The Courage to Be Anonymous

“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

Do you ever want to be recognized for something you did? To know that your contribution caused people to take notice, even if just for a moment?

Do you want to be somebody who matters?

In our age of relentless self-promotion, many of us have gotten caught up in feeling like we should be doing big and important things. There’s so much pressure from social media to be perfect—and have documented proof.

It’s amazing how one day you can feel totally content with your life, and the next feel like you’re failing and have nothing to show for your efforts.

A core human need is the desire to be seen and heard. This need is not only valid, but important for our overall health and well-being.

But we’ve confused the need to be seen with the need to be acknowledged on social media by having people respond to our content or buy what we’re selling.

We live in a world where people are the product and self-branding is the norm. When no one is buying, you can start to feel like you have no worth.

True self-worth

What if the greatest sense of self-worth comes from the willingness to be anonymous?

What if you could do something that would change millions of lives for the better but never be recognized for it? Would you still do it?

St. Teresa of Calcutta once wrote:

“Each one of us is merely a small instrument. When you look at the inner workings of electrical things, often you see small and big wires, new and old, cheap and expensive lined up. Until the current passes through them there will be no light. That wire is you and me. The current is God.

We have the power to let the current pass through us, use us, produce the light of the world. Or we can refuse to be used and allow darkness to spread.”

It would seem to me that St. Teresa’s words take us straight to the heart of the matter at hand. The real question we should be asking ourselves isn’t “How can I be seen?” but “Am I willing to be used?”

Are you?

Even if you’re one of the small, hidden, anonymous wires in the electrical system? If you are, then you understand that your worth is intrinsic. It matters little whether you’re seen or not seen. What matters infinitely more is whether or not you choose to be used.

So choose wisely.

On Beginning Again

“To begin, begin.” ~ William Wordsworth

Ever lie awake at night wondering “How did it come to this?”

You had a vision, a dream about how your life would unfold, but life had other plans.

You find yourself feeling like you’re back to square one. It can feel humiliating. You’re ashamed to tell others that you’re starting over.

You put so much time and effort into getting where you are now, you wonder if it’s even worth the effort to try again. You probably thought you’d just continue to get better. At this point, you may be tempted to just throw in the towel.

Maybe you’re facing financial ruin, relationship bankruptcy, an addiction relapse, or significant weight gain after having lost just as much.

If you’re at the point of wanting to give up, here’s a few thoughts that may help:

1. Beginning again does not mean starting from scratch

Phrases like “starting over” or “back to square one” are ultimately misleading because we don’t actually go back to square one. The experiences we’ve had and the things we’ve learned from those experiences make us who we are today.

Even if it feel like you’re back to where you started, you’re essentially a different person. Keeping this in mind will help combat the feeling of spinning your wheels. Even if your progress is incremental, it’s progress nonetheless and it matters.

2. It’s the willingness and courage to begin that matters

It’s natural to feel like a failure from making the same mistakes over and over again. So many of us get stuck when this happens because we feel like we should know better.

But the real test is how quickly you get up and begin again when you get derailed. The more quickly and consistently you get back up, the less likely you’ll be to go astray the next time.

3. Be kind to yourself no matter what

Decide to do this from the very beginning. Make a pact with yourself that no matter what you think or how you feel about yourself, that you’ll commit to treating yourself kindly as you attempt to begin again.

Your mind may say lots of bad things about you. However you can simply choose to not believe what it says. This also goes for the criticism that may come from others. Make yourself a cup of tea, go for a walk, or watch your favorite movie. It’s hard work to begin again, and you don’t need to be hard on yourself.

Begin again

Feeling sorry for yourself? Angry? Frustrated? Ashamed?

Regardless of how you feel, are you willing to step out in faith and begin again?

You may not feel like you’re making any progress but there’s profound change and growth happening below the surface. To tap into the benefits of this growth, you must be willing to begin again.

Know that you can begin again anytime you choose.

What to Do When You’re Careening out of Control

“When you can’t control what’s happening, challenge yourself to control how you respond to what’s happening. That’s where your power is.” ~ Unknown

Picture this.

You’re driving along the freeway on a snowy afternoon.

Without warning, you lose control of the car and it careens across four lanes of traffic, slamming into a snowbank on the shoulder.

This is exactly the situation I found myself in years ago. The experience has stayed with me all these years. The sensation of losing control of a moving car is frightening beyond words. There’s a feeling of helplessness that’s hard to describe when you’re at the total mercy of a three thousand pound vehicle.

Sometimes life can feel like that. One minute you feel like you’re fully in control, the next something happens that completely shatters that feeling. A terminal diagnosis, an accident, or a sudden breakup can leave you feeling totally helpless.

You may be tempted to say things like “What’s the use in trying to make things better?” or “It’s just the way things are.” But we both know that these statements are not true.

While it is true that we have less control of our lives than we think, we’re never totally helpless. Even in a situation where you’ve lost control of a car you can make choices that can help you regain control.

Turns out that the steps to regaining control of a skidding car can also help you regain control of your life.

1. Keep your foot off the gas

If you’ve lost control of a car, chances are you were driving too fast. That was true in my case. A truck was trying to pass me and was spraying blinding snow on my windshield. My response was to increase my speed to try to pass the truck driver instead. That’s when I lost traction.

The same can happen in our lives when we’re going too fast. When something bad happens to you, do you respond by becoming insanely busy? Instead of trying to speed your way out of the situation, try taking your foot off the accelerator.

Allow yourself to naturally slow down so your emotions can catch up to the reality of what’s going on. Eliminate the busy work and allow yourself to sit with your emotions. Acknowledge your feeling of helplessness. This is the first step to regaining traction in your life.

2. Keep both hands on the steering wheel

The most dangerous aspect of losing control of a vehicle is the overwhelming sense of panic that can cause us to make decisions that make the situation worse.

If you let go the steering wheel out of fear and panic, you’ve given up the most effective tool you have for regaining control.

Have you stopped praying, meditating, exercising, eating, or sleeping during a crisis? If you want to regain control, grab hold of the steering wheel with both hands.

If you can only manage to exercise for 5 minutes a day instead of the usual 30, you’ll be much better off exercising minimally rather than giving it up altogether.

3. Look where you want to go

When our lives are spinning out of control, it’s natural to focus on what’s going wrong and on past negative experiences.

Instead of endlessly ruminating about what you could have done differently, ask yourself this question:

What do I want to experience in this moment?

Do you want to repair a broken relationship? Do you want the strength and discipline to do the right thing? Do you want to experience peace in your heart no matter what happens to you?

Decide what you want to experience. Look where you want to go.

4. Steer where you want to go

Once you’ve set your sights on where you want to go, simply start turning the wheel of your life in that direction.

You can do this by making a sincere apology or fully accepting your life situation by releasing anger and resentment. These are not easy steps to take and they won’t happen instantly.

And that’s ok. Just focus on doing one small thing each day that will help you move in the direction you want to your life to go.

Get back on the road

If you’re in a situation that feels helpless and hopeless, if you feel like your life is about to crash, know that you can avoid disaster by taking steps to regain control of your inner life.

You may not be able to control what’s going on externally, but you don’t have to relinquish control of what’s going on in your mind and heart.

Just gently let your foot off the gas, keep hold of the steering wheel, look where you want to go, and turn the wheel in that direction. Take these steps and you’ll be back on the road to wholeness and well-being in no time.