4 Tips To Survive Your Life’s Darkest Hour And Come Out Better
For many people, there are few personal moments darker than feeling like your inner self is at odds with the person you show to the world. As long as you exist in this incongruous state, you can never become the complete version of yourself. You’ll feel like a fraud, inauthentic and hollow.
To survive this state and come out stronger and more complete, you must pass through what I call the Cave. The Cave represents your own inner battle. It’s a place you enter willingly, where you do the hard, inner work of learning to recognize your true self.
Where does it hurt? What am I hiding? Who do I want to be?
When these questions destroy the armor you’ve been wearing and shatter what’s underneath, you’ll be able to kneel down and pick up only the pieces that matter. Be warned, though: entering the Cave will challenge you. With that in mind, here are four tips that will help you venture into the dark and come out stronger.
Tip #1: be alone
If you ask people what they are afraid of, they’ll often say things like spiders, and heights, and death. Rarely will you hear a more common fear: being alone. Headphones and apps and drinks with friends are crammed into all the empty spaces of our lives. Whether conscious or unconscious, some of us ward off quiet like the plague.
But that’s where you must go for true self-reflection. By temporarily getting rid of the everyday distractions, solitude will force you into the Cave so you can emerge renewed. Quiet the input and shut down the noise so you can finally hear the true heart beating inside you.
Tip #2: tell your truth unfiltered
“I’m fine.” If untrue, this small utterance creates a shaky foundation of your inner life. Brick by brick you’ll add “all goods” and “I’ve got its” until it all comes crashing down. Plenty of people’s lives look strong—with the money, house, and cars—until they aren’t.
And if you haven’t been honest with people, no one will be there to support you. You’ll find yourself entering the Cave to tell the truth, to go to a place where no one else is looking, and to yell into the darkness that everything isn’t fine. But maybe that’s what you need. Instead of feeling trapped by these truths, you’ll feel free. You’ll set down the rocks no one sees you carrying and leave them behind. That’s because when you open up to yourself and tell your truth unfiltered, the world gets lighter.
Tip #3: don’t say “should”
I shouldn’t have a dark side. I shouldn’t fail. I should be better.
When you’re inside the Cave, it’s not about what you should find, but what’s already there. Like most of us, you probably have a list of shoulds in your life. I should feel thankful for what I have. I shouldn’t feel sorry for myself. I should suck it up. But when you hit a bottom that can’t be overcome by sheer will, you have to face the darkness. You must go inside and see the shadow that exists in yourself and not run away. You have to accept that part of yourself, whether anyone says you should or not.
In other words, leave the “I shoulds” at the mouth of the Cave and go looking for the “I ams.”
Tip #4: accept that isolation isn’t preservation
Many people avoid the Cave because they think they’ll emerge in isolation; they’ll have to admit to themselves, and to the world, they have a problem or desire unique to them alone. Realistically, you’ll find the opposite to be true. When you feel ashamed by what you want or who you are, you aren’t preserving your place in society; you’re closing yourself off from it. You’re keeping yourself from reaching your full potential and being the person you’re meant to be. When you drag your desires out of the Cave and into the light, you find out you aren’t the only one. There are other people who will accompany you on your life’s journey if you tell them where you’re headed.
Facing your darkest hour
Many people fear their darkest hour—the moment they enter the Cave and come face to face with their true selves. The questions you must answer, like “who am I?” and “what do I really want?” often hurt to answer. But traversing the Cave is a necessary step to becoming the complete, honest version of yourself. To emerge from the darkness stronger than ever, you must break yourself down so you can build yourself back up again. If you follow these tips and face your inner self, you’ll step out of the Cave finally feeling whole.
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