There was a long span of time in my life where I hated the word hope. I didn’t believe in hope. I didn’t understand or identify with people who used the word hope. I thought of hope as a feeling of possibility. Hope allows us to feel positive but there was a time when I and my life felt hopeless. Today I am learning hope is the result of hard work; to teach myself a healthier way of thinking.
At times, I have avoided hard work like the plague because I didn’t want to experience failure, I fear failure. If I fail at something then I am a failure. Believing I am a failure is painful. I don’t want to feel pain. This fear is what others have perceived as laziness. I struggled with this label of being lazy. Who wants to admit they are lazy? Not me. The irony is that by not trying, because I feared being a failure caused me to fail by default.
I struggle to separate the idea of saying something stupid and being stupid or failing at something and being a failure. I can set a goal. I may or may not know how to achieve that goal, but more importantly do I believe I can achieve my goals?
Prior to Al-Anon I only saw I can’t. I only heard I can’t. I believed I can’t. Eventually I stop dreaming of the possibilities. I’m learning hope is how I think more than how I feel.
When I don’t do something out of fear it is because I hear the negative voices of my past saying I knew she couldn’t or I knew she wouldn’t do it do replay in my head. I continue to believe I can’t do it, even if I started out believing I could. If I believe I can do something, do it and succeed; over time I begin to reduce and diminish the accomplishment. I go back to believing the negatives voices. I start thinking that the success I had was a fluke. I didn’t really do that, it wasn’t as hard as when so and so did it, I did it but look how long it took me, I did it but so and so did it better so I’m still a failure.
Hopeful people believe I can fail the first three times and succeed the fourth time. I can fail a hundred times and still persevere and try 101 times. I can fail at one thing and still be successful at another. I can fail and still achieve success. I can fail and still be worthy of love. I can fail and still be enough. This way of thinking is what I am learning in Al-Anon.
My instant reaction to something may be the negative thinking of my past, but I have many chances to practice a healthier way of thinking. I don’t have to get it right every time, but each minute provides me a new opportunity to succeed. We have a saying in Al-Anon. We don’t have to practice the program perfectly because life gives us many chances to practice.
I have always thought of myself as someone who perseveres, but I had been looking at it with the wrong focus. I was persevering over the judgment of what other people thought of me, but since I have no control over other people I never moved forward. What does the next person think and the next person and the next person? I kept my focus on other people’s belief that I couldn’t until I believed it too, until I believed I was unworthy, until I believed I was not enough and that I was a failure. I was not persevering over my own thoughts of unworthiness, the belief that I can’t, the belief that I’m not smart enough or fast enough or strong enough. But by whose standards? I never set my own standards.
Comparison is the thief of happiness. The only person I need to be better than is the person I was yesterday or the person I was one minute ago. And if I wasn’t better than the person I was yesterday I only need work hard again today. I can’t believe I am about to quote Yoda, but I am. Yoda said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. Do or do not. There is no try.”
In Al-Anon we share our experience, strength and hope. We begin to learn I am worthy. I am enough. I can succeed in feeling better even if is hard. What other people think of me is none of my business.
Are they putting me down to make themselves feel better? Do I put them down to make myself feel better? Do I blame other people to release my own discomfort and pain? Does blaming someone else give me a sense of control? Am I corroding my relationships with these thoughts of blame and inferiority? Am I accountable for myself? Am I keeping the focus on myself? If I failed to accomplish a specific goal in 40 years will I try again and again until I succeed at the age of 45, 46 or 50? Or will I give up proving those negative voices in my head they were right after all.
Together we can teach ourselves a better way of thinking, in Al-Anon. We can do this through our shared struggle. We can begin to feel better and stronger emotionally and we can achieve and celebrate our successes, big or small, when we share our experiences good and bad. We begin to teach the voices in our head that we can, we do, we will and we already have. And that new way of thinking is hope. It’s not fast, it’s not always fun and it certainly isn’t always easy. We may not do it well the first time and it isn’t a breeze but it is hope and we can succeed.