By: Dr. Brenda Neyens
Resolve is a key part of our overall mental health and life satisfaction. Due in part to our determination, we are able to work through obstacles and setbacks and reach our goals or make changes in our lives. But what happens when the obstacles seem to be too many? What happens when we look around and others seem to be succeeding, and we begin to feel like a failure at life?
In these instances, which may become prolonged seasons, it can seem like nothing will ever get better, and that you are the only one unable to make sense out of life and find a healthy path. The internal dialogue can become quite fatalistic in these situations. Not only can you feel like you can’t find a way forward, but that somehow the universe is against you.
This is when we must either recall or increase our personal experiences of the following phrase that represents hope: “The sun will come up tomorrow.” Essentially, this too will pass. Without this first-hand understanding that rough seasons of life will get better, and that we can contribute to this turnaround, life can seem pretty bleak.
Practically, what do we do to help one another with this? If you are a parent, help your child “make mistakes well.” Mistakes made well include: ownership of errors, no shaming, exploration of options with a personal plan to move forward, and apologies plus restitution when there is harm to others. Mistakes not done well include: a coverup or avoidance, blaming others, and sidestepping the natural consequences, usually through “rescuing” an individual from having to deal with their mistakes.
We are going to mess up. It is always better for all of us to have another person to help guide us. We all need support to dig our way out of our messes. Here are some keys for the mentor or parent when helping others:
- Be quick to admit your own mistakes. If you do not, then you are misleading others and allowing them to think that you somehow have it all together, leaving others to assume that there are people who somehow have figured out a way to live an error-free life. Secondly, with the attention on the mistakes, those watching can witness what you do to successfully turn things around. Model personal responsibility over blame, demonstrate healthy coping skills, and — perhaps most importantly — demonstrate that you are willing to seek and accept help from others. There are only two groups of people when it comes to errors: those who admit their mistakes and those who spend their energy covering up their mistakes. If you are not readily able to admit mistakes, I would caution you against mentoring others, because they will learn this unhealthy posture from you.
- Do not fix the mistakes of others. Help them to use their assets and strengths to fix their own problems with your support. Otherwise, the people around you may not grow in confidence. If someone is giving you credit for their life going well, it may mean that you have overstepped with your guidance. Helping others well empowers them to manage their lives and increases their self-confidence.
Someday, there will be an error that you cannot fix on behalf of another person. Inevitably when this happens, your child or mentee will be woefully underprepared to face the problem. Instead of a mature skillset of problem-solving skills, they are left with an immature view of the world called magical thinking…one in which problems will somehow disappear on their own or where someone will save them from themselves. This can become a huge life hurdle if someone reaches adolescence or adulthood without the wherewithal to maximize their strengths and make life corrections, or without understanding how to identify and then utilize their own gifts. Only through experience do we learn tenacity, especially when corrections take weeks if not months or even years.
On the flipside, “You got yourself into this mess, you can get your way out” is a counterproductive response to say to your child or to anyone for that matter. At best this teaches an unhealthy approach to independence and ushers in an unpredictable trial and error approach to mistake recovery. At worst we are practically pushing someone towards despair. Despair is the emotional state when we are left to believe that we are on our own in life. This approach reflects a lack of empathy.
Keep a personal record, a greatest hits if you will, of the times that you have overcome difficulties. The more detailed the better. Take note of what you did, what others did, and of course of God’s provision and protection. Whether the events that you have recorded were due to your mistakes, the mistakes of others, a combination of both, or part of living our lives in a world infected by sin, we must recall those times when we have successfully turned a downward trajectory to an upward one. Write down even those instances that seem small. The objective is to have a long list. A recollection of these may provide just enough hope to hang on and to do the next right thing when difficulties come our way. These records allow us to recall for our own sake or for the sake of others that we have indeed bounced back from tough spots and even tragedies.
The downward turns in life may happen rapidly, while the upward recovery oftentimes happen so slowly that it may require another person to notice those incremental changes. Have a “the sun will come up tomorrow” person in your life. The role of this person is to believe in you when you are not able to do so. In my professional counseling role and also with friends and family, I cannot even recall how many times I have been humbled to share, “I can tell you don’t believe in yourself right now, and that is okay (for now). I will believe in you enough for two people.”
But what if you are reading this and you are not able to identify personal seasons of resolve? What if you feel like you are always struggling to dig out of a hole, or worse yet that there are haves and have-nots in this world, and you are a perpetual have-not? What if you perceive that your life has had way more downs than ups, and you are struggling to find your way?
Please contact us at The Core to get connected to a counselor. You are not a burden. We, at The Core, believe in your innate value as a child of God and that you were designed by God with a purpose. We can help you to clarify your purpose and build skillsets to overcome difficulties, and we can remind you of your value and worth.
If you or someone that you know is struggling with a sense of hopelessness or helplessness, please give us a call at 402-763-1808 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
September is national suicide prevention month. If you or someone you know is overwhelmed with hopelessness and are having any thoughts of self-harm, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.