"You're not broken."
Three little words that interrupted what felt like a life-long belief that I was broken. Not physically, but mentally and emotionally. I spent more than a decade under a pretty dark cloud of depression, convinced it was just the way life was for me. I would watch joyful, optimistic people with equal amounts of envy and deep curiosity. But instead of asking how they saw the world, I just assumed my worldview was broken.
On that day, I was given a tremendous gift, but it would take time and intention to grow a new belief that not only was I not broken, I had a gift. It's a gift I believe every human being has tucked inside, but sadly, this gift doesn't always see the light of day.
This gift is hope.
This same mentor reflected back to me recently that in those early days, what he saw in me was a woman with massive hopes and dreams for her life but also for the whole of humanity - who was apologetic for even having such hope. I remember this.
Just six years earlier I sat with my peers as our graduate school handed us the DSM-IV, a mental diagnostic manual required for all would-be therapists and counselors. I was on track to be a mental health counselor because I knew I wanted to help people and I knew I wanted to help myself. But there was something unsettling about being handed a book of mental disorders as the pre-cursor to help people.
Did they also think we were broken? Where's the hope? Where's the belief in the good people also possess?
These questions would ultimately lead me to leave graduate school and give up a little hope that I could actually help others, because I knew I didn't want to serve from behind the assumption that those I was helping were broken too.
But it would take someone giving me permission to see life differently to lift the veil from my own eyes and see the world as whole, and this included myself.
Over the past eight years, I've coached hundreds of people and thousands of hours. I've seen some themes pop up, and although many of us aim for originality, it's our similarity that most interests me. It never fails to amaze me that we've come to associate sadness, numbing, discontentment, grief, uncertainty, confusion, and even discomfort with needing to sit on a therapy couch. And sometimes, we do need that.
But experiencing the full spectrum of being human does not qualify you for a mental illness. In other words, your life is not something to heal or control but something to observe and respect.
We live in a culture that loves extremes. You're either succeeding or failing, complete or incomplete, happy or unhappy, wealthy or poor, on your way up or on your way down. And I've found it's far too easy to believe contentment is somehow not enough, or even this present moment is not enough. That if we aren't seeking more, there's something wrong with you.
I recently cleaned out the books in my office (mostly because my book collection can sometimes take over a room). As I combed through titles, holding each one in my hand, asking myself if this still had a place in my life, I was struck by something rather amusing.
Now, to be fair, my job is transformation and positive change. I help people for a living, so it's not uncommon for a life coach's bookshelf to be stocked to the brim with self-help books. But it's as though I saw the titles for the first time. I mean, really saw them.
And at least ten books that start with, "The Power of..."
First, these are all great books. But can you see the theme? Look closely.
Every book is asking you to get someplace new, somewhere other than where you are. This is our obsession. It isn't just that we need to strive for something else, but that where we are isn't good enough.
It's no wonder we feel broken, lost, or unworthy. It isn't an author's fault. It isn't the coaching industry's drive for better, or what is now the DSM-V's doing. They are just responding to an ask we as humans are perpetuating. But instead...
What if you're right where you need to be?
What is in this moment?
Maybe it isn't exciting or entertaining, but what is actually here, right now?
What is available to you if you don't feed your drama or pour fuel on your stories?
We are getting lost in our stories, and sometimes I think we like it in there. But at what cost? The present moment is ever-expanding and eternal. Your memory of your past and your imagining of the future are figments of lingering desire and, often, fear. Pause.
Let your story be your pathway. Let it be the best inner-guide you've ever encountered. Let it show you the way. My dark cloud passed, and I don't feel broken anymore, but I wouldn't change a thing. My story gave way to compassion and a love for the pure potential of every single human being.
And my hope has been restored. Because we don't see the world as it is, we see the world as WE are.
What do you see?