Our life’s journeys on this planet are often compared to a road. There are ups and downs, winding and straight portions, some are paved smooth while others left riddled with potholes and hazards; all providing poetic fodder for an ambitious author.
The profoundest discrepancy between these two metaphors is that physical roads were built to be heavily traveled upon, while our personal journeys are never traveled twice. Whether you are 16 and just beginning to think about yours, or you are 61 and wishing several routes could be retraced with your current wisdom and experience, there will always remain a road ahead – waiting to be navigated.
Paving our way from the beginning
Roads can be built with different materials, equipment, and plans. The same is true of our personal journeys. Some were fortunate to have been provided with optimal opportunities while others were furnished with continually degrading supplies. But no matter what lot we were dealt, each of us must forge ahead.
The direction of our journey is often plotted in the past. Our habits, likes, dislikes, and biases we acquired – and sometimes devoured – shaped our future direction. Certain environments created a smoother route while others constantly maneuvered through roadblocks, perils, or possible dead ends. But there is no denying every experience has made us the person we are today.
The irony is that whether your road was covered with gold or paved with gravel, neither one will ultimately guarantee success or failure. Is there a common theme which eventually propels our journey toward a more productive and successful outcome? What encourages and empowers us to navigate our journey on a course of which we can be fully proud?
Overcoming the seemingly impossible roadblocks
What may shed some insight on navigating these troubling paths is to see what those who overcame such insurmountable difficulties, did to conquer them. How were they able to beat the odds which overwhelmingly became barriers for many? There are countless examples of people who suffered unspeakable acts yet have not only survived but thrived, often dedicating their lives so others don’t suffer from a similar treatment and exploitation.
These efforts undoubtedly are to be applauded. However, they also would not be the person they are today had they not experienced those horrible atrocities either. And herein lies the conundrum. While I do not believe nor would ever suggest one must suffer great adversity to be effective, it is a frequent attribute for those who have.
My challenge, likewise, is similar. I do not wish anyone to experience the depth of shame I endured, yet without having gone through it, I would not be aware of its magnitude and damaging effects, and would not be able to help empower others to heal from it.
If there is a common theme by which most learn to overcome adversity, it would be how they were able to move forward from all their hardships and transform those roadblocks into an inspiration to succeed.
(Note: before I continue, please know in some circumstances, horrific and terribly psychologically damaging actions may have occurred, and in no way do I wish to nullify or minimize the depth of anyone’s misfortune. These cases require professional care.)
If we have experienced appalling situations as children, the trauma was difficult enough then. Those who were able to thrive quite often do not allow past traumas to remain as obstructions and hazards in their journeys ahead.
Too often, there is a fear the abuses we encountered are permanent and unchangeable. We hear sayings confirming these notions like, “These scars will last forever.” Again, while I do not wish to devalue anyone’s past suffering, a positive step toward clearing that path is to begin healing from them. The scars will remind us of the atrocities, but they also can be a sign of strength.
Shame was my gauntlet, and the negative beliefs I held about myself were the obstruction that created my poorly paved road. The healing began when I realized what others told me, only became true the moment I accepted those lies as reality. It was how I perceived myself and not what they expressed to me.
The moment of freedom came when I was able to forgive myself, that young boy, who felt he had no other choice but to believe those lies. I no longer needed to hang my failures on them, even though they greatly impacted me. Moving forward was possible because I was able to see I was not that person people told me I was.
Please understand, this awareness didn’t magically create instant success. There remained a lot of work, plenty of introspection, and awareness that developed because of those efforts. But how I viewed myself and the shaming incidents all changed. This discovery also compelled me to dedicate my life to helping others understand healing is possible for everyone and every situation.
The key is not to allow your past to trap you or become an excuse for failures. Living those abuses was difficult enough. Declare and affirm you’ll do everything not to allow them to continue to be the barricade that steers you off the path of happiness and a purposeful life.
The greatest blessing I could ever encounter is having the opportunity to help someone heal, and navigate their road away from a dismal and tragic end toward one of kindness, good intention, and love.
How we perceive ourselves and our predicaments has a huge influence on where our journeys are headed. Although there may be some mental anguish sprinkled in among the healing moments, it will be nothing compared to the freedom we receive by overcoming these adversities.
While forging a better path, there will always be external factors impacting our journey. One factor which will always help bulldoze that path is by accepting, embracing, and valuing ourselves. Focus on making this a part of your daily ritual and it can only create a brighter future.