Problems go away when you ignore them, right?
Although we may ignore problems, we can’t deny that the heavy mixture of feeling overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed can paralyze, cause depression, and conjure hopelessness, and sudden doubts. Sometimes it can also feel as though the problems that life has given force us into a corner and leaves us with no good options. I have learned the hard way that if one is not aware, one can become a slave, comply with its demands, and live by its rules. That is not a way to live life.
I know the feeling of hopelessness – when you are unhappy with your life, and you don’t know how to change. Or when you’ve tried lots of changes but couldn’t find the discipline to make them stick. Maybe it’s also a combination of when things are just out of your control, and you don’t know where to start to regain your power. It sucks twice as bad when you feel crappy about yourself because you know you should get off your butt and start improving your life, but you’ve put it off for another day because you’re just so unmotivated. If we’re not careful, losing control can be a spiraling cycle of problems > hopelessness > lack of motivation > paralyzed > and, as Notorious B.I.G stated, “mo problems” (yes, hi, I’m a millennial).
It’s unfortunate to admit, but problems don’t really go away if we don’t take action. What happens is we learn to cope with it.
I contemplated quite a bit about writing this article because I know there are many others out there that are quick to give me their backlash after they read my stance on this topic. But I believe so strongly in my perspective that I’m prepared for the backlash, and my perspective is, you always have a choice, and you are never stuck.
See, being stuck is a mindset. Once you think you’re stuck, you’ll start believing that you’re stuck, and once you believe you’re stuck, all your actions will now facilitate this belief of being stuck. There’s hardly any room for out-of-the-box thinking.
However, being stuck isn’t being stuck at all once you shift your mindset from the stuck position to the “well, this is a huge inconvenience” position and start facing the adversity with a courageous attitude.
If you’re stuck and you think you’re out of options or choices to make, it’s most likely because the options or choices you want to make aren’t your ideal options, or perhaps it’s also followed by a sense of fear and uncertainty. But even though these choices for you may seem scary, and the feeling of defeat is debilitating, stopping your inner talk from tricking you that you’re stuck is the first step to taking control of your life.
I wouldn’t write this without personal experience and pulling from my life lessons as I would hate for someone to rant about these things if they don’t know, firsthand, what it’s like to face adversity.
I felt as though I had no control over my life growing up with my authoritative Asian parents. They controlled everything I did. On top of the emotional and physical abuse, I was not allowed to have friends, work, extracurricular activities, socialize, keep up to date with pop culture, or on some days, have an opinion or strong emotions. I lived like a little hermit crab, where even the internet box was locked up behind metal cabinets and homework was the only reason I could use it. It’s ironic that I would often disappoint them because I didn’t know any better while knowing better would require me to have some experience within the school of hard knocks. This is why I can understand and empathize with the mindset of “you only know what you know”, but I’m digressing here, as that’s another topic for another day. There was no growth for me living with them. In fact, I wouldn’t call that living at all. But I felt stuck because desperately wanted their love and approval and that’s when I realized their approval was my idealistic situation. So realistically I gave them that power over me.
What I’ve learned from these experiences is taking back control of my life means making my own decisions that best suits my values, and sticking to my decision whether or not I have their support. I took baby steps to build a foundation for me to operate and make plans on, but I had to take the first step nonetheless. I also quickly discerned that the ideal choices we want for ourselves are often not real and feasible because ideals are not real, it is a standard of perfection or a principle to be aimed at.
What this looked like for me was finding ways to become independent from them. From hauling bags and bags of pop cans to return for money (which you had to count out back then) to secretively flipping products on eBay, to getting a part-time job and hiding it from them – I did what I could to gain the rights back to my life. Everything I did became tactical because I had a new goal to achieve which was obtaining my values and self-growth.
Although it was uncomfortable to do at first because it’s not the ideal situation for any child ever to be in, I had to accept it and all the inner conflicts that came with it. The feeling of striving for my independence overpowered their disapproval or my wish to have their approval. I eventually moved out and built a happy life of my own. I know that I would not be the person I am today if I had stayed with them, and because of this important real fact, it no longer matters to me whether or not I have their approval to live happily. It would be ideal for us all to live happily together, but half of this idealistic situation is out of my control.
Feeling like you’re losing control happens to all of us, and it doesn’t just happen once in our life, it can happen a lot.
Two months ago, I felt as though I was going to lose everything after going through over a year of having life b*tch slap me and then backhand me all in one motion, constantly and consistently (I’ve documented this here and here). My life was flipped upside down emotionally, mentally, and financially and my husband and I both felt paralyzed and broken. What may seem out of my control at first shock was actually in my control the entire time. I chose to accept my parents back in my life and care for them even though I knew of the type of people they were and had already drawn boundaries. I allowed myself to go back to the conditioned little girl that grew up with them and allowed that little girl to make the decisions.
The feelings that I had two months ago were due to the tough choices my husband and I prolonged. Our options were to keep the house that we’ve worked so hard to obtain or lose it due to our misfortune. A month later, we’ve come to accept the reality that this is the way it is – we recognize that perhaps keeping this house may not be the best course of action for our immediate future because we may be stretching ourselves out more financially, but most importantly, we value our routines and we’re wanting to go back to normality with our kids – which has been taken away from us for so long. Currently, we are taking care of what we can control, and that looks like reviewing all options with the banks and lenders and seeing what fits our little family best rather than painstakingly forcing on an ideal choice.
Taking back control of your life starts by getting over yourself and switching your mindset from believing that you are stuck to accepting the inconvenient situation that you’re in. Identify the root cause of your problem area and be honest to yourself about it. Then, think about what you want your life to look like and what your values are. From here, start setting the foundation and planning your goals to achieve these values and realign your life.
If you fear the uncertainty, this would bring, weigh your pros and cons, do your research, and educate yourself of your options. Living in a world where knowledge and diversity are literally at your fingertips, nothing is stopping you from looking into what it takes to gain back your life. For example, eBaying was my choice back then because it was the fad, but nowadays, we can all make money finding reputable paid work online, even without a bank account. There are options – and sometimes it may look unconventional, but it’s there.
At the end of the day, real change happens when we are able to simultaneously stand firm on our values and change the actions and behaviors that are no longer serving us.
Be prepared to endure the conflicts that’ll come with your decisions, and note that you’re not changing your core self, you’re changing your actions to align your goals to your core self.
Also, no matter how much self-development you do, there will be a point in your life where life gets out of control. It happens to even the perfect person’s life. Why? Because unless we live alone in the world, our lives are all interconnected to other beautiful, multifaceted humans with different mindsets and values. There is no blame here – there is the only recognition that others can influence us but understand that we ultimately control our lives.
Lastly, in my humble and honest opinion, if you’re feeling stuck because of someone else, know that you don’t need anyone’s approval to live your life the way you value it. You are solely responsible for your life, just as much as they are solely responsible for theirs because only you can feel, live and change your reality.