all of the selves we Have ever been
It has been a stressful week.
Our citizen-selves seemed fully engaged. With all eyes on the presidential election results, it was difficult to get any shut-eye.
We all rejoice when we our team wins, but every American can relate to the agony of defeat. Each of us has a history of disappointments, losses, and experiences that wound and hurt. For all of us, it begins in childhood, and we navigate those waters throughout our lives. No matter our age or accomplishments, a loss can makes us feel like that scolded child who could never do anything right in the eyes of his father, or like the rejected school girl who never got picked for the teams, or, perhaps, like the humiliated teen who wets his pants as he runs from a snarling dog while his friends stand on the sidewalk and laugh.
We each have our defining stories. I can’t say we always get over them, but most of us get through them. Some keep reliving those experiences to feed their anger, hatred, and retaliation. Others become paralyzed with self-doubt, anxiety, and withdrawal. For most of us, the hurts eventually lead to insight, empathy, and resilience.
Thankfully, most of us lick our wounds in private. Our losses are not on public display for the entire world to see and exploit for entertainment value. I have heard President Trump poke fun at empathy, and yet, I imagine he could use some today.
The agony of defeat can cloud our thinking, but losing the game does not make us losers. Sometimes we have to put on our magnanimous hats to restore normalcy and reach for greatness. Each of us would like to be remembered not for those silly moments when we were real characters, but for the important moments when we revealed our real characters.
Most of us survive our falls by getting up before the bus runs over us. Even with our legs broken, we eventually find a way to put our best foot forward and keep walking. As Dr. Claire Weekes once counseled an anxious client who was afraid to cross the street, “Even rubber legs will get you there.” That has been my mantra in the thirty years since I first read those words.
I have tried many things in my life. None of them made me rich or famous. By objective assessments, many of them were failures. But all of them made me friends. That is the currency with which I measure my success, and friendship is the ointment that has healed all of my wounds.
If you are suffering some agony, Dr. Weekes would say, “It is never too late to give yourself another chance.”
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Some other tips for coping with anxiety from Dr. Claire Weeks in Hope and Help for Your Nerves (1990):