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How Setbacks And Pain Help(ed) Me Create A Life I Truly Love

“The worst is notso long as we can say, “This is the worst.” – William Shakespeare. 

For the longest time, I did not agree with that statement – at all. But I changed my mind. I went from a trail of setbacks to living a life I truly love. Something which I now deeply believe anyone can do.

In this 10-minute interview for the Global Women Empowerment Summit 2020, I was asked to share how I found my own empowered voice. The tough times turned out to be the greatest water bearers.

I share the 3 things that helped me find my empowered voice, the pivoting moment of my life, and the advice I would now give to my 18-year-old self.

Transcript of this interview on my setbacks and turning point(s)

The 3 things that helped me find my empowered voice

“There have been mostly negatives that helped me to find my positives, which means that I would actually attribute my empowered voice to stress, and to loss, and thirdly, to heartbreak. That was a major one for me too.

So every time I encountered these major disappointments or struggles or obstacles, this is actually where I found myself in a position where I started to question:

  • Who am I?
  • What do I stand for?
  • What is important to me?
  • What do I want to bring out into the world?
  • What matters most?

Especially loss was a big one, because one of my high-school friends passed away a few years back. She was my age, and it was a major eye opener to me in the sense that life is temporary. Anything can happen at any time. She was still full of life and she was so loved and to see someone leave so soon, really made me realise, I am not gonna squander my life. I wanna live it fully. I don’t wanna let time pass by. I don’t wanna sit and wait for it to be over let’s say, or be ungrateful or unhappy in any way.

It made me really shift my mind and take action, to start living life on purpose.”

The shifting moment in my life

“I have had multiple moments like that in my life actually. Because somehow I would always find ways to make myself super uncomfortable and extremely pushed to change. I never really changed just because I wanted to. I sort of always waited until I couldn’t live any longer in this way.

I’d be too stressed, or too sick, or too emotionally worn out or I would be too sad. I even had some sort of anxiety attacks at times, where I just knew I was doing something completely wrong but I couldn’t figure out what.

Pushing myself over the edge every time, made me come to a point where a friend of mine pointed out, maybe you should dive into this mindfulness concept a little bit more – live more mindfully, try to take more breathers in your daily life. So my biggest, changing or pivoting moment, I’d say, was when I first started to try meditation.

My friend sent me to a site from Tara Brach and Tara Brach is amazing at guiding you through a meditation. Especially if you’ve never done it before. 

My first experience was so beautiful. I just sat there, I was guided into this deep body relaxation. She guided me from the top of my head all the way down. But I remember she focused specifically on the heart area. And just bringing my attention there made me cry so much that I realized, oh my God, I am so out of touch with what’s important to me. With my emotions. With who I am. And that was really a moment where I realized, OK, I cannot live this out of alignment anymore. 

I want to move into a space where I can actually integrate my entire body.

Life is not just lived up here (from the head), I was way too much up here, living according to the expectations that other people had had of me. Even if it was just with work. But maybe also in friendships, and in relationships. Fearing maybe what other people would think of me if I’d do things differently. And at some point, I just realized, OK, no, I am not gonna live according to the rules or set of expectations that other people have of me and I am gonna change.

That first moment in meditation where I realized I was so out of touch with my own body I realized I need to get my body into the picture again. It’s not just about my head. I am a human being, a whole being, and I need every part of me to be able to contribute to my life and to make my life beautiful and worth living.

That’s where I really started to change and make big decisions. That wasn’t possible before that. Because I was too anxious and stressed. So the big decisions only started being made after I felt that I had the bodily power, the mind space and the faith to do so.

So that’s when I started to move abroad, explore new hobbies. Dancing became a major part of my life and many other things followed from that. So then I became this solo traveler, which I before that much feared. 

I was waiting for a partner to be able to travel. If I had a boyfriend I’d travel and I’d do all this cool stuff. But I didn’t have a boyfriend. So I was just waiting and not living. Until I realized: I can still do this.

I don’t need to wait for this boyfriend to show up in order to get my life together or to move abroad, and to do the things that excite me. And to go to festivals and to go to movies and to go to diners. Even if there’s nobody holding my hand, I can still hold my own hand, and do the things I love to do the most. And this is what I started doing since and this has been a massive game changer of course. In terms of how I was experiencing myself, people around me and my life. And now I am in paradise – Bali.

The advice I would give my 18-year-old self

“The first advice I’d give myself back then, is don’t take yourself too seriously. Because I have been pushing myself so hard in all the wrong directions and taking myself too seriously. Also my responsibilities, my work, my clients… It’s good up until a certain point, right? I love to be responsible and to stand for something but you have to be able to also sometimes give yourself a breather, laugh a little about yourself and not take life in general too seriously. So that’s one big one.

Another one, I would say, is don’t take things so personally. Other people don’t really know who you are. And they’re just living their best lives or sometimes they are facing obstacles or hurdles and then they project that onto you.

You can meet all sorts of people from all walks of life but that doesn’t mean that everybody has your best interest. Sometimes people might say stuff to you that you might feel really offended by. You might even want to change your life due to something that somebody else has said to you, which is a power that shouldn’t give to anyone, right? Never give someone else that power over you. So that’s a big one too.

And then the other advice that I’d like to give myself, a big one, is love yourself more. So you don’t need that external validation from anybody outside of yourself. 

Focus not on getting love from external people, things, anything, focus more on finding it inside of yourself and then bringing it where you go, expressing it. I’ve really been trying to grasp love, like it’s something out there: could you give it to me maybe? Or if I do things like this, will I be loved? Or if I adjust myself enough, will I be loved? If I wear these clothes or look like that would I be loved? 

And often times, especially when it came to romantic partners, I would be like a chameleon almost. I would want to adjust completely in order to fit into their expectations, or what I assumed their expectations of me were.

I’ve been changing that. No longer am I saying I need to be loved by someone, I need to be loved by me and I need to do what makes me feel love. Not loved, love. And then when you focus on that, all the other things sort of naturally come to you because you are in different state. You are in a different place. You are loving. And people love that. So then you will also receive it back. But you no longer need it. You’re like: thank you, and I welcome it, and I love it but now I am already complete.”

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

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