Name: Cathy Burry
Location: Phoenix, AZ
Who: Empath, healer, writer, traveler, text-book Cancer
Healing from: Perfectionism, anxiety, loss
I’m in year two of my “personal awakening” but I had to literally quit my career to learn how to be kinder to myself. I was being so cruel to my own soul. No wonder I was miserable! I wish I could remember the exact moment I realized I was going to break. Maybe there wasn’t an exact moment. I know my internal dialogue had gotten so bad that I couldn’t acknowledge the sadness of some of the things I was saying to myself, and it wasn’t uncommon to talk about my anxiety with a sense of pride. It was somewhere in this mix that I realized I needed to get it together—not in an expectation-based, “you’re failing” kind of way, more in an “I’m not on this planet to feel this sad, panicked, and disappointed” kind of way.
My starting line included developing a mindfulness and loving kindness practice. This opened up for me a world of “kind healing.” I came to realize that when I wasn’t living in the mania of being anxious one minute, hysterically laughing the next, or rushing home to work out or make dinner—when I stopped filling my time—I finally showed up for myself. I had reached a point where I was tired of asking why my way wasn’t working. I had tried to be my own savior, but it wasn’t saving that I needed. I needed to find a different approach to support a new path. I tried so many different ways to support this healing, and I landed on a few manageable tools.
Choose Words Consciously
I used to rely on large, definitive statements to accentuate my point. I’d consistently think them and say them out loud to others. A statement like “I would die if I couldn’t have children” was something I’d say without thinking about the weight of it. As it turns out, I couldn’t have children, so you can imagine how lost I was after saying that to myself all those years. What if instead I would have said, “It would be difficult if I couldn’t have children, but I’m strong enough to move past it??
Words like always, constantly, definitely—these are now reserved for crucial moments.
Another great example of these powerful statements that I recently heard a friend say is “My entire identity is tied to my career, along with my happiness,” (which is something I’ve said to myself more times than I’d like to count). When I hear these statements out loud, I respect why it feels this way. But I didn’t die when I didn’t have children. Actually, I flourished in ways I didn’t think possible. Taking a moment to identify the true feeling—and state that truth—reduces the expectations we place on ourselves.
Words like always, entirely, constantly, definitely—these are now reserved for crucial moments. It was challenging to train my thoughts to not look at things so extremely, and to stop being so closely driven by exaggerated emotions. But something as simple as adjusting these statements allowed me to be honest about my true thoughts. It minimized something unnecessarily large, making it feel like 10 pounds instead of 100 pounds, still respected, but not suffocating.
In my journey, I started to understand that while I can’t control my emotions, I can control how much room I give them to grow. I’ve spent most of my time during my healing process training my mind to NOT honor every single emotion I feel. Acknowledging an emotion and embracing an emotion are two completely different things. After years of embracing each emotion like it was a first-born child, no wonder I was having panic attacks. Every emotion doesn’t deserve first place or even a participation trophy. Simply put, taking a moment to think about how you feel and whether or not you want to invite that feeling into the room is in your control. In this practice, there will be a precious moment where you don’t jump into the deep end. This can be easier in theory than practice unless you have tools to support you. I found a process that worked for me:
After years of embracing each emotion like it was a first-born child, no wonder I was having panic attacks.
Step One: When I start to feel anxiety gearing up or notice that I’m snapping at people unprovoked, I put myself in a time out. Like a legit time out. I’ll go to my bedroom or excuse myself to the bathroom and take two minutes to examine which emotion I am allowing to take over. Examine is the key word here, not judge. This in itself is a win. The process of removing yourself from the stressor is a first step.
Step Two: I say the loving kindness mantra to myself three times: May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be at peace. Three rounds later, if my brain is still refusing to kick the emotion out of my space, I extend that to people in my life: May my husband be happy. May my husband be healthy. May my husband be at peace. It’s a standard loving kindness practice, nothing I’m taking credit for, but using it to disintegrate emotions that are refusing to leave has been really helpful. It’s also easier for me than sitting down to mediate in a traditional way, which can feel daunting when I’m overwhelmed with anxiety.
Replace Success With Truth
People talk about trying to find their passion or define goals that will fill up the word success. This concept has always felt heavy to me, almost like I was missing a piece of the puzzle or there was something wrong with me for not knowing what that was. I’d make goals to get a certain promotion or save for a trip, but I’d consistently fall short of the unattainable measuring stick. Am I terrible at making goals that I can stick to? No! As I began to work on my personal healing, I realized I was not as motivated when I looked at life this way. This does not mean that I am lazy or lost (more examples of being conscious of the words we choose). It means that I’m more motivated to seek truths in life rather than successes. When I replaced success with truth, it helped me understand a few things. I understand now that I don’t want to be in a job that I hate just because I can do it well. I only want people in my life who I leave time spent with feeling joy. Lastly, I would rather work to find the joy in the present than work to be successful in others’ expectations of me.
Since I’ve embraced this view, the pressure I have felt to be a certain version of myself, to apologize even if I’m not in the wrong so that others are comfortable or the need to explain my decisions, has started to dissipate. The general sense of regret and shame that I carried with me through every relationship, every job, and every move to a new city, has gotten smaller and smaller. It hasn’t gone away completely, but it sits on a mental shelf serving as a reminder that if I don’t stay true to my personal truths, I run the risk of inviting those feelings back into the mix.
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