What Carries You Through The Tough Times?

This is a guest post from Melinda Brennan of WAHM Business Builder.

St Stanislaus (Antmoose on Flickr.com)I mentioned in the comments of my last post here, Getting Past the Personal Blocks: A Self-Improvement Primer, that my next post was going to be about my own self-improvement journey. This is about where I came from, some of what I’ve gone through, and what helped me make the biggest changes.

This is what worked for me. What works for you may be different, or maybe not. Generally, I’ve found people to be very similar. We tend to have the same issues, the same problems. They all come from different causes, different choices, different upbringings and experiences. Yet the results are the same. Frustration. Angst. Pain. Hurt.

I grew up in a dysfunctional family where anger and shouting was the normal method of communication. While being described as ‘one of the most intelligent children to go through this school” I failed every class from Primary School onwards. My self-esteem was non-existent. I couldn’t speak up for myself, even when I was right.

Remember back when you were at school and there was always a group of outcasts? The outsiders who were friends with each other because no-one else wanted to be friends with them? I was in that group. I was bullied my entire way through school.

Even now, I have very few happy memories from before I was 12 years old. When I was 12 we moved from the city we’d lived in all my life (Sydney) and went to live in a small country town. I loved it there. I still hated school, I still failed everything, my family life was still dysfunctional. However I was able to escape now, I had a horse and a good friend – we’re still best friends today, 28 years later – and could get away and be myself for at least short periods of time.

I joined the Army when I was 17, more to get away from home than from any other reason. I was in the Army for 13 years, getting top marks in every promotion course I did, yet held back as lacking the confidence required for leadership positions. I actually have that written in reports.

I was recently appointed President-Elect for the Canberra Sub-Chapter of the International Coach Federation. When I told my mother she said “You’ve come a long way from that girl who dropped out of High School”. She’s right. I have come a long way. So what brought me from there to here?

Someone who believed in me. Two people actually. One was my best friend who has always been my best supporter. The other was a friend, a mentor and a big sister to me. From the day I met her, Paula always told me that I had more in me.

The desire to be and do more. I was never satisfied with what I was doing. I never felt that I had achieved enough. For a long time this drive was aimless, I didn’t know ‘what’ I was supposed to be doing. Just that living life as a follower wasn’t it. Which leads into:

Finding my purpose in life. We’re all created for a purpose. We are all here for a reason and we need to find that reason, find our passion and follow it. Mine is helping people. Whether that is offering a shoulder to cry on, giving $20 to a friend in need, helping someone carry their bags or coaching a client, I HAVE to help people. What’s your purpose in life? What do you do now that is inherent in you that drives you each day? What is it that you HAVE to do to be fulfilled? Without knowing that about yourself, you will never be satisfied with what you are.

God. Finding and understanding God for myself – I was brought up in the church – rather than simply believing what I’d been told all my life. I left the church for many years as a teenager and young adult. Coming back into church and God fulfilled me spiritually and fed that hunger and need in my soul. We’re all spiritual beings, it’s a part of being human.

Being Coached. I said in the last post that ‘I’ was the one holding myself back. That’s where Coaching comes in. A good Coach won’t let that continue, they’ll dig and ask questions until you move past it. A Coach is invaluable and I cannot recommend enough that you use one.

My biggest moment came one day when I said “I’ve never achieved anything” and my Coach asked “What, nothing?” and made me write a list of everything I’ve ever accomplished. I started with things such as raising a child, being on time for things, cooking dinner every night. Small things. Things that really aren’t that big in themselves. She made her point though. We have all accomplished many great things, if only we will recognise them.

That exercise was the first thing that I can point to that made a huge difference in building up my self-esteem. It showed me that I had value. Funnily enough, when I mentioned this to my Coach a year later she didn’t even remember it.

Reading and listening constantly to self-improvement materials. I read every book I could find on personal development. Listened to tapes, CD’s, teleseminars. Went to motivational talks. Every single thing I read and listened to helped me just that little bit more. Remember the old computer saying “Garbage In, Garbage Out”? That’s our brains. When we put positive input in, positiveness and growth is what comes out.

Getting out of my comfort zone. I have to deliberately choose to do things that are uncomfortable and scary for me. Because I’ve realised that my personal growth won’t happen within the safety of that zone. When I realise that I’m about to say no to something, I now stop and think about why I’m saying no. If it’s just because it’s new and scary I make myself say yes. It’s a deliberate choice and a refusal to allow my fears to control me.

These are the things that had the most influence in changing me. These things worked for me, they may work for you or you may need to do something different. From where I was then to where I am now, I’m almost a totally different person. The journey has been hard, and yet rewarding beyond measure. And it’s not over yet. 🙂

About Melinda Brennan

Melinda BrennanMelinda Brennan is a Business Coach who helps Work at Home Mums find clarity and direction amongst the chaos of working at home. She’s been coaching for over five years and is a Certified Professional Coach, Neuro Linguistic Programming Practitioner and Time Line Therapist. Melinda is a member of the International Coach Federation and Christian Coaches Network, and is President Elect for the Canberra Chapter of the International Coach Federation. You can find her online at WAHM Biz Builder.

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8 thoughts on “What Carries You Through The Tough Times?

  1. What’s getting me through serious illness is always thinking about how great it will be in a few years when I beat it, and achieve various other things.
    .-= Scientific Living´s last blog ..Bhartrihari’s Verses on Renunciation =-.

  2. carla says:

    What gets me though is having activities that I actually enjoy doing. They can be as simple as sewing, knitting, painting, etc. When I balance my work life and dealing with health issues with things that I enjoy, it really makes a difference.
    .-= carla´s last blog ..Green and Chic Reader Survey =-.

  3. Alex Fayle says:

    @Scientific Living
    I lived for years in constant pain and I would focus at times on how great I would feel when the pain stopped. And wow, when it did – I went sailing through life! Good luck!

    @Carla
    I agree completely – for me that’s things like turning off completely and watching a whole series of mindless TV (like American Next Top Model).

  4. Cathy says:

    Firstly I got excited to read that you are an Aussie, Melinda. Given that I live in a foreign country I am always pleased when I come across fellow countrymen and where I am living that certainly isn’t a common occurence. I’ve enjoyed reading the entries this month with the goal of self-improvement as I have always had self esteem issues which some people find odd given that I have achieved certain things. I must say that there are lots of interesting points that you make here and I believe that several of them would be most helpful to me as well. I need to change what work I do into something that I really enjoy because currently I don’t, but that is tricky based on where I live. Action is required. And like Carla I find doing things that bring me great enjoyment such as working out, watching a favourite film or reading either to myself or to my kids lifts my mood enormously.
    .-= Cathy´s last blog ..Officially Autumn =-.

  5. Wonderful post and I agree about the coaching part. I just started working with a coach and it has completely changed the way I’ve started looking at my creative projects and how they fit into my overall life goals. It’s always a relief for me when I’m stressed or going through the tough times – feels like a fresh perspective that I often need. Thank you for the other suggestions as well!
    .-= Laura – The Journal of Cultural Conversation´s last blog ..Book Review: Even God is Single, So Stop Giving Me a Hard Time =-.

  6. Alex Fayle says:

    @Cathy
    I hear you on the lack of self-esteem despite having accomplished things – I used to not let victories and successes improve the self-esteem then some switch flipped itself in my head and now I allow myself to feel good about accomplishing things.

    @Laura
    Yay to working with a coach! I worked with one just before making the decision to leave Canada and he really helped. If it weren’t for him I would have likely continued with what I was doing and been unhappy.

  7. The very best gift you can give ANYONE is letting them know you believe in them.

    Count me in as another outsider back when growing up (pathetic loser is one of my more gentle terms). But you know something funny? I’d go thru it again without any reservations whatsoever because the pain and agony (literally) of that time transmuted my inner spirit and inner strength into something most marvelous indeed.

    It’s been said that to those who have been given much…much is expected. And I try to live by those words every day as well.
    .-= Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach´s last blog ..Today’s Humor of the Day – Funny Microsoft Windows Errors =-.

  8. Alex Fayle says:

    @Barbara
    I agree – I learned to be so much stronger and to be such an independent thinker because of the outsideness I experienced.

    Then again it was the independent thinking that led me to being on the outside.

    The funny thing is talking to people from grade school now (via Twitter), it turns out that many of them respected me for being who I was. Go figure…

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