“You are not fool’s gold, shining only under a particular light. Whomever you become, whatever you make yourself into, that is who you always were.” ― Tara Westover
Tara Westover’s memoir, Educated, inspired me to write this blog. Aren’t there times in our lives when we’re confronted with intense emotional distress? As pressure mounts, we begin to doubt our ability to overcome adversity. Our self-limiting beliefs and our negative self-perception further dim the light at the end of the tunnel. And no matter what it is, we’re not so sure we’re gonna make it.
Often, our response to these challenges is shaped by the assumption that suppressing our feelings, thoughts, and emotions is the right way to manage difficulties. We’re afraid of our own weakness and we resent our vulnerability. Wishful thinking pushes us to consider what life would be like if we were entirely different individuals, more carefree, more easy-going, more confident, more optimistic, and less … ourselves.
“To admit uncertainty is to admit to weakness, to powerlessness, and to believe in yourself despite both. It is a frailty, but in this frailty there is a strength: the conviction to live in your own mind, and not in someone else’s.” ― Tara Westover
Stoic philosophy teaches us that there is strength in recognizing our negative emotions.
When we’re able to view those as a natural response our body produces in the face of external threats, we can then move on to examine them in a different light. And so when we see our fears and self-limiting beliefs for what they are, we’re more inclined to take positive actions that will propel us forward. Instead of telling yourself “I can’t do it”, you can identify the source of your fear and shift to a mindset that is deeply anchored in growth, learning, and courage.
Courage doesn’t mean you stop being afraid, it rather means you choose to act in spite of that fear.
“Positive liberty is self-mastery—the rule of the self, by the self. To have positive liberty, he explained, is to take control of one’s own mind; to be liberated from irrational fears and beliefs, from addictions, superstitions and all other forms of self-coercion.” ― Tara Westover
This is one of, if not the most important thought pattern for emotional resilience. The ability to adapt and overcome all types of adversity, be it tragedy, trauma, or personal life crises and the ability to tackle life’s challenges begins with taking control of your own mind.
There is power in writing your own story and not letting your self-worth be dictated by others. There is strength in finding your voice and learning to use it no matter how deafening external noises get.
“My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.” ― Tara Westover
Developing your emotional and psychological resilience does not entail the absence of emotional distress, pain, and grief. It entails acknowledging the struggle and working through it to recover and bounce back a little bit stronger.
This can only happen through cultivating a degree of emotional awareness that moves you from unconscious living to conscious living. When you understand what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling it, you can begin to build your confidence and renew your commitment to your goals.
You also get to regain perspective and view obstacles not as paralyzing setbacks but as opportunities to learn and grow.
And rather than worrying about what lies beyond your control, you expend your time and energy on what has the most impact and what yields the best results in the long run. You no longer see yourself as a victim of circumstances but as an active agent and most importantly the hero of your own story.
“Everything I had worked for, all my years of study, had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths [...], and to use those truths to construct my own mind. I had come to believe that the ability to evaluate many ideas, many histories, many points of view, was at the heart of what it means to self-create. If I yielded now, I would lose more than an argument. I would lose custody of my own mind.”
― Tara Westover
Educated, a memoir by Tara Westover, is a riveting and unforgettable account of growing up in a Mormon survivalist household with parents that didn’t believe in modern medicine nor governmental institutes. Tara is a remarkable young woman who survived unimaginable challenges and hardships, yet who succeeded in pushing herself past the boundaries delineated by her upbringing to achieve amazing levels of academic success.
Despite not having gone to school, despite an environment laced with abuse and condescension, and despite the family’s incessant acts of inclemency, Tara has succeeded in earning herself a Ph.D. from Cambridge. Her perseverance, determination, and conviction have led her through a life-changing journey of self-discovery. Educated is a beautiful story of candor, courage, and obstinate tenacity.