Why Following Your Bliss Can Be Totally Miserable + Why That's A Good Thing
"Follow your bliss!" "Embrace your passion!" These overused maxims are, at best, unhelpful, and at worst, downright frustrating. The implication is that if you “do what you love,” (another favorite), all the pieces of your life will fall magically into place, and you’ll be exactly the person you always wanted to be.
Anyone who’s ever actually tried to swing for the bleachers knows it doesn’t work like that. At all. When you start that process, you’ll still have the same hangups and the same baggage you did when you were pursuing a less fulfilling path.
If you were rattled with deep insecurity when working an office job you hated, starting your own Etsy shop isn’t going to eradicate that. In fact, it’s going to put insecurity front and center, and force you to deal with it.
Yes, taking the risk of grabbing your dreams and hanging on for dear life is going to bring up all your doubts, fears, and remembered failures. But that's the only way you’ll be forced to heal them. Healing yourself is what actually brings into being the life you’ve imagined.
Why does it happen this way?
If you’re pursuing something you don’t care about, you'll turn back as soon as you hit the first roadblock, whether it's caused by your internal issues or external complications. As soon as it gets hard, you’ll look for a way out. If you’re on the way to achieving something meaningful to you, you become willing and determined to deal with the things that scare you.
My friends told me for years I should be making and sharing my meditations, but I resisted. Eventually, the calling was too strong, so I took the plunge. I wrote my own guided meditations, turned them into a website, and made that my full-time job. Almost immediately, my insecurity began to blossom.
I started to doubt myself: Why me? Who am I to claim I’m a professional at this? I was so overcome with self-doubt that I started to get embarrassed when I talked about it. I would stare at the floor, my face red with embarrassment, and mumble about "my website."
My lack of confidence in myself made it hard for others to trust my expertise, and I barely stayed afloat my first year. That only deepened my feelings of inadequacy, and the cycle continued as I felt myself cracking and falling apart.
It was hell. I hated myself for having left security for something I was so ill-equipped to do. I hated my website for forcing all my fears to the surface. I hated the people who tried to encourage me to talk about it, because it made me so anxious.
You can't force someone to suddenly believe in themselves. That comes from within.
So, what’s the tipping point?
After that first year, I asked myself if I was ready to give up. The answer, shockingly, was no. I thought maybe I was being masochistic. But I realized something else was motivating me. Stumbling around in the dark, I’d occasionally tasted something so sweet, so pure, that it made everything else worth it. I had tasted life, as I dreamed it could be. And I couldn’t turn my back on that.
I kept going, fueled by those moments, not knowing how I’d make it work, but knowing I would — somehow. I signed up for public speaking classes. That was a huge step in reclaiming my power. I reflected on why I didn’t believe in myself, and put in work to change it. I prayed. I meditated. I danced. I cried. If there was something that I felt could help me, I tried it. I was relentless.
Towards the end of that second year, I noticed a dramatic shift in my inner world. I wasn't anxious all the time. I started to be able to speak about my endeavors with confidence and pride. My meditations reflected this, and people started to respond positively to my meditations, blog posts, and videos.
The misery fell away, and there, like a gem I’d buried and forgotten, was the bliss. What I was feeling then were labor pains. I was giving birth to my new self — the self that only I could bring to life, and only through consistent effort and courage. That truth was the tiny light in the dark, leading me to acceptance, purpose, and authenticity. That's where bliss resides.
Like any protagonist, you have to battle a few monsters before you reach the promised land, redemption, peace. Trust your instincts, and when you taste those moments of unadulterated certainty, drink them in. They will carry you through the wilderness.
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