I have a friend who often talks about the time her boyfriend cheated on her and split. She says that she’ll never forgive him, and she clearly still feels the devastation he created in her life as though it happened yesterday… even though this event took place a full four years ago.
But finding peace isn’t about forgiving a cheating ex. It’s also not about hating him, still loving him, or any of the emotions in-between. It’s about loving yourself enough to stop beating an old drum of pain and hurt, and to choose not to bring old feelings into a new, possibility-packed year. It’s about finding that commonsense perspective, pronto.
The good news is that you don’t have to wait years for perspective to be bestowed upon you. There’s no mysterious force in the future that can decide it’s been long enough, that you can wake up one day emancipated from your suffering. You can choose to polish that lens of perspective for yourself and gain clarity right now. Here’s how:
1. Recall painful experiences you’ve made it through before.
No life escapes pain. Pain is inevitable… but extended suffering is up to you. Review your past; if you’ve lived for more than 20 years, chances are high that you’ve experienced some difficulty.
Think: What have you overcome in your life so far?
I coached some college grads recently, and by their tender early 20s, these women had already overcome challenges, such as bullying, academic learning difficulties, eating disorders, drug addiction, and the loss of loved ones. You’ve probably overcome more than you give yourself credit for. What does this tell you about yourself already?
2. Let the logic in.
You’ve defeated bad situations before, so you’ve already proven that you have the strength you need—you just forget about it during moments of distress and panic. Ask yourself: When in my life have I conquered something that seemed insurmountable at the time?
Here’s a secret: What you have learned in the past can shorten your current recovery gap. For example, I coached a professional who was heartbroken when his mentor died. Not only did the loss cause him immense sadness, his whole department at work had to be restructured, and his job status felt uncertain.
We spoke about other times in his life that he felt sad and uncertain. He reflected on the time his mother left their family for a couple of years to battle mental illness. They had a strained relationship for a while, but are now on "good enough" terms. He said, "If I could survive my mom leaving me when I was a kid, then this will be OK, too."
And it was true. In fact, he’s now doing great. Your power will surprise you when you allow it to surface.
3. Ditch the rulebook.
There are no rules for how long you have to suffer to "get over" something. There’s the old saying, "time heals all wounds," but we all know that this isn’t entirely true, is it? Time can help a whole lot, yes. But some people accept suffering with a self-assured nature, knowing they’ll be OK, while others can’t seem to get there, even after years. But you’re the one who decides whether you choose to feel better in any moment.
The world is not against you or targeting you. In fact, the rest of us are right there with ya.
4. Make power your personal standard.
Only you decide whether to focus on your strength or your struggle. No one else can do this for you. Every single day, you can choose strength—you know what the alternative is and what feels better in your life.
5. Know you’re never alone.
So you got laid off? Watch the news; you’re one of thousands. You got dumped? The divorce rate in America is around 40 percent, and that’s on the lower end. You got some bad news at the doctor’s or had a serious fight with a loved one? Look around you. Many families are going through the same thing. Too much attention on one's self can easily lead us to a depressive and self-absorbed state, continuously thinking, "I can’t believe this is happening to me!"
What you’re experiencing may be hard, yes, but other people out there are going through the same thing. The world is not against you or targeting you. In fact, the rest of us are right there with ya.
6. Let mortality motivate you.
Looking into our past helps us gain perspective, but so does looking into our futures. And what’s inevitable in our future? Death. Your limited and unknown amount of time on the planet can give you the most generous dose of perspective possible.
Will the particular struggles that you’re facing right now matter to you in one, five, or 10 years? What will a decade-older version of you have to say about your current despair? Think about that the next time you get caught up in your own head.
Perspective allows us to step into our strength and stay there. It’s grounding; it’s calming; it’s perfect. What can you apply a fresh perspective to this year?
Susie Moore is Greatist's life coach columnist and a confidence coach in New York City. Sign up for free weekly wellness tips on her website and check back every Tuesday for her latest No Regrets column!