Life Raft

Life Raft
Photo by Jason Abdilla / Unsplash

I wrote this years before the pandemic. It still holds true for me although I recognize there are exceptions. I don't always have an easy time relying on myself - unexpected transitions throw me - but simple doesn't mean easy.

People seem to be always reaching for some “thing” that will help them navigate life.  A self-help book, a motivational speaker, a philosophical approach, a trend. There’s de-cluttering, whole life challenge, CrossFit, cleanses – no end to the life rafts that people cling to because they’re overwhelmed, lost, or unsure. I’ve tried a few myself.

What if you heard of a new tool that would steer you through any challenge, push you through apathy, prop you up when you’re feeling defeated, and celebrate all your successes?

And what if I told you that you already have access to this brilliant tool? That you can use it anytime?

Too good to be true?

It’s true.

It’s you.

Be your own life raft.

You may not have the skills yet to know who you are at your core and how you can trust yourself to navigate challenging times in your life.  But you are capable of rescuing yourself.  You are capable of relying on yourself.

This is not to say you can’t have touch points – friends to call, spouses to lean on, programs to guide you through.  But what if all of those touchstones were missing? What if you couldn’t get through to your friends, your spouse? What if you broke your leg and couldn’t work out? What if you developed a food allergy, or a medical condition that took away your regular outlets?

When the shit hits the fan – really hits the fan – you only have yourself.  This is a hard truth.  You may not believe it because you’ve got such a firm support system in place (or so you think).  Or because you can get online and find a support system within seconds. Here’s the thing, though. Those people you rely on - those support systems - they’re made up of people who have their own shit to deal with too.  You may have an issue that they are not prepared to deal with (nothing challenges friendships faster than having an issue in your life that pushes other people’s vulnerabilities – ie. suicidal children, divorce, infertility).

The beauty of being self-reliant is that it frees you up to enjoy the time you have with other people instead of asking them to fill a void for you.  It makes you less dependent on others for your sense of self-worth and stability.  Let’s say you’ve joined a gym because you want to get healthy.  Or maybe you’ve got a friend who wants to get healthy and she talked you into joining with her. Or a 30-day health challenge that you’ve signed onto at work.  What happens when your friend quits? Or your co-workers cheat the program?  Who are you showing up for – you or your friends? If you are asking other people to hold you accountable, or leaning on other people to keep you accountable, what happens if those people don’t show up?  Who’s going to hold you accountable?  All the outer supports won’t be enough if you aren’t there for you.  Those friends, those co-workers, they can be an added benefit – people to talk to, commiserate with – but let the gains be yours. Own your own success.

What would it feel like if being by yourself meant you were with your best friend? What would it feel like to relish having time with the one person you can depend on when the chips fall? How would your life change if being self-reliant was a gift, not a curse? How much more stable, balanced, and fulfilling would your life be if time with friends was simply fun and interesting, rather than necessary?

Try it – try turning inward to find your strength and courage. Look deep within yourself to find the survival kit – the life raft - you need. And then go out into the world with the confidence you’ve found within yourself – everything else is just the icing on the cake.