“It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it.” – Lena Horne
It’s been said that life never gives us more than we can handle. While my ego resists this idea, my heart has discovered it to be true. I have never met a person who truly likes being faced with serious challenges in life.
Yes, part of us loves to be challenged. Deep down we know it’s how we grow, and our souls love growth! However, we don’t want to face the kinds of challenges that ultimately cause us to question who we are and why we’re here.
Yet those are the challenges that ultimately break us down or lift us up. They either pummel us into the ground or they strengthen our wings so that we can fly.
When we’re faced with a difficult situation, perhaps seemingly impossible, the first thing many us do is feel overwhelmed. We question why we’ve been given such a load and whether or not we have the capability to handle it. We might even freak out.
This is a natural reaction whenever our expected state of comfort is shaken up in surprising, difficult, and most importantly, unwanted ways. It’s our ego’s way of saying, “This isn’t what I signed up for! Please make it easy again for me.”
This inner resistance breaks us down hard and fast. It creates an inner conflict whereby we are actually at war with ourselves. We judge ourselves as unworthy, incapable, and weak.
These judgments are emotionally stressful and inhibit our ability to access our true and incredible capacities as human beings. This inner load breaks us down physically, mentally, and spiritually.
The alternative is to change the way we carry our loads. Instead of channeling that fear-based energy inwards, we transmute it into a healthy assertion. Underneath fear and assertion is the same kind of “aggressive” energy. The difference is that fear turns aggression towards ourselves, while assertion is the health expression of aggression towards overcoming the challenges we face.
When we learn to channel this energy for our benefit, we use our challenges as opportunities for growth. Just like working out develops muscles to carry greater physical loads, this inner growth empowers us to carry greater emotional and spiritual loads.
Though this is simple, it’s rarely easy.
That’s why it has the potential to either break us down or lift us up. The most effective method I’ve found to shift from fear to growth is to combine inner perspective changes with taking small concrete actions in the world.
From an inner perspective, the first step is to forgive ourselves. We must accept our humanity and recognize that there’s only so much we can do with our given resources. If we could do better, we would have.
We’re doing the best we can.
This acceptance allows us to stop the inner conflict that uses up so much of our energy. It immediately dismantles the inner judgments of unworthiness and inadequacy that consume so much of our attention.
With that freed energy, we gain greater access to our innate strength that’s lying dormant within us. That strength empowers us to carry greater emotional and spiritual loads while experiencing less stress. The thing to understand is that it’s not that the outer stresses go away. We still have work and chores to do, bills to pay, and people to deal with.
What changes is how we approach the world and the inner capacities we have to minimize the negative impacts we experience because of those external stresses.
And while it’s nice to feel more inner peace for a while, in many situations that’s not always enough to create lasting peace. We might want to believe it is. Other teachers may tell us this is true if we only try hard enough or heal enough of our past. We may see other people who seem to live this way.
But my experience has been that when we live in the “real” world as they say…
When we are down in the trenches of living life at full-speed…
In addition to the changes in inner mindset, we must also make changes to our outer world.
It can take months or years to make the necessary inner shifts in perspective to develop the strength we need if we are going to try and change our entire outer world only by changing our minds and hearts. This is because self-criticism runs deep into our subconscious.
Therefore, to most effectively carry the stress of our lives more effectively, we must also find ways to lessen the actual load. This is what I mean by taking concrete actions in the world. One of those ways is to allow others to support us more fully than ever before.
In Western society, individuality and independence are both highly valued traits. This leads us to say “Yes” to too many requests. The old adages of “biting off more than you can chew” and “your eyes were bigger than your mouth” are quite fitting here.
Consequently, many of us feel the need to “prove” that we can handle all the challenges thrown at us. Unfortunately, those collective beliefs bury themselves deep into our psyche in places that can be difficult to reach. Subconsciously, we come to believe that if we can’t handle everything that’s asked of us, then we’ll be perceived as weak, incapable, and ultimately rejected.
What’s interesting is that we only believe others perceive this about us if we already believe it about ourselves. For those of us on a spiritual path, this inner conflict is deepened even further because we know we “should” be able to handle these experiences, and that we “should” be grateful for the opportunity to grow.
Though forgiving ourselves helps with both of those challenges, the reality is that none of us can do everything that is asked of us. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Yes, Man” then you know what I’m talking about. The result of saying “Yes” to everything is that our “shoulds” further our inner conflict and make our self-imposed load even heavier.
Therefore, one of the most effective ways to lighten our load is to take a concrete action that is contradictory to your “should” statements. For example, suppose that you feel you “should” be able to handle everything life throws at you, but you’re feeling stressed out and broken down. The best thing you can do is ask somebody else for help.
Yes, asking God for help will make a difference. Many people who hit rock bottom (see the picture below) have found their strength and courage while praying on their knees. Remember though, we don’t have to hit rock bottom to ask for help.
Sometimes it can be as simple as sending an email or text to a friend and saying, “Hey, I’m going through a rough time. Please keep me in your prayers.” Maybe it’s about asking somebody else to do something for you that you either don’t have the time, energy, or even money to do. Or perhaps it’s allowing yourself to say “No” to requests that would burden you even further.
It doesn’t have to be big. In fact, the smaller you make your requests the easier it will be for you to make them.
Each of these opportunities goes against your personality’s predisposition to “take it all on.” Each of them would provide a little bit of space between who you think you “should” be and all the weight you carry, and who you actually are in that specific moment. The ultimate result is that two things happen:
1. You’ve reduced even more of the inner conflict that creates inner stress.
2. You’re empowered with more of your inner natural strength that is always ready and waiting to be used constructively.
In the end, it’s about finding the right balance between our independence and our interdependence.
Developing our inner strength empowers us to take on greater loads with less stress. We become more independent, capable, and empowered.
Simultaneously, allowing ourselves to be supported empowers us to spread the load across several people so that no single person has to carry the weight of the world on his or her metaphorical shoulders. We become more interconnected, capable, and again empowered.
When combined, these two simple inner and outer changes enable us to fly to heights previously unimaginable…
Heights only reachable when we learn to carry our loads just a little bit differently.
Your Partner In Transformation,
Liberate Your Life
P.P.S. Here’s that picture I mentioned earlier…