This pain in my leg sucks. I am working through the fact that I know that by racing really hard a couple weeks ago, I kind of did this to myself.… There’s no kind of about it–I did it. Despite all the good confidence, motivation and reminder of my capability that the race gave me, right now all I’m thinking is, “You dumb shit! Why did you do that? You have to run on flat roads now.” Truth be told, it’s a small physical pain in my leg that will go away eventually, but it’s bleeding into an emotional pain. Did I train right? Did I do everything I could? Should I feel ashamed of what I’ve done? Should I have backed off? Should I have played it safe just to avoid pain…I am getting older after all…?
Pain has a lot of faces. We don’t talk about that much but it’s true. Whenever we go to the doctor’s office, we’re not surprised to hear her ask about the level and severity of our pain. It doesn’t matter if you’ve broken a bone, sprained your ankle, you’re there to see if you actually have the flu this time, or even just for a routine check up… If you go yearly. All we are asked about is our discomfort. How is your eyesight? Is it blurry? How’s your hearing? Are you losing it? How is that a kink in your back you complained about two years ago, two months ago, two minutes ago to your best friend? On a scale from 1 to 10, how severe is it? Is it a sharp, stabbing pain, or is it dull? Does it linger? Is it insidious… All right, so she probably doesn’t ask that. Does it come and go? Does it move from one place to the other?
Wouldn’t it be nice if, just once, when you went to the doctor’s office and you told them about your aches and pains, if they simply and sweetly asked:
Is it useful?
I think this question would carry a lot of weight with us if it was asked, even if it was just us asking ourselves. There are so many different kinds of pain: physical, mental, emotional, that we have in our lives. Often we are so quick to look for a pill, or a drink, or to yell at someone, or find some other way to numb ourselves. We reach and grasp for any way we can to get out of it because we’re ashamed of it, because, in our heart of hearts so much of the time we truly believe that painmeans we are doing something wrong. But does it really?
Sure there’s plenty of types of pain that serve to let us know that we’re not doing something perfectly, and that we could do better. Letting us know that maybe we should take different actions or think differently. That’s all true. I will concede that. But what I will not concede is that many of our pains are not the most useful emotions that we can feel. Pains that let us know that we’re going through growth. Pain that lets us know that we’ve gone through growth before and we should take confidence for that. Every little physical, mental, and emotional signal that comes up in our heads should be evaluated for what it is. Usually it’s a sign that we are either being courageous enough to try something new, put ourselves, not in harm’s way, but in growth’s way, so that we can succeed.
Sometimes pain resonates from years before. Was it useful then? Should you really feel ashamed at the physical therapist’s office, massage therapist’s office, or at your mental health therapist’s office? Maybe you should stop beating yourself up and realize that some of these pains, if not most of them, were useful to you at some time. The growth of just owning that alone is a tool. All told, the emotions of shame or embarrassment or wrongdoing subside, and get replaced with feelings of confidence and knowing that throughout your life you’ve had your own back enough to do the things that require you to pay for your growth.
If you’re starting a new business or if you’re starting a new business for the third time… If you’re buying your first house, if your car just croaked and now you’ve gotta scramble and take on a car payment, which means less money you get to save for the things that you want in your life. If your kid’s telling you the major that they want to study in school, and, despite all the advice you’ve given, they do something totally different and you imagine banging your head slowly against the brick wall, but you find the strength through the pain to encourage them anyway, and guide them. Your ability to learn what you need to from the pain you are experiencing now will make it that much easier when you face your next obstacle down the road.
The pain in this leg still sucks, there’s no denying that. I’m not trying to put on a happy face or ride off into the sunset on a unicorn (although that sounds very nice at the moment). What I’m going to do is remember that I got this injury from pushing to bring myself back into the confidence that I can race hills on the VAST for over 3,500 feet. It was from putting out a huge effort to remind me that, even when things are difficult, that I can count on myself. I’m going to remember that this pain is familiar and I’ve grown like this before. I’m going to be gentle with this training run that I’m about to head out on and be gentle with myself. And, who knows, there may be a unicorn right around the corner…
If you would like to learn tools and skills to help you improve your emotional aptitude, reduce your emotional isolation, lessen your avoidance of shame, fear, and anxiety, and enable yourself to reach your goals, break old habits, or create new ones, I can help. I provide emotional resilience coaching, so you can achieve your goals. We can meet either virtually or in person at my office in Waterbury, Vermont. Just click the button or the link below for a free consultation and let’s talk. Click to Select a Date & Time for your free consultation.