Recently, I went on an experimental holiday. It was an experiment because it was something that I had never done before, and I wanted to see how I went. It was a holiday that I planned entirely for myself, and entirely by myself, bringing nothing but a small backpack of clothes.
The reason I wanted to do it is because I wanted to challenge my anxieties and grow my self-confidence. I’d come to realise that low self-confidence was one of the things holding me back the most in my life from achieving the things I set my mind to. So, I wanted to really step outside my comfort zone and try something new.
So, I took a week off work, and planned to travel down to Melbourne to explore the city at my own leisure. I had everything necessary booked – accommodation and transport – and yet almost nothing planned. This was going to be entirely at my own pace, with no agenda.
I knew that my chronic fatigue and low energy would get in the way, so I didn’t set unnecessary expectations. Whatever happened, happened. If I made it down, survived, and made it back, it would be a success.
But thankfully, it was much better than just surviving. It was truly beautiful.
The Run Down
This trip made me truly grateful that God had wired me to be an introvert. On the 11 hour train trip down and for most of the week, I was alone, and totally in my element; absorbed in my imagination, lost in wonder, reflecting, and silently talking to God throughout my day. I was in want of basically nothing. I felt totally free to do whatever I wanted.
During the week, as I walked through the city, amazed at the beautiful sights I was seeing, with the sun shining, feeling totally free, totally absorbed by wonder and joy, it finally hit me. “I’m here right now, in this beautiful place, experiencing this beautiful scene, because of my own decision. Nobody made me do this. This was all my idea.”
That understanding was very powerful for me. In fact, it moved me really deeply.
If you were able to see inside my mind only two years ago from today, and then now, the contrast would be quite shocking. Over the last 5 plus years, I had been battling heavy depression and anxiety on a regular basis, having very low self-worth, and poor self-confidence. Any kind of big decision would create heavy anxiety, as deep down I felt like a failure, and that I wasn’t capable of making any right choices for myself. I felt trapped in a bubble of fear and insecurity that held me back from making many important life decisions. I didn’t know how to stop being so negative and self-critical. I didn’t believe I was able to change, or that I would ever be happy again.
And yet, as I walked through the royal botanic gardens just a few weeks ago, I felt truly happy with my life. And, I was excited for the future, rather than dreading it. I could feel my confidence growing every week, as I continued to grow and mature. Realising this change made me quite emotional.
A trip like this would mean nothing to many people. But to me, it was another stepping stone in the huge personal transformation I’ve been through over the past 2 years. After half a decade of feeling depressed and bitter, I was growing truly happy, even though I never believed I would be.
And what’s more, I knew exactly why, too. I was not a victim of my circumstances; it was all due to the choices that I was making. I was finally making intentional decisions about what I wanted.
After a lot of counselling and support from family and friends, I’d come to realise that my attitude needed to change, my beliefs about myself and the world needed to change, and I needed to make some difficult decisions in order to improve my life.
Above all, it was an understanding that my self-worth didn’t come from other people. My self-worth came only from the fact that God made me, he loved me, and because of all that Jesus had done, he fully accepted me, always, and forever.
And so, the person that I am is who I want to be, and that is entirely my responsibility. My own happiness, mental health and life decisions are ultimately my responsibility. While I have experienced a lot of hurt, I am not a victim of the choices of others. Who I am now is who I choose to be. And I choose to fully embrace my identity. I’m a child of God, and nobody can take that from me.
I choose to affirm myself, rather than tear myself down with the same old cycle of guilt, shame and judgment.
In the End
I returned to Sydney feeling refreshed and ready to keep living my challenging, yet wonderful life. Although I still have very difficult days, my headspace continues to improve. And the more I understand God’s love, the more confident I become to keep growing and moving forward through the adversity.
It’s an exciting time to be alive, because despite all the hardship, I know my purpose and direction, and I’m focussed on the things that really matter.
This verse has summed it up very well for me, as I’ve been meditating on it over the past few weeks. I’m not ‘there yet’, so to speak, but:
“I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past, and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which… Christ Jesus is calling us.” (Philippians 3:13-14).
Grace for Failures is the blog of Carlin Doyle to encourage and inspire people who have gotten life wrong for a long time, and want to try and do things a little differently. Click here for more info, and here for more posts.