As vulnerable humans we long for things. And we have limits to making those things happen. We can do our best to nudge outcomes toward the direction we wish. And we should always do our best to do that. But even with our best efforts, other forces contribute to the outcome. That is hard. Now what do we do?

We can deny our limits and blame ourselves when things don’t work the way we want. But then we suffer. We can blame the world, but the world just goes along on its own way not concerned with our opinion about it. We can give up all hope. But then we become depressed. We can worry and try to anticipate every possible parameter, but then we exhaust ourselves and still our brains cannot come up with every possible scenario.

When we choose to bear the truth of our limits, we choose resilience.

We get to be more authentic and resilient. Feeling our vulnerability is uncomfortable, but it is not dangerous. We can stop running away from what is happening inside of us, and if we want to be able to bounce back better from difficulty, we need to.

Let me give you an example: You arrive at the bus stop on time, actually two minutes early, but you miss the bus because the driver was ahead of schedule. As the bus pulls away you realize you are going to be late for your appointment. In that precise moment, the abstract fact that you aren’t the boss of everything becomes concrete and personal (and you are standing in the rain waiting for the next bus).

This is when you get to care about yourself and tune in to your unrest and soothe your body.

When you do, you will feel the truth of your anger as you are annoyed at the driver for being early, but then as that passes you will also open to the truth of your sadness as you recognize your helplessness in controlling the bus driver’s timing. Those emotions want to help you catch up to yourself in reality. They want to help you face and accept the fact that, even when you do everything right (you were on time for your bus) the world can still throw a wrench in your plans. You can make things worse by being hard on yourself or feeling victimized, or you can bring compassion and attention to your feelings.

When you feel your emotions you can move from mad to sad and then out the other side to some kind of acceptance. You decide not to blame yourself, maybe take a breath and settle your agitation. You care about yourself as a person who does not have control over the whole world, and decide that even though you are going to be late you do not have to be stressed and beaten up for it. You choose resilience.

Can you think of something that happened today where you didn’t have control? Can you look at your limits and accept yourself there? You are only human. And worth loving right there.

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Embracing Unrest

I’m excited to announce my first book has a launch date! Out October 18th, 2022, Embracing Unrest: Harness Vulnerability to Tame Anxiety and Spark Growth answers the question: why is it so hard to “be here”?

View my “Embracing Unrest” column on Psychology Today!