You don’t have any new problems. Anything that’s eating your lunch is something you’ve most likely been carrying with you all your life.
Do your personal relationships suck? Surely a product of your attachment style and upbringing. Low self-esteem? That started as a kid. Codependent or unable to set healthy boundaries? Definitely childhood stuff. Unable to ask for help? You don’t need to be a rocket surgeon to figure that one out.
This is both good news and bad news. It’s good because the solution is always the same — heal your damn childhood wounds already. It’s bad because that healing process is no walk in the park.
Over the last fourteen years of dealing with my own trauma, addiction, depression, and codependency, as well as working with countless others, I have learned that “lifting yourself up by the bootstraps” is completely asinine. Willpower is not a strategy for success.
If you want to make a real change, the following four elements of recovery are indispensable to personal healing and growth.
1. Being Part of a Healing Tribe
Identity formation is a social experience. We learn who we are from the mirroring and validation of caregivers during our formative years. And if they do a bang-up job on that, our whole sense of self is forever altered.
This falls under the categories of developmental or relational trauma, which account for the majority of unacknowledged, unprocessed childhood dysfunction. And the wounding that is wrought in relation to others can only be healed in relation to others. So it is vitally important to be connected to a community of people who are doing similar healing work.
Shame is the number one obstacle to healing and growth. It thrives in secrecy and isolation and cannot survive the validation and compassion of those who can relate. It’s like they say, you’re only as sick as your secrets.
Also, true belonging (a prerequisite to healthy self-esteem, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs) is only possible when you can share all of your authentic self — the good, the bad, and the ugly. Belonging is so much more than simply being a member of a group. The kind of belonging that promotes healing and growth requires you to be completely vulnerable and transparent about who you are so you can finally know for sure just how valuable and accepted you are.
Self-esteem isn’t based on being super awesome all the time. Self-esteem is about being a sloppy-ass human and being completely lovable anyway.
So get connected with a tribe — therapeutic community, twelve-step fellowship, book study, women’s circle, men’s group, or whatever. But it must be that a central tenet of the group is openly sharing your authentic selves with one another. Meet with them face-to-face once a week, or more if you can.
2. One-On-One Work
While being seen, heard, respected, and validated in a group is a powerful experience, your healing community can only serve as a home base to support the specific healing work you are otherwise doing. Yes, you absolutely need a space where you feel safe, seen, soothed, and secure.
But belonging to a group is not the healing work.
You will still need to plumb the depths of your soul. And this is a journey that requires definite assistance, for you cannot objectively analyze your own mind from inside it.
No matter how fucked your childhood was, you probably thought it was relatively “normal” for the simple fact that you only got one and had nothing to compare it to. It takes an outsider’s perspective to help get an accurate appraisal of the facts. Kind of like how you need two eyeballs to perceive depth, another person’s perspective will unlock dimensions of your experience you could never comprehend on your own.
Get a coach, counselor, therapist, psychologist, mentor, or twelve-step sponsor. Meet with them face-to-face once a week ideally — especially in the beginning. This person should have in-depth knowledge and experience with what you’re up against (i.e., don’t ask an eye doctor to give you a root canal).
This one-on-one work is the beating heart of personal transformation. Don’t miss out on the experience.
The first two pillars of healing and growth are about restoring safe connections to others as a means of reshaping a healthy identity. However, I do not recommend relying on others to meet all of your needs. That’s a recipe for disaster.
A huge step toward personal empowerment is filling your life and your recovery toolbox with helpful resources. I’m talking about books, blogs, podcasts, apps, personal growth YouTube channels and Instagram accounts, workshops, conferences, webinars, etc. There are so many helpful supports and strategies out there. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel or figure it all out by yourself.
Get curious. Google. Ask around. See what people in your healing community are having success with. What does your mentor recommend for you specifically? Start doing these things.
A tribe and a guru can drag your ass along the healing journey for a little while, but at some point, you gotta stand up and make this journey your own. That’s what the third and fourth pillars of healing and growth are all about.
4. Daily Participation
The little things you do every day largely comprise your life. Therefore, personal transformation isn’t an event; it’s a daily habit.
It took your entire childhood to convince you of whatever limiting beliefs and self-fulfilling prophecies you project onto your life. And you’ve probably been practicing them ever since. So it’s definitely gonna take a concerted effort to reverse thrusters on that bullshit.
You can’t think your way into better living; you have to live your way into better thinking.
This means every single day participating in your healing process with your tribe, your coach, or by yourself. Maybe try some positive affirmations or new self-care practices. Meditate, journal, see your therapist, write some personal inventory, or start a new book on trauma or vulnerability.
Whatever it is, you’ve gotta build new, healthy habits. Because if nothing changes, nothing changes.
Trust The Process
Tony Robbins always says, “Most people overestimate what they can do in a year and underestimate what they can do in a decade.” He’s right. Transforming your life is no overnight matter, but it’s definitely possible. You just gotta keep at it.
If you try to carry the whole burden of reinventing yourself, it will definitely crush you. But these four pillars can hold the weight.
Remember, without the accountability of a healing tribe, you will fall off; without the guidance of one-on-one work, you will swerve; not having the support of healing resources, you will be overwhelmed; and without the commitment of daily participation, it’ll never work.
Integrate these four elements into your very existence, and healing and growth will be your inevitable fate.