by Michele Rosenthal
At some point every person on earth has an experience that, whether it happens at five months or fifty years of age, teaches the shocking lesson: You possess less power and control than you thought. For me that tutorial happened when I was thirteen years old. In September 1981 in a hospital on the Upper West Side of Manhattan I survived a rare allergic reaction to a medication that turned me into the equivalent of a full-body burn victim. Through indescribable pain and an out-of-body near-death experience I came face to face with the cold hard fact of my own powerlessness.
When I was finally released from the hospital I had changed from a happy child into a terror-stricken adolescent. By the time I was in my late 20s my world was a disaster. Self-destructive behaviors, poor relationship choices, an inability to focus a career or hold a job and frequent emotional meltdowns led to a completely empty, sad and stalled life. Over and over the fact of my powerlessness brought me to a standstill until, perched on the edge of despair, I decided to reclaim control.
So many experiences downshift us from a sense of self-efficacy to a sensation of reduced self-worth, limited (if any) self-esteem and an inability to self-protect. Ultimately, triumphing over these little and big T traumas requires daily choices and repetitive actions that catapult us from powerless to powerful. Anyone can start this process any time.
If you’re ready to make the shift try these ten ideas; they helped me recreate my whole approach to the world.
- Find a reason to believe in yourself: You have at least one good quality that makes you worthy of change. Identify and honor it.
- Establish a reason to hope: What’s the reason you think change might be possible for you? Focusing on hope creates an attitude of flexibility that enhances creativity and helps maintain momentum.
- Open yourself to change: Imagining success can be challenging; the first step is being receptive to the possibility of it actually happening.
- Make a comfortable choice: Reduce the sense of overwhelm. Success happens when you approach change through a process that feels manageable.
- Take a small action: Forget the big gesture; small gestures accrued over a period of time lead to greater success.
- Build a support system: Having an accountability structure and a feeling of camaraderie makes the tough moments easier to bear.
- Identify what you want to change: In personal transformation clarity is a must. The more you can imagine what you want the more your brain starts finding ways to achieve it.
- Make a wishlist of desired outcomes: Sustain motivation by keeping your eye on what you will experience when the hard work of personal transformation is accomplished.
- Commit to being dedicated and persistent: There will be setbacks and unexpected outcomes; resign yourself to follow through at all costs and despite any perceived obstacles.
- Give yourself permission to succeed: You are the only force that can hold you back. Pledge to allow yourself to move forward by deciding you are worth it.
It took time for me to use these steps to perfect my personal transformation, but the effort and ups and downs of self-creation were well worth it. At the end I shot forth from the process like a cannonball with a sparkly fuse: I was forty years old and finally fearlessly engaged in creating who I wanted to be, how I wanted to live, and identifying what I could do that would make a difference in the world. Almost a decade later, those intentions and choices continue to guide my professional and personal lives.
We don’t have to live a “less than” life; we simply have to choose to create a different way of showing up every day. For too long I turned inward toward pain and fear; I allowed powerlessness to dictate who I was and how I lived. Now I reach out, connect, transform and create with people around the world. I am worthy. I matter. I love. I live with a strong sense of calm, confidence, meaning and control. So can you.
Michele Rosenthal is a popular keynote speaker, award winning blogger, award nominated author, workshop/seminar leader, and certified professional coach. She hosts the radio program, Changing Direction, and is the founder of HealMyPTSD.com. Michele is a trauma survivor who struggled with PTSD for over twenty-five years (she is now 100% PTSD free). She is the author of Before the World Intruded and Your Life after Trauma (W.W. Norton).