With so much tragedy in the news lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about life, death, and life lessons. I’ve also been thinking a lot about what saved my physical life and resurrected my emotional, relational, and spiritual life from a depth I didn’t know how I would ever get out.
What exactly was it that changed the quality of my life, my self-esteem, and my relational luck, so quickly?
There have been times in my life where I wanted to die. I didn’t want to carry on; there was no reason to. All I had done was try way too hard, fail epically, get crucified for things other people got a slap on the wrist for, and then get even more rejected, humiliated, and abandoned as a result (by no one more than myself). There were no life lessons to learn. I had already written myself off.
I hated who I was. I hated that I was so desperate for crumbs from toxic people. And I was so ashamed for being ungratefully avoidant of/not attracted to the people in my life who not only had entire loaves to give but tried to get me to see that I had my own too.
I hated myself to the core.
And as much as I wanted to die, I didn’t want to and couldn’t kill myself, if that makes any sense. I was too scared of failing at that too and risking a life of extreme pain and debilitation. I was too scared to do anything but there was no way I could carry on. The only way I can explain it is that I wanted to “end.” I couldn’t articulate exactly what I wanted to end, I just felt like I needed an ending.
And because my self-esteem was so low, I wanted me to end.
I committed emotional and spiritual suicide as a result and adopted unhealthy habits that allowed me to contribute to my own physical death gradually.
Looking back, this is what I now know:
When I wanted to die, I wasn’t implementing any of these life lessons.
When I failed and blamed myself to the point of adopting a negative and self-sabotaging identity, I wasn’t implementing any of these life lessons.
In my early twenties, when I was boundary-less, confrontationally avoidant, smoking cigarettes, needing a cocktail just to have enough confidence to carry a basic conversation, and not taking care of my health, I wasn’t implementing any of these life lessons.
When I would… engage in petty gossip and need an opposing force just to feel motivated enough to take action, compulsively lie to compensate for my insecurities, and create drama just to feel significant for a hot minute… I wasn’t implementing any of these life lessons.
When I got knocked down by any negative comment/criticism; when I felt worthless, ugly, inferior, and completely powerless, I wasn’t implementing any of these life lessons.
When I blamed myself for being emotionally orphaned by a well-intended yet emotionally unavailable parent, yup… I wasn’t implementing any of these life lessons.
None of the above ever turned out well or felt good. Obviously.
So why did I continue?
I kept engaging and wash-rinse-repeating not because I was crazy, but because I was an emotional cutter. I had been burned too many times to bank on the unpredictability of happiness again. Every time I ever had, the other shoe always dropped.
My own misery was at the very least, predictable.
And amidst so much unpredictability, insecurity, fear, and pain, my oxygen became the security of certainty. Even if it was the certainty of my own suffering.
So here they are – life lessons that saved me from robbing myself of my own life. I would be dead if I hadn’t implemented and acted on these.
15 life lessons that literally saved my life.
LIFE LESSONS #1: Be kind in your honesty, never brutal and be honest in your love, never tough.
This applies to others but first and foremost, yourself.
LIFE LESSONS #2: Don’t ever adopt the mentality that “It’s all going to fall into place,” without you meeting the universe halfway and be an active participant in that desired result. Hard work, awareness, knowledge, and ACTING on that knowledge PUT it into place.
You are in control here, not them.
LIFE LESSONS #3: Be real about rejection.
Whether it’s a family member, a friend, a significant other/ex or someone you are dating… If you’re dealing with a toxic person, it’s not you they are ever rejecting. Remember this and your life will instantly improve.
What they are really rejecting is having to be: selfless, accountable, respectful, reasonable, honest, mature, and communicative.
What anyone chooses to say/do isn’t a measure of your value. It’s a window into the lack of it they feel for themselves.
If you went to dinner with a grown adult who decided to spit the finest caviar all over the table and throw a conniption fit because he/she didn’t like it – The fact that they chose to display their disdain for the food in that particular manner has nothing to do with the quality/value of the food or you as a dinner date. This could be the finest caviar known to man and you could be the greatest company of all time. What this has to do with is THEIR value system and what THEY deem an appropriate reaction to be.
Lastly, never ask anyone why they rejected, dishonored, or humiliated you. Rejection is not an investigation trigger – its an action initiator. If someone has the capacity to dishonor and humiliate you, they’re not going to have the capacity to empathize in the way that you want and deserve.
LIFE LESSONS #4: “Be you. The world will adjust.” YOU WILL NEVER be able to please everyone. Fitting in and following the follower is such a bad look. Anyone who wants to wave their magnifying glass at what they think is contradictory in your life isn’t focused enough on their own.
People are judging you, right now. Some people will never like you for no good reason and there’s nothing you can do about it. No amount of people pleasing, convincing, catering, or empathizing will help.
In fact, I’ve found the opposite to be true – the more firmly, honestly, and authentically you stand for something, the more they respect you (some will ass kiss, some will go silent because they won’t know what to say, some will try to critique/investigate further), whether it’s grudgingly or not.
What people truly respect and what scares the sh*t out of toxic people/makes them want you more, is when you have boundaries. You draw your own line and through dignified action, say “Here’s the line. You will not go any further.” They won’t like this, but who cares? They’ll either respect it or be envious of it because it’s obviously the one thing they can’t do. If someone doesn’t like you, there’s no point in ever trying to convince them. Just live YOUR life. These people are clearly miserable living theirs.
Then there is the scum of all toilet, pond, and sewage scum: internet trolls.
It’s almost easier in life and in person because when people talk about/hate on you behind your back, you can’t see or hear it. On the internet, you can actually read it along with everyone else. And all of a sudden, you get this horrible confirmation of your deepest fear: that everyone can “see” you. Everyone has you figured out and hates you to the core without even personally knowing you.
Which leads me to…
LIFE LESSONS #5: STAY AWAY FROM attention-mongering and SELECTIVITY.
Some people need an audience to feel significant. Especially when they think they are highlighting a contradiction in your work or life. They want to go attention/reactivity fishing, so they comment something selfish and obnoxious just to see how much sh*t actually sticks to your wall – a wall that they don’t even personally know.
I’ve had people write attention mongering, dumb, mean-spirited, and unnecessary comments on my social media that they could have so easily direct messaged me, but clearly they wanted an audience.
Most of the time I’ll ignore, sometimes I’ll clap back and respond (never react), shut it down and if I feel like it, I’ll just block. Most of the time when I respond, these people will write back and in an attempt to justify why they decided to turn social media into an emotional playground, and express how much respect they have for my work.
Here’s the thing – Just like you have the right to respect someone for what they do professionally and not respect them personally, I have every right to not want anything to do with someone who doesn’t respect ALL aspects of me. Especially when it comes to my character, integrity, and who I am as a person because all of that ties into the greatest love of my life – my work.
YOU HAVE THE RIGHT to reject anyone who selectively respects, selectively loves, selectively empathizes, selectively values, selectively commits, or is selectively honest with you. You not only have the right to reject and stay away from these people, but you also have the right to NOT feel guilty about cutting them off.
LIFE LESSONS #6: You know yourself better than anyone else. You are the C.E.O. of Y.O.U. Don’t ever let the opinions, actions, or inactions of others control what you wear, say, post, do, don’t do, who you are friends with and who you date. No one knows you better than YOU.
Adopt this lesson and you’ll live a much easier life. One that includes the suggestions (no longer viewed as personal criticisms/attacks), from others. Suggestions that you can either take or toss.
LIFE LESSONS #7: Keep creating. It disables the crippling fear of what other people think.
James Altucher, says it perfectly:
“There are other bad habits. Like thinking too much what other people think of you. But whenever you create something new, you become a threat to all around you. And when you’re a threat, you’re a target. And when you’re a target, people will try to put you down and trash you. It will be irrational. It will be crazy. It will be frustrating and scary and make you angry. Just assume all people are irrational. Keep your expectations low on other people. Not that they are bad. But that they are lonely and they find friends who are eager to take you down. Let them make their friends and have their fun. You’re already having yours.”
Stay in your own lane and keep your blinders on. Remember – horses can’t win the race without blinders, let alone be IN the race.
LIFE LESSONS #8: You can’t take someone more seriously than they take themselves, nor can you hold someone to a higher standard than they hold themselves to.
You’ll just end up being made to look like the crazy one and really, it’s not worth it.
It’s like tying your worth to being “good enough” to get into a conversation about calculus with a six-year-old. That will never happen no matter how great you are at conversing.
LIFE LESSONS #9: Everyone is more obsessed with how they’re coming across than they are with dissecting what you said and did.
Some people are better at hiding it than others, but trust me on this one – everyone is just as in their own head, insecure, worried and fearful as you are. And just because some may be better at playing it off, that doesn’t make them any smarter or better than you.
LIFE LESSONS #10: Stay away from people who have to decide and claim versions.
I don’t wake up every morning, look in the mirror and say, “Natasha, you have to be a good person today; you have to be honest” I just am.
Stay away from the people who have to mantra/hypnotize themselves into humanity, honesty, and integrity. Also, stay away from people who claim that the truth has versions.
“Why didn’t they call me back? Did I say anything to offend them? Are they mad at me? Was I a total bitch? Why are they always taking but never offering anything in return or even being there for me when I need them? Am I being too harsh? Why do they complain to me about how much another person hurt them and then I make one tiny mistake and I’m crucified and they’re back to being close with the person who treated them horribly? Why does this always happen to me? I really am crazy. I should be thankful that I even have them.” – Just a snippet of what used to go through my head when I was involved in toxic friendships and relationships.
BOTTOM LINE: Stay away from contradictory people who bring you down. Keep the people who lift you up close and understand that you will never attract anyone who uplifts you if you can’t cut your own self-imposed anchors.
Also – be mindful of chaos. I used to be addicted to chaos because as long as everything in my life was chaotic, I was totally justified in not taking any action in my life.
LIFE LESSONS #11: Realize who you really are.
THE REAL GLOW UP: When you realize that you are your own white horse, rider, ride, hero, healer, savior, soul mate, and best friend.
YOU are the only one who has been with you through everything; the only one who knows every failure and has never let you down. If that’s not what constitutes a soul mate, I don’t know what does.
Your success rate for getting over trauma is 100%. If it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be reading this right now. Even if it’s just barely… You have survived and you are here.
LIFE LESSONS #12: You will never get anyone to see in you what you don’t see in yourself.
You will also, only get people to see in you what you DO see in yourself – desperation, insecurity, fear, you name it. If you’re lucky, they’ll exit your life due to an inability to connect. If they’re toxic, you’ll blink your eyes and all of a sudden, you’re the doormat for their dirty emotional boots.
LIFE LESSONS #13: As long as you don’t love yourself, you’ll never have any respect for anyone who loves you, just as you are.
These people will get written off as nice guys/girls or you’ll tell yourself that there was just no connection or “of course they like me – they’re desperate, too nice, related to me and have to love me, have no life, etc.” It took me a while to learn the value of being attracted to what was good for me instead of what triggered me into becoming a performing circus animal, desperate for approval.
LIFE LESSONS #14: Have a spiritual practice.
James Altucher says it perfectly: “This doesn’t mean prayer or meditation or god or gods (although it could if you want). It just means surrender. I can’t control the past (with regret) and I can’t control the future (with anxiety). I can only do positive things today. A spiritual practice just means surrendering to what you can’t control in life. I can’t control what people like me. I can’t control what opportunities will work and what won’t. If I obsess on the outcomes, I die. If I focus on the process, I win.
Process > Outcomes.
This is spiritual practice. To focus on process RIGHT NOW.”
Also – Take care of your health and move your body as much as possible. I may not be able to control much of anything in this life, but what I have complete control over are the foods I choose to eat and how much I move my body throughout the day. “When you can’t move the mind, move the body and the mind will follow.”
LIFE LESSONS #15: Redefine passion.
If you have any kind of abandonment issues, parental issues, triggers or un-dealt-with trauma (I think that covers everyone on the planet), you will likely get more excited from finding a drop of water in an empty well than a gallon of water in a plentiful well. And that’s okay. It’s normal human behavior.
We are wired to want what’s in limited supply. This is why so many of us are addicted to romantic love – hot/cold, up/down, yes/no, Jekyll/Hyde.
It keeps us on our emotional toes, but at what cost?
I’m not suggesting that you ever settle, what I’m suggesting is to take a hard look at how you define passion. If a few hot moments come at the cost of your sanity, happiness, health, and well-being… it’s time to fold.
True love is LINEAR. This is why Johnny Cash sings “because you’re mine, I walk the LINE.” – NOT the triangle, octagon, or relational quadratic equation. You will reclaim your life the moment you say “no thanks” (with your actions) to competing, being right, being chosen, being good enough for a toxic person to reform and becoming a big fish in what really is, a very small puddle.
Always make sure that you are in a relational environment that’s conducive to what you want. You can’t tie your value to hitting a home run if you’re batting with a piece of cooked spaghetti in a snowstorm with a bowling ball being thrown at you and then, beat yourself up for not being able to hit one out of the park.
+ If you or someone you know is in suicidal crisis or emotional distress and needs immediate help, The Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the USA has free resources and confidential support 24/7: 1-800-273-8255.