

“My job isn’t good enough.”

“My house isn’t good enough.”

“My life isn’t good enough.”

While it’s normal and healthy to look at our external world and think about what we’d like to improve, there’s a difference between being in a state of flow and working towards that improvement and being in a state of displeasure and working hard to change everything. The former acknowledges that you have the power to improve your life but you’re not dependent on those external circumstances to feel good, therefore you’re not questioning your self worth. Whereas the latter projects feelings of resistance to what-is wherein everything is perceived as wrong, incomplete and a failure. These labels and judgements can then result in feelings of apathy, unworthiness, self blame or self doubt. Pitiful thoughts such as the following start to creep in,

“What am I doing with my life?”

“I’m such a failure because I’m not where I should be in life.”

“Maybe I’m just not good enough otherwise I’d have everything I want.”

Yes we all have goals we’re working towards, yes we each want to fulfill our potential as an individual, yes we want to live the best life possible however feeling sorry for yourself or putting so much pressure on yourself to obtain those achievements will not and does not work. Those thoughts and feeling only cause more grief and so solace seems even further away.

Our ego-mind believes that peace, self worth and fulfilment is elsewhere; it’s anywhere but here. Thoughts such as “I will feel good enough when I have that dream job” or “I will feel loved when I have the perfect relationship” are filled with insecurity and they’re fixated on outer events as if those events will give us salvation from the inner turmoil we feel. Not only do we become attached to the outer world but we start to base our identity on it as if having a lot to show for yourself makes you a better person. Yet it’s when we’re going with the flow of life and doing what makes us happy without overthinking that we have all of the energy and inspiration we want to naturally become the amazing person we’re striving way too hard to be.

“Detachment is the only vehicle available to take you from striving to arriving.” – Wayne Dyer

Detach yourself from your overthinking and from looking to your outer world to find the feelings of peace and worthiness you so truly want and which are already ever-present.

“But if I just accept my life as it is when I now see there are so many things I’m unhappy with, I need to think about them in order to make a change” is the next thought that may appear. There’s a false belief that by accepting and surrendering to the present moment and life circumstances we will not elicit any change, as if appreciating what-is will make us complacent, yet life is ever-changing. It is this resistance to the present moment which creates suffering and as a result makes us feel like we’re stuck in a rut.

I can look back on my life at moments where I could say my life wasn’t ‘perfect’ and I wasn’t where I wanted to be in certain areas yet I still got to where I needed to be and it wasn’t by overthinking; it was by enjoying my life as-is which in turn allowed room for grace and for events to effortlessly fall into place. My overthinking could not have come up with or strategised the ways I entered my desired career, the relationships that grew stronger or any events which have brought me true fulfilment and wonder.

“A Course in Miracles rightly points out that, whenever you are unhappy, there is the unconscious belief that the unhappiness “buys” you what you want. If “you” — the mind — did not believe that unhappiness works, why would you create it? The fact is, of course, that negativity does not work. Instead of attracting a desirable condition, it stops it from arising. Instead of dissolving an undesirable one, it keeps it in place. Its only “useful” function is that it strengthens the ego, and that is why the ego loves it.” – Eckhart Tolle

Our minds are wired for survival and so will naturally look for problems to solve and things to change but try not let yourself go down that dark road of overthinking. Remove yourself from those worrisome thoughts and take away their power by accepting that they’ll occur. Befriend those thoughts and your mind by giving them thanks for caring about you and your life so much! Then leave it at that and remind yourself as much as possible that you are already an amazing human being who doesn’t need to strive so hard to be happy or work so hard to prove yourself.

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Image credit:
Xavier Sotomayor