If I really wanted to work on my self-esteem and my self-love, I needed to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Last summer, I worked with high school juniors and helped them write their college application essays. One of the most challenging aspects of this job was the nature of the prompts.
They often asked for stories like:
- “Talk about a hard time and how you got through it”
- “Tell your life story and how you became the person you are today.”
- “What has been the biggest challenge you experienced in your life and how did you grow from it?”
Doesn’t seem too difficult, right?
Well, I was working with affluent teens. These teens admittedly had trouble with these prompts. It seems a little insensitive to talk about the time they had to accept their parent’s hand-me-down Mercedes Benz instead of receiving a brand new Range Rover for their 16th birthday. This was especially true when others might be discussing a life full of financial hardships or how they got through a devastating natural disaster.
This got me thinking about my own life, and what challenges I have been through. Or haven’t been through. Truth be told, I’ve had a pretty easy life at the basic level.
- I never wondered where my next meal came from.
- I have loving parents who have been together my whole life.
- Honestly, the biggest traumas I cite in my history are bad breakups.
When I started counseling school back in 2014, I quickly became very aware of my lack of life experience. I felt unable to relate to a lot of the problems clients presented. I was a 21-year-old girl fresh out of undergrad. Who am I to give advice, have true empathy, and guide anyone when I had barely lived myself?
So, I quit.
This is the first time I hadn’t followed through with a big commitment, and I struggled a lot with feeling like I had given up or failed. It felt really inefficient, not to mention a waste of time and money. However, it was truly the best decision I could’ve made.
I am a serious advocate for gap years in-between educational endeavors. It was during this gap year that I grew a lot as a person, specifically:
- how I related to others
- in becoming financially and emotionally independent (more on this later)
- on really learning who I am: what I like, what I don’t like, what really makes me happy, why certain things are hard for me.
And then, when this tiny chapter of my self-discovery became boring and lackluster (or just maybe too real), I went back to school again, this time to study developmental trauma.
Wow, wow, wow.
Talk about a time of serious self-reflection and analyzing your entire life history and triggers set out for you on a silver platter. What was supposed to be fulfilling my need for accomplishment turned into the very thing I was trying to avoid.
Once again, happenstance won.
John Krumboltz, a career theorist from Stanford University, has a wonderful theory called planned happenstance. His theory essentially says that we shouldn’t put much effort in planning because happening upon opportunities can lead us to truly fulfilling careers (and lives) if we allow them to. Flexibility, trying new things, and the simple willingness to learn are all encouraged, as they could lead to something truly amazing.
(Here is an easy to read outline of happenstance for my fellow psychology nerds if you’re interested.)
As much as I’m a planner and deeply desire predictability and control, my coolest and most rewarding opportunities have come from happenstance and letting go. The developmental trauma masters program was initially to check a box: finish graduate school this time, Linley. But I learned a lot about how I’ve seen the world given my history.
Most recently, I had my sweet baby boy, Finn. He was a very unplanned shock! In fact, I discovered that little pink line on day 2 of my second attempt at a counseling masters. But, it allowed me to justify leaving my emotionally draining job, stay at home, and focus solely on just being a graduate student: my dream!
And here we are, in another moment of happenstance, because…
I started a blog!
Want to have a really humbling and challenging experience directly related to personal growth? Have a baby. I have learned so much about myself in the short amount of time that baby boy has been on this Earth, a lot of which started when I was unexpectedly pregnant. Remember all that stuff I said about being a planner and desiring control? HAHA.
With having a baby comes a lot of sacrifice and loss of self. I wanted, no needed, something to do for me while also feeling like I’m making some sort of difference for others. I kept coming back to working on my own personal growth.
Starting a blog presents a number of opportunities for me to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. It is unbelievably nerve-wracking to put myself out there on the internet. Even at 27-years-old now, with far more life under my belt than my 21-year-old self, what authority do I have to be guiding others? What new things to I have to offer?
You know what I see there? Self-doubt.
So, I decided that I wanted something truly challenging. Usually when I get bored, I go back to school. I end up stuck in the same repetitive and safe cycle again and again. If I really wanted to work on my self-esteem and my self-love, I needed to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
So here I am, pretty dang uncomfortable, but also done sitting around waiting for myself to feel any differently.
I hope some of this resonates with you, and that you’re inspired to get vulnerable and uncomfortable with me. If you feel so compelled, visit the contact page and tell me in what area of your life you want serious change. It’s so much better to get comfortable with being uncomfortable within a community, trust me!