• Ciara Ungar

Embracing Change

"Embracing the change is hard no matter the circumstance. What are your best tips for embracing life’s curveballs?"

I was recently asked this question by Pretty Simple Sarah in preparation for an upcoming podcast. We didn't really get to this question in the interview, but it's a topic that has been weighing heavily on my heart lately that I know others experience too.

Curveballs come in all shapes and sizes. They are breakups we didn't expect that trap us in replaying lies, confusion and what ifs; jobs we didn't expect to lose that leave us feeling ashamed and mistreated; or loss of loved ones that leave us with many unanswered questions.

Sarah's question to me was such a great one and is something I’m constantly trying to still figure out. But I think it starts by putting yourself out there and being open to what comes your way and includes a few key steps.

Create Self Awareness

I think one of the biggest keys is self-awareness. Change is going to happen no matter what you do to prevent it. Bad things will happen and sometimes seem to be relentless. You’ll have dark moments when you want to just give up or go off on the person that cut you in Starbucks because their coffee order was (apparently) WAY more important. These people that you see on Instagram giving motivational speeches - they experience all of these things just like anyone else.

Being highly self-aware of your triggers and how you can react to get the outcome you hope for is what I believe sets apart a genuinely joyful person. Proactively countering what I call “moments of learning” (not moments of weakness) with a positive and healthy reaction is what changes your attitude.When these curveballs hit, you have a lot to say and a lot to ask. It would be easy to go off on the other person to say everything you want to say and ask, or take passive aggressive routes to communicate your pain. But what does that change? It doesn't change what happened and it means very little to the person(s) on the other end. Your reaction is what you can control when curveballs hit, your character is what you can maintain.

And, it’s just like anything else, it has to become a habit.

  • Sit down and self-reflect

  • Take note of how your words and actions affect others and most importantly your own mindset

  • Write down the steps you’ll take to overcome those moments when they happen.

Build the Sisu

Another big thing in that same vein is building your Sisu.

Sisu is a Finnish word that means that point where perseverance and grit end. It’s that extra something within you that kicks in. It’s that second wind of mental toughness, after you reach the limits of your observed mental or physical capacity.

When I think about this word and everything that has happened the last few years, I think - holy crap, that’s it! Lyme Disease has been just one of many challenges - I’ve had heart break, job changes, lost friendships and so forth all while dealing with Lyme Disease, and at times I do have moments where I am like “why the heck can’t something good just happen.” We’ve all been there! There are times when you do feel like life’s curveballs are so relentless.

But overcoming those moments - again - is about conditioning yourself to be able to get through them. Your resilience should be treated like a muscle and has to be built up. You have to train yourself to react certain ways, but also remember the solid foundation of what makes you a great human. I’m not perfect, every day is not a handout of happiness, things are going to happen. But, building up your second wind of resilience - and I’m not talking about building up walls, but resilience - is going to get you through the curveballs. It’s a discipline of understanding your triggers and what the healthy ways to think through something are.

Build Your Community

I would also say surrounding yourself with positive people who you learn from is very important. You are the company you keep. There is a lot of toxicity in life and there’s also a lot of really bad advice out there. That could be from friends or colleagues or even family, there’s no boundary on who these people are. I think it’s healthy to recognize who the toxic people in your life are and take the steps to - maybe not necessarily completely remove them from your life in all cases, but - to limit your interactions with them. In their place, build up a network of supporters you can turn to that tell you - not what you may always want to hear, but - who really understand you and provide healthy advice for working through things.

Practice Self-Affirmation

The last thing I would say, and it’s not the least important by any means, is establishing Self-Affirmation Habits. There are so many influences in our lives that tell us we can’t, or that we’re too overweight, or not pretty or fun enough, or whatever it may be and many of them happen subconsciously. It’s very important that you take the time out of your day and remind yourself that you are good, you are strong, you do have the skills to do _____. It’s not about creating ego, it’s about creating a positive image of yourself for yourself, so that when curveballs happen, your first instinct isn’t to blame yourself for why someone broke up with you or why you lost your job, and go into those depths of darkness, if you will.

*If you lose your job and you’ve established with yourself that you’re skilled and capable, you’re going to get right back on the horse and find something new.

*If you get broken up with no matter how it ended, you’re going to be able to trust that you’re still a desirable and beautiful human worthy of love and that the right fit is out there for you.

It doesn’t erase the anger or the pain you feel or the questions you replay in your mind, and it doesn’t prevent these things from happening - we’re human and you can’t forget what’s happened to you and you certainly can't control it. But it does allow you to heal quicker and not rely on unhealthy habits to get you through the pain and fill that void. The things others do to you is not a reflection of you, but rather their own struggles. Practicing self-affirmation allows you to find purpose in your life for those curveballs and see them as opportunities to learn from rather than detrimental life sentences you feel trapped in replaying.

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