EMOTIONAL BRAVERY: BABY STEPS TO GETTING UNSTUCK FROM THE PAST
Guest Contributor: Shannon Quinn
For as long as I can remember, I’ve allowed every slight mishap I’ve experienced in both the near and distant past to be bound tightly to my present, weighing me down and slowing me down in life. I suppose that it’s my version of refusing to let a scab heal, instead picking at it relentlessly until it has grown uglier and more noticeable than it was before. Irritated scabs leave scars, and in looking at the scars I have created on my own doing, I made a decision this year to change everything. I made a decision to be emotionally brave, to harmonize my past and my present and to get unstuck from the past. I made a decision to heal and from what I have learned, it is the baby steps involved in being emotionally brave that move us most rapidly towards healing and happiness.
Over the six months I have worked as a coaching client with Trish, I have come to accept that many of the problems and insecurities she is helping me to combat are problems and insecurities we all face at some point or another: each and every one of us has both mountain ranges and rolling hills to climb in the journey to being our best selves. One of my central focuses has been understanding why I have this tendency to allow my past to hold me back from the future, recognizing that I am almost paralyzed with fear of the possibility of my personal history repeating itself-with Trish, I have finally realized that I am not alone in this paranoia.
From the outside looking in, this problem likely seems melodramatic to many people who know me. I am fully aware that in the grand scheme of things, my life is pretty fantastic. I have family, friends, and a dog who love me, I have never had to worry about a meal or having a place to sleep, and I am fortunate enough to be able to get a college education. I have had the privilege of traveling and living abroad twice. I was able to take horseback riding lessons, to compete on elite swim teams, to take tennis lessons, and rush a sorority in college. I have had twenty-three years of good health and incredible opportunities. I know I am one of the lucky ones. I have so many blessings to be grateful for-and I am-but the good cannot always diminish the bad: every one of us working with Trish one-on-one, listening to her podcasts, or reading her blogs and books believes that we have work to do, whether our focus is on our fitness, mental health, or faith. For me it’s all three!
My problems with each of these three things began when I was sixteen years old, almost seven years before I began working with Trish, but one of the first problems we addressed-and something that has continually come up in our coaching-is my tendency to be stuck in the past. I have never made any truly significant mistakes, just many little ones strung together like pearls on an ever growing necklace: I sat on the sidelines in high school, I chose the wrong college, and I trusted the wrong friends. I’ve spent much of the last few years painstakingly agonizing over every decision, big and small, hoping to avoid repeating history. In doing so, I’ve quite successfully avoided further heartbreak but found myself very much alone – on the sidelines once again. So I’ve again agonized over how to get past this hurdle: how do I learn to trust my gut and my heart again, to find some glimmer of what Trish calls “emotional bravery” hidden somewhere deep inside me, all the while protecting myself from heartbreak?
I can’t. She can’t. No one can. There is no reward without a little risk in this life. Obviously, harm and heartbreak can sprout from these risks, but so can allowing the bad things that have happened to taint the good.
I will never fall back in love if I don’t trust my judgment and if I don’t trust someone else not to break my heart ever again. I will never see any of the change I dream of seeing in our world if I keep my mouth shut and my fingers off my keyboard.
I’m starting to realize that I’ve already taken some baby steps here and there. I never would have had the experience of my semester in London if I hadn’t been brave enough to voluntarily walk away from the people I’m emotionally dependent upon for several months. I never would have made some of the greatest friendships of my life if I had convinced myself that Mariah’s only being nice to me to be polite, not because she enjoys being around me, or that Emily and I both go out of our way to get together as frequently as we can simply for old time’s sake, rather than because we are truly soul sisters.
Ultimately, I have to consider what kind of person I want to be, and what I kind of person I believe I am or was. Do I want to be the kind of person who becomes hard and indifferent when I know that I am kind and compassionate? Do I want to allow the bitter and unromantic people who have hurt me to suck the imaginative, idealistic dreams out of me? Do I want the heartbreakers to keep me from happily ever after? Of course not.
In recognizing this, I’ve realized that combating the bad influences on my soul, my dreams, and my faith is not a one-woman task: it truly takes an army. So I’ve worked to surround myself with people who love me, who respect my morals, ethics, and beliefs, and who encourage me to pursue everything I want in this world. But of course, this starts with me, so I’ve been working to remind myself through whatever means each and every day that I bear the burden of my happiness.
So I’ve challenged myself to do the best I can every day not to retreat back into the protective shell that is my past, and instead to live-and I challenge you to do the same! Take that barre class even though you’re afraid you’ll look like a complete idiot next to that 5’9” former ballerina across the room. Be proud of the work you’re doing and don’t be afraid to give yourself the benefit of the doubt. It’s all about the little steps: no one can completely shut off their insecurities overnight, but we can work on them a little bit at a time and be proud of the emotional bravery we display along the way.
About Shannon Quinn:
Shannon is one of Trish’s clients who is working to build a better her for the future. She is a dedicated writer, traveler, and reader. Shannon is passionate about dogs and human rights. She is a senior at Radford University.