I spent time this past weekend mountain biking a trail I hadn’t ridden before. The experience was a real mix, going from feeling like an uncoordinated snail to feeling the exhilaration of riding with the feeling I had the wings of Mercury on my back.
I struck two big mental challenges shortly into the ride. The first happened as I huffed and puffed my way upwards. My mind suddenly took in the single track, the height I was at and the drop to one side of me. I had what I can only believe was a panic attack. I didn’t think I could go on. It was all to perilous (it really wasn’t!). On stopping, things got worse as I panicked at the unfamiliar sense of panic I was experiencing.
With the help of my riding companion’s support, I passed through this and pushed on, firmly ignoring the views from on high and keeping my eyes on the track. I started having fun and was getting well into the flow of things when I suddenly screeched to a halt. Before me was a steep dip followed by a steeply inclined corner. My riding companion whizzed past me, stopped up the other side and reminded me I could do this. I had to pass through here. I contemplated walking it but knew I would be disappointed with myself if I didn’t try. I went further back along the track I’d already passed in order to get a good run up to the point of my mental block, taking time to acknowledge the fear I felt in my bones. In my mind, this part of the track felt impossible and fraught with danger (it really wasn’t!).
I pulled together all the strength and positive thinking I could muster, jumped on my bike and soon, I was sailing down that incline and coming up the other side. My riding companion yelled with delight that I was doing it. I was jubilant and exhilarated that I had this when in a split second, carried away by my inner celebration, I forgot to look where I wanted to be and careered off, injuring my foot in the process.
I had no choice but to carry on – we were in the middle of nowhere. Although unable to walk on my heel, I was still able to ride. I enjoyed the rest of the ride and had some fun along the way – no more mental blocks!
What made the difference to the rest of my ride? Shortly after my fall, my riding companion, said to me “I get so frustrated that you are a way better rider than you believe you are”.
You are a way better rider than you believe you are.
I kept this in mind for the rest of my ride, reminding myself of my strengths as a rider, feeling more confident with every thought and the ease followed.
It got me thinking about what other areas of life there are that I am better in than I believe I am and, as a result, play smaller in. Perhaps you are the same. How often do you think that you can’t do something, that it is impossible, that who are you to be shining?
I see this all the time with my clients going through separations. It shows up as their:
crippling self doubt and confidence (often the byproduct of behaviours and messages received during their relationships)
belief that what lies ahead is hopeless
belief they will not “get through this”
belief they are "not good enough"
They think this but all the while, do not recognise they are getting through, bit by bit, and are stronger and more capable than they realise!
Perhaps you see some of this within yourself. The good news is that the number 1 tool we have for moving through a separation or any challenge is free – it lies in our beliefs. Our thinking and thoughts that shape our deep beliefs cost nothing and, unless there is illness at play, we can manage them and do some pretty powerful, positive Jedi mind play! Here are some tips for how -
Recognise it – cultivating awareness of these beliefs and the thoughts that come with them and spotting them when they happen means you can self-correct them.
Reality check your thoughts about the situation that is troubling you. How realistic is your belief? When our minds are under stress or turmoil, this does not always make them the most accurate forecasters or guides. I had a client recently who said numerous times “it is hopeless”. It absolutely wasn’t. Yes, things were tough but they weren’t hopeless but her view of how she could move forward was one seen through grey tinted glasses. I often help my clients work through this reality checking. It can be useful to have someone help you with this but be wary of who you use – you don’t want an echo chamber happening but rather, someone who brings to this exercise the clarity that comes with independence or an outsider’s perspective.
Rewire your Beliefs–You can control your thoughts which can dismantle beliefs that are unhelpful and create new, empowering beliefs. Think about the logic of your beliefs: “The fact I feel this is hopeless does not mean it really is”, “The fact that I believe I can’t cope with this does not mean I really can’t”. Be sure to remind yourself of what you have going for you – “I am a great mother”, “I have great support”, “I have been single before and thrived then and can do so again", “I am stronger than I credit myself with being”, “I responded really constructively to that argumentative email – I can control my responses so that things don’t get inflamed further”.
When you fall, keep moving forward. We all have times when things don’t go the way we’d hoped or planned for. Putting pressure on yourself to achieve the impossible of getting it right every time, telling yourself you have failed if you don’t and remaining stuck in that belief does not serve you or those you love. Sure, take time to lick your wounds but be sure to move forward with one small action after another.
Flip it – When you do start perceiving a situation in a way that limits you (perhaps, seeing it as hopeless or as a failure or a challenge you are not up for), practice flip your thinking to regard to it. An easy way to do this is to look for the opportunities to learn and grow. There is always something that can be carried forward so that next time you avoid landing in the same place again. In my case, the rest of my ride went well, partly because I had been given a painful lesson on a technical skill and that lesson remained with me for the rest of the ride, meaning the mistake wasn’t repeated. What lessons are there for you in your separation that you can carry forward into future relationships? What lessons are there for you in a recent challenge you’ve had in the separation process (perhaps in your communication with your ex, sorting your finances, dealing with the emotional response of a relative to your separation) that you can apply into the future? If you are facing something you don’t feel you can succeed in, what opportunities lie in it for learning about yourself?
Visualise the Positives – another flipping of your thoughts can be transforming what you see as a negative into a positive. A client gave me a great example of this recently. She was feeling very stressed about some work that needed doing to her home which her former partner would normally have taken responsibility for before their separation. She spent a lot of time stuck on the negativity of this situation – “another mess he has left me to sort out”, “I am always going to struggle with this sort of thing”, "this place will forever be a dump", “I don’t know where to start”. Meanwhile, the work sat undone, constantly triggering these thoughts. What changed? She started looking at the situation as positives – she started by thinking of this as an opportunity to find a great tradesperson who she could trust to use for future jobs. She then realised she could get the work done, when she wanted it done, without having to “nag” endlessly. She could even get some cosmetic changes done so that the home started looking the way she'd always wanted it to. Boom! She was on to those jobs in no time at all. For you, perhaps changing up your thoughts (and hence your beliefs) may start with recognising the benefits of your new, greater choice zone. Maybe you can start visualising the positive place you want to land so that you can see the decisions and legal, financial, and emotional processes to work through as a vehicle to getting closer to that bright destination.
Be kind to yourself. Do you tend to focus on where things go wrong and what you perceive as your failings, rather than what has gone right and what you are doing well? When you catch yourself voicing or thinking limiting beliefs that won’t serve you through your separation, remind yourself you don’t need to know everything about how to do this and what lies ahead. Remember to focus on what does go right. Pat yourself on the back and reward yourself for those things. Don’t beat yourself up – you have made the best decisions you can with the information and resources you had at the time and our choices are often half chance.
Get help – if you are struggling to see things more positively and to recognise the potential in yourself and your future, then do get help. Talk with a trusted, supportive friend about how you are feeling or speak with a professional – your doctor, a counsellor or psychologist. It is normal and necessary to do so if you are to not remain ‘stuck’ and move towards a more beautiful future. I always check my clients have such support for their emotional and mental wellbeing as they work through their separation.
Above all, believe you can travel through this. You are a way better rider than you believe you are.