Baby Steps Are Still Steps

Positive change can start right now

Photo by Tegan Mierle on Unsplash

Doing something is better than doing nothing when it comes to battling feelings of doubt, sadness, and fear. These feelings will take a devastating toll on our life if they go unchecked or unchallenged because they are joy stealers, ambition stealers, and motivation stealers. Our very self, which is our identity and personality, is on the line. 

The cost of doing nothing is high, yet doing something is of the utmost value, and both are investments toward the kind of person we are going to be.

The Mirror

Photo by Andre Mouton on Unsplash

Have you ever looked into a mirror and been taken back by who you saw looking back at you? I have had this experience many times in my life over the past four years. I wish I could say it’s because I was surprised how fit I’ve become or that I found myself inspired by a spark of ambition in my eyes, but unfortunately, I have been taken back because the person looking back at me is someone I don’t recognize.

I used to be described as a “smiler” and people used to thank me for bringing a positive attitude or lightness with me. I was never hard-pressed to put on a happy expression, as it was always lying just below the surface. My eyes used to carry that lightness, now they carry a heaviness.

What used to come naturally now takes intentional effort.

It takes a little more work nowadays, not that life has gotten worse, but life has changed, I have changed, and my mind has become a puzzle where all of the pieces are there, but I need to take the time to place them together.

The first time I remember looking in the mirror confused by who I saw was after my smile was literally destroyed after a fall from a boulder.

Broken Smiles

Photo by Rudi Fargo on Unsplash

It was a long year and a half of recovery and rebuilding, with a couple of oral surgeries, stitches, and so many trips to the dentist. I remember going into the bathroom and just staring at my face. I couldn’t smile. All of the stress and pain that I had been carrying inside could no longer be hidden. My smile had moved from a representation of who I was to a cover-up to hide the sadness that was growing within, and now, my cover was blown. 

My mouth was fixed one tooth at a time. My mind, however was now broken open with feelings of grief, doubt, and hopelessness like I had not felt before. My physical inability to pop off a big smile made me sad. I spent more time fighting off sadness than embracing happiness, and most of my smiles were uncomfortable and lacked confidence. 

2016 had knocked me on my rear, and I needed to find a way to get back up.

Baby Steps

Screenshot from touchstone Pictures’ What About Bob?

In some ways, I did bounce back. I didn’t let the injury or my dad’s death define me, but they did impact me. Both my dad and my smile were safety nets in my life that kept me from falling despite setbacks, only I did not realize how much I relied on their support until they were gone. 

What was unveiled through 2016 was an existing case of high expectations and regretful thinking. What did I do to remedy that? I complained a lot, beat myself up for missed opportunities, and wasted mind space on “what if…” scenarios. Did any of that work? Nope. 

The decision to feed those negative thoughts actually brought my fears to life. Through neuroplasticity, our brain can reorganize and reform itself based on repetition and life experience. In that regard, I had reorganized my brain to accept the worst version of myself based on the consistent pattern of negative self-talk.

Near the end of 2016, I took my first step toward change by finding a counselor. The first step from that point was to practice loving-kindness toward my self; swap the negative self-talk with affirming self-talk. I wrote more in depth about this idea in my former article Speak Kindly and Love Yourself.

Though I feel like I’ve taken a step backward for every step forward sometimes, Those steps forward are what keeps me off the edge. Little by little, step by step I hope to get back to the full enjoyment of the life that is taking place around me. 

I love the movie What About Bob? Though Bill Murray plays someone with a more debilitating condition than most of us, the truth of that movie can be embraced by all. Wherever we are in regards to our state of mind and mental health, big positive change starts with positive baby steps. 

At some point, we will need to take that final leap or make a hard push to finally break free of the chains that bind us, but those final steps won’t feel be as big if we have been steadfast in our commitment to the baby steps. 

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