As hard as we might try to avoid the hard things in life it’s inevitable that they will someday catch up with us. The longer we avoid them the larger they become. In just the blink of an eye we can turn a slightly annoying or daily life task into a burdensome problem. Think of how much better life will be when we stop avoidance and take charge of our lives.
Life has a way of teaching us lessons no matter how hard we try to avoid them. In a world with so many angles and perceptions there’s no place where we can fully hide. Mindset is everything and how readily we can attack our problems and ease our burdens can pivot us in a new direction. It can be hard for us to see but grit and determination is the recipe for creating a magical life. There are wonders and new self-discoveries waiting for us on the other side. Life is always a paradigm of our intention and imagination. The truth always wins and paves the path to our authentic destination.
From my first conscious thoughts I knew I was different, and I knew that there were actions, behavior, and words that I needed to avoid or else someone would discover my truth and cause me pain and scorn. I could be free on my own but there were many things in front of me that I would need to steer clear of. I would have to avoid anything that threatened to harm the walls that I had built.
While I was able to live a normal looking life on the outside, my truth was compressed and painfully hidden. I became very creative in avoiding uncomfortable situations and hiding from my authenticity. I wasn’t honest with anyone about who I was, especially myself. I was the textbook example of avoidance.
The idea of sharing my confused and innermost thoughts was something I could never imagine. I had no one to talk to that I could trust. Despite my many friendships I always felt hollow and lonely. My secret was safe as long as I stayed within the carefully prescribed conservative boundaries of the world of my upbringing.
In my late teen years, I realized that as hard as I tried not to, I was attracted to the same sex. It was a battle that I attempted that I knew I could never win. It was the core of my being but a secret that I could never share with family or friends.
Avoidance was my constant companion and I’d skip anything that felt dangerous. I avoided situations when I might be found out and was always stressed and full of doubt. When I look back I can’t think of any other route. It was what I had to do until
I figured myself out.
For many years I lived with a sense of urgency and danger. I couldn’t wait to get out and discover the world on my own terms. I put myself in situations that were both terrifying and thrilling. At times, I attempted to escape from unhappiness with flashy friends, parties, and drugs. For many years this was my world, I avoided the truth so hard that it endangered my life and wellbeing. I was an illusion to myself as well as my friends.
As with all things that are unstable it came to a brutal ending. Through the pain and self-destructive emotions. I was emotionally drained and knew it was over. It was the turning point of my life. Broke and alone, I moved into a tattered houseboat on Chesapeake Bay. Nothing is better than nature to rebuild our emotional being and self-esteem. Experiencing solitude for the first time in my life was exhilarating. I found peace in the quiet of the water and nature around me. My fast paced and half-truth of a life was far behind me. It was a time when I tested myself and was sober and free of distraction.
Amazingly I lasted from early Summer to the next Spring. The seasons are sharper, and the wind is cold on the bay in the Winter, but I was truly happy and excited for each new day and adventure. A sense of renewal and newfound purpose arose. I had to make good on all the past mistakes of my life and realize my innermost ambitions. No more avoidance and no more emotionally hazardous self-deception. I had a much greater sense of clarity and empathy. I began to surround myself with happy people.
TAKING BACK OUR POWER
A friend of mine once shared with me her greatest advice from a wise and trusted mentor. “Take life head on with gratitude and conviction. Nothing can hurt us when we stand strong and unwavering”. As The Happiness Warrior I use this advice every day, raise. A raised fist has great power and never needs to strike, its symbolic strength will disburse any perceived demons and adversaries into insignificant pieces. The more we do this the easier it becomes to reach a higher level of life-mastery.
AVOIDANCE IS DECEPTION
It takes less energy to complete a task than to avoid it. We all have the courage to accomplish our dreams. Stop avoiding and face life with truth and knowing. All knowledge comes from within and is there to guide us. Only when we listen to our inner voice are we able to go forward with grace.
I used to tell myself that I was my own worst enemy in an effort to inspire myself with hard and unforgiving words. Over time I began to question the logic and changed my attitude and way of thinking. It was making me weaker rather than strong and destroying my happiness. It created anxiety when faced with an adversary. This is the opposite of warrior-like behavior and will do us much harm.
ANXIOUS OR ANXIETY?
We all have a natural level of anxiety that’s sometimes needed to push ourselves forward, but we need to know when it’s enough. It’s so much easier and less time-consuming when we can admit that we’re doing our best and feel happier when we use life-affirming words.
It's natural to be concerned about a perceived threat, but fear should never be the strategy for moving forward. Understand what we’re facing and remember that the outcome will never be exactly as we imagine.
IDENTIFY COPING STRATEGIES AND WIN
Avoidance coping strategies are actions that we adopt with the intention of reducing stress by distancing ourselves from the problem. Examples include:
- Refraining from taking actions that trigger memories of painful events. Ghosting or not returning communications is very typical.
- Purposefully staying in the shadows and not drawing attention to ourselves. This was me in high school.
- Striving not to be the best in order to keep a lower profile and not be singled out.
- Putting things off that absolutely need to be done, such as a car inspection or dental visit.
- Avoiding places and actions that trigger negative memories. This is the opposite of being happy and living in the present.
- Procrastination never has a happy ending.
- Telling ourselves that we are socially awkward or introverted to avoid any input from others.
- Not seizing opportunities that are given and living with feelings of regret and longing.
Avoidance strategies fail to solve problems. It enlarges them instead!
ACCEPTANCE IS THE KEY
Anxiety is an inevitable part of life but grows and repeats due to negative self-created emotions and doubts. While anxiety is real and diagnosable, it’s also dangerous and addictive. It’s almost always a total waste of energy and time. The solution is in the attitude we take. It’s always better to live in the present with a mindset and attitude focused on change. We can never avoid the wheel of time.
We can find more acceptance when we:
- Live in the present and learn to stop fearing the future.
- Remove the words judgment and shame from our words and actions.
- Face our problems head on.
- Understand forgiveness and its role in creating more happiness and empathy.
- Learn that everyone has problems and how important the attitude we take impacts our lives.
IDENTIFY AVOIDANCE PATTERNS
Most of our actions in life are repetitive and revolve around our initial experiences and feelings when we learn something new. We want to feel safe and it’s not always easy to move forward with an open mind to the unknown. We tend to hold back when life is trying to give us more meaning. It’s natural to want to be cautious but it’s self-defeating to halt our growth through fear. As humans we are meant to strive and explore. Isn’t each generation’s purpose to make life better for the next?
These are common signals to watch for and understand:
1. Reacting-How we react to something new indicates our level of self-esteem and addiction to our relentless ego. It’s better to think and ponder and slowly react with our best intentions.
2. Retreating-It’s normal to want to remove ourselves from a situation that makes us uncomfortable even though it could change the course of our lives. It’s better to move through the fire and come out on the other side.
3. Remaining—This is the worst form of avoidance and one that always makes us unhappy. To be happy we must have momentum. It never pays to stay in an unhappy and self-defeating situation. We can’t live our lives for others and be truly happy.
Too often the events in our lives alter our mindset and self-belief. It’s the fear of the future that stops us from moving forward and growing. Most of us only change the trauma that we’re experiencing now that outweighs fear of the future.
SETTING A NEW COURSE
We can all set a new course for our lives when we understand that every day of life is a miracle of belief and action. It’s our choice to stop hiding and avoiding. Try and see how much your life changes.
We can confront all of life’s battles and transgressions when we learn to shift ourselves in a new direction. We can take a newfound approach and attitude. We can align with our purpose and core values. A place in our mindset where the truth comes first.
If we can learn to lead value driven lives much of our anxiety can be removed. When our actions have purpose and thought we can collectively and individually create the change that we so desperately need.
Avoidance in its purest form can be just as debilitating as addiction. They both destroy empathy and create harm in not just our own lives but those around us. There’s a better path when we realize how much control we really have. All it takes is confidence that we can do it and faith in our truth and authenticity.