Updated: Aug 1, 2020
I have a clichéd early 2000’s tattoo on my chest of a Chinese symbol meaning ‘courage’. (I’ve had it confirmed by a native speaker that it does indeed mean this and not ‘stupid tourist’ as has been suggested once or twice over the years...)
Getting this Asian symbol tattoo was a decision made by 19 year old me whilst walking around central London alone at night for the first time, after having grown up in sleepy little Adelaide, Australia. I descended down some narrow stairs to the basement parlour, had a look through the ideas folder and made my selection.
The act of travelling half way around the world, exploring London by night and deciding to get a tattoo was the first time that I proved to myself I could achieve things that were uncomfortable or even scary to face. Looking back at this it doesn’t really seem like a big deal, but for a shy 19 year old it was something memorable. I felt like I’d climbed one rung on the ladder or achieved access to the next level in life. :D
Quite a few notches up on the seriousness level from my old teenage travelling revelations, we are now facing a world in the midst of chaos and uncertainty. Many people are feeling scared about the future and for some this is the first time they have had to deal with a real life-changing event. For some this is the scariest thing they have ever faced. Maybe some stories of personal growth or happiness born from misfortune can give some hope to those feeling deeply unsettled…
So what is the scariest thing in your personal life that you have ever had to face? Did you face it out of choice or was there just no ignoring it any more? What did you learn after going through the ordeal? Would you agree that the scariest things to face in life usually take you the furthest in terms of personal enlightenment and achievement?
All of my scariest challenges have involved facing, understanding and then resolving things about myself, things within me that I realized I needed to change. One of these things was learning to be OK with people not liking me, having enough respect for myself to develop my own ideals, morals, and beliefs and stand up for them. As scary as that was to do, the rewards were worth it. I learnt more through genuine discussion with people about the issues I believed in and felt a sense of satisfaction from standing up for something that I genuinely believed in. Rather than just agreeing with whoever was around me to keep the peace or stay on the good side of people, it was far better to figure out what I truly felt about things and have genuine conversations.
The biggest challenge so far that I’ve had to deal with appeared in a sort of mid life crisis type of way. I was living carefree, living purely for my own enjoyment, not caring about the future at all and relying on the world to align around my wants and needs just as it had been for most of my life. That sounds quite nice doesn’t it? Well it was! But I started to get older, my peers began to settle down, I was attending weddings and then kiddies started to appear as a result of those weddings… and I started to realize that I didn’t want to continue living life like I had been. The question was how did I want to continue on with it?
When the distractions of partying, travelling, seasonal work and shallow relationships are taken away it’s amazing how quickly the dark reality of life ‘in the real world’ comes into focus. Working to pay for a house, education for the kids, saving for retirement, and then trying to enjoy the blips of time in between all of those things is truly a challenge! Going from a carefree life of selfish indulgence to realising that the rest of life is most likely a ‘work until you die’ type scenario, I found that quite depressing! I felt like I just had to accept that my best years were over and settle in for the slow decline to the coffin. But thankfully that’s not the case…
It was a rollercoaster couple of years of feeling as I described in the previous paragraph, but the soul searching that was inspired from the low times lead to some pretty powerful revelations. I learnt that I could rely on myself 100% of the time for comfort, consolation, acceptance, forgiveness, love and entertainment amongst lots of other things. For example I learned to enjoy doing things on my own, things that people usually do with friends or loved ones like dining out, going to live music gigs, walks around whichever city I was in, making a really nice dinner for myself and then putting on a great movie. (I worked a job that involved constant travel and a whole lot of alone time for many years…) Basically I learnt to treat myself well, have respect for myself and cultivate a deeper understanding of myself. Once I understood myself better, the rest of the world became less scary and easier to navigate.
With a clearer sense of who I was and a renewed and much more positive outlook on life, I became a happier person who's choices in life were guided much less by fear and far more from an inspired and positive ambition to keep improving myself, my life and the world around me.
Difficult times present some of the best opportunities for personal growth, so now could be your turning point for a better future. My journey was undertaken with a lot of solitude, but for most people there are wonderful, positive people around you that can offer some support. If you want to undertake a personal transformation I’d suggest that you spend time with the people that love you and support your growth, and to reduce or even eliminate time with the people that want to hold you back, that don’t want to see you become happy. It can be very scary to make these highly personal choices, to cut out people from your life that don’t want to see you change or grow. But the scariest things in life are often the ones that offer the most opportunity for huge personal growth.
We started with a cliché, so let’s end with one: ‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.’ So if what you’re doing now isn’t working for you, what do you have to lose by trying something else?