If Not Now… When? by Paul Beuttenmuller Castlewood Alumnus
“Somewhere in the archives of crudest instinct is recorded the truth that it is better to be endangered and free than captive and comfortable” – Tom Robbins
For the longest time, I thought I was comfortable with where I was in life. I gave off the impression that I was happy and satisfied. But after some time, I came to realize that I was really just settling because I did not believe (and I was too afraid) that life could get any better. I was too set in my beliefs and my comfort zone to really open up and admit that there were so many things that I wish I could achieve or attain. And it was evident by my constant self-disappointment and self-hate that I was actually uncomfortable with my life. To be honest – I was depressed and miserable with my life.
Every time someone used to ask me how I was doing, I would reply with “Hanging in there” or “Oh, not too shabby.” I was lying to myself- convincing myself that everything was fine. And my constantly smiling face served as an impenetrable mask that hid my true feelings from everyone. The loneliness, the suffering, and the mental anguish that was my life was obscured by it.
One day that all changed. I finally got sick of living with those feelings every second of the day and realized that something needed to shift. I had a choice either to continue lying to myself, to trudge through every day as usual and live my life in complete dissatisfaction… Or I could choose to accept that this “not bad” or “decent” life was so much less than what I was really deserving of.
People rarely admit when they aren’t doing well, and they believe they can hide it by lying to others and themselves… I would know. However, being able to look back on it now from an entirely different perspective, there is one fundamental truth that must be acknowledged: We can’t run and hide from ourselves, because no matter where we go, our true selves will always be there.
I will admit, I was afraid to start over and accept the fact I was so far from being my authentic self. I felt like I had failed myself, my family, my teachers, my friends, and the world as a whole. Even worse, I actually hated myself for what I had become. I knew I wanted to change the way things were, but I was terrified of it. I felt safe in my eating disorder because it had protected me for so long.
However, I came to realize that although change can be painful and cause agony, there’s nothing more excruciating than being complacent and stuck where you don’t evolve. So after initially refusing to surrender and be vulnerable during my first month at Castlewood, I came to ask myself: If not now… When?
When will I start showing up for myself, embrace uncertainty, be willing to expose my flaws and risk a bigger dream? When will I make my happiness a priority? When can I take the time to be grateful for what I have? When will I decide to forgive myself and refuse to be a prisoner of my past? When will I give up control on things that I really can’t control? And most importantly, when will I choose to love myself?
Because as long as I continued to make an identity for myself out of pain, suffering and sadness, I could never be free of it. It was when I was willing to begin incorporating these beliefs into my daily habits and fully commit to change that I gave myself the chance to start over and build something better this time around.
There are so many things, small or big, that we can all do right now to drastically change and re-shape our lives. By looking for opportunities to shift our mindset or our habits, we give ourselves the opportunity to build a life we could have never imagined. Whether it’s the perfect job, the woman or man of your dreams, or whatever else you’ve always wanted in your life (authentic happiness, maybe?), the choice is yours.
Which, when you think about it, is actually really great. Because we’re capable of changing everything if we fully commit. We’re capable of changing everything if we have self-compassion and choose to be 100% honest and vulnerable.
When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too. All we can do is give it our best shot. And most of the time – our best shot is enough. While it may be difficult at times, just remember that your hardest times often lead to the greatest moments of your life.
The light is at the end of the tunnel – and it’s so bright that when you do actually get there, you’ll feel like you’ve been completely blinded by the life you actually deserve.