What to Do when You Can't Do Anything
You know what sucks? Feeling powerless.
I have always HATED moments like this.
The feeling that no matter what I did, it would be judged by others as not enough, or the wrong thing to do. I hate those moments when I need to make a decision to move forward, but all the paths forward hold more risk than I want to take.
I hate worrying that I’ll do something that will have bad consequences down the road, either financially, or in my relationships.
I hate worrying that if I don’t do something, something bad is going to happen, and if I do something, something bad is going to happen.
Sometimes, all the options just kinda suck.
And faced with that, I used to feel completely defeated. Powerless.
As a kid, I used to have the thought, “I can’t do anything right,” when situations like these played out. Trying to help put away dishes and dropping one and breaking it. Cleaning the bathroom but not good enough so I was chastised for my poor attempt.
The worst was being offered an old car from my parents and being told before I could drive it, I had to pay the title and registration and insurance. Awesome, I thought!
I chose to earn it all before paying it, and it would take me the entire haul from my summer job. I saved almost every penny, minus four CDs and a dinner out with my best friend.
But by the time I had all the money in hand, my parents decided I had taken too long to pay for it and must not be interested. So, they gave the car away to my grandfather instead. Without telling me. Just one day it was not in the driveway anymore.
All my hard work and planning meant nothing. And I couldn’t get the car back. My grandfather was already using it. I didn’t begrudge him the car; I assume he had no idea it was supposed to be mine.
But I felt like even when working hard, I was perceived as lazy. That I didn’t care about important things. That I was frivolous and silly and a poor planner.
When things like that happen, it’s hard not to be furious. It’s hard not to feel powerless. It’s easy to start to believe things about yourself that aren’t true.
Decades later, I was still struggling with feeling like no matter how hard I worked, I was lazy. That if I didn’t prove constantly that I was busy and doing important, relevant things, it would be proof that I was lazy and stupid.
Even when I reached the limit of what I could do, I pushed. Because I didn’t want anyone to ever believe that I was lazy, or stupid, or frivolous.
Post-Spirit Gallery (my tattoo shop that I then sold, for those who don’t know), I still felt that way. I felt like my physical brokenness was proof of my laziness; of my body’s complicity in my innate failure. Even knowing that this was bonkers, I couldn’t help but feel that way.
But I had nothing to do but be with this feeling. It wasn’t going to go away. I couldn’t bury it with more attempts to be seen as busy, and purposeful, and worthy.
Having to face that feeling down… such a familiar, unwanted, painful feeling… it made me realize that I had been feeling that way since I was 16. Even longer, actually.
It made me wonder, if I had this feeling for so long, what if it wasn’t going to ever go away? What if I had to just accept that feeling lazy and foolish and weak was part of who I am?
At first, there was a flash of anger, like a hot spark that burned up my torso and into my cheeks. “I AM NOT LAZY AND STUPID!” it said. And then the heat subsided, and there was also a calmer space that quietly said, “But I might always feel that way.” And I couldn’t argue with that.
So what was I to do?
I decided to learn to treat the part of me that felt that way with some kindness. Instead of believing it was right, which the angry and rational parts of me did not believe at all, I chose to cut myself some slack when the depression and defeat crept in around this.
I would find myself lying on the floor, staring at the wall and bemoaning my poor life choices and outcomes, and instead of agreeing with the voice that said, “You’re so stupid, everyone knew you’d end up here,” I’d imagine myself hugging that little me and letting her cry and just be there for her.
I cried a lot.
And then one day, I noticed that I could see when that voice was coming on, and it was like it knew that I would be nice. Like that little girl was coming to me for a hug and a smile. She almost knew it was a foolish thing to say, but she was saying it anyway. And we’d have our inner conversation, but it was shorter. No more crying.
Then one day, I noticed that the voice didn’t come up all the time anymore. I just would think, “Remember when I felt like no matter what I was foolish and lazy?” (and I’d notice that I was washing dishes, had vacuumed the whole house, had written three pages that morning and gardened for an hour, all without anyone telling me I had to do it.)
Because I wasn’t lazy. I never was lazy. Lazy was my biggest fear. But it was an illusion.
After that, I began to break down all kinds of old feelings and beliefs. One by one, day after day, until I could recognize the untruth of them before they impacted my heart too painfully. I am still doing this today.
You can break down those fears and untruths, too. Once you get the hang of it, it’s addictive and fun. It’s exciting because you gain so much control over how you perceive the world. You suddenly KNOW you have control over this, in a way you didn’t before.
Start where you are. Start with the one that’s begging for the most attention and love. You’ve got this.
PS – If you’d like to learn more about how to do this, I outline how in my book, Business Breakup: How to Survive a Difficult Transition in Your Business. I even recorded a few hours of audios taking you on guided meditations and thought explorations so you can do it yourself along with me. You can grab the audiobook and extras along with the book HERE.