We’ve all heard the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and while we often roll our eyes and brush it off, a part of this can be true if you let it.
Take me for example — I was born with cerebral palsy. As such, I don’t have much function in the entire left-hand side of my body, leaving me with significantly less strength and movement in my left arm and leg compared to my right. I can get a lot of pain because my body can’t handle as much, and I often need help with things like lifting heavy objects and need modified objects to help complete mundane tasks. Having cerebral palsy also opened the possibility of secondary conditions, which is how I became epileptic.
Growing up I didn’t like the fact I wasn’t normal; it was all I wanted to be. I would get so frustrated and irritated that I couldn’t do things quickly like the other kids. This frustration led me to think I was a freak and a burden to those around me because I would have to find another way to do things that are considered normal. I felt stuck, left behind, and had a negative attitude towards anything that represented my disability. This created the belief that I would never be able to make my own choices or have any freedom. I thought that I wouldn’t get anywhere in life because my cerebral palsy would always get in the way.
The negative thoughts and beliefs we tell ourselves about our adversities have an impact on our perspective about life. We dread anything that reminds us of it, and we see it as our obstacle. We put so much of our energy into complaining and hating this part of us that it blinds us from seeing the good in our lives.
One thing I’ve learned from cerebral palsy is there’s always another way (to get things done). This mindset has taught me to keep pushing, to look at other ways of accomplishing my goals, and to have faith that everything will turn out okay. I now believe that there is no one road to get to where you want to be and that it’s okay to do what’s right for you. I have learned that it’s okay to be completely different and to be more open-minded. And that’s it’s okay to listen to what your body and soul are telling you. Although I still struggle with negative thoughts from time to time, I now envision a life where I am independent and achieving my goals, having the freedom I so highly value.One thing I've learned from cerebral palsy is there's always another way (to get things done). – Charlie Brown Click To Tweet
Going through this process, I used 5 strategies to reframe my thoughts and bring acceptance and gratitude into my life — and I’d like to share them with you in case you’re experiencing a similar struggle.
How adversity can help your spiritual growth
Spiritual growth tip 1: Show AND feel daily gratitude
Gratitude is a powerful emotion. By reflecting on what we are grateful for every day, we empower ourselves to realize how much we have in our lives already (hello morning coffee!). Start each day by making a mental or physical list of three things you’re grateful for. You can do this as soon as you open your eyes in the morning. Gratitude will help you set a positive tone for your day.
Daily gratitude helped me recognize the many blessings in my life. It also motivated me to continue pushing forward, even when my life’s circumstances weren’t ideal.
Spiritual growth tip 2: Journal
What thoughts and feelings are circling within you right now? Journal to release pent-up emotions, process the past, and become present in the moment. You can use the notes section of your phone, Google docs, or a physical journal. Choose whatever option is easiest for you.
I use a physical journal and it really helps me process my emotions — especially when I reread what I wrote. Journaling lets me deep dive into how I’m feeling without judgment. It also allows me to reframe my thoughts, and become aware of what I want to change in my life.
Spiritual growth tip 3: Focus on changing one thought at a time
Every day we have thousands of thoughts — most of which are unconscious. As such, trying to control all of your thoughts at once is not only overwhelming, it’s also impossible. Instead, focus on changing one specific thought at a time.
For example, is there a certain limiting belief that holds you back from working toward a goal? Such as the belief you’re not smart enough? Start by tackling this belief, and slowly train yourself to replace this belief with an empowering belief.
When you tackle one thought at a time, you will feel less overwhelmed and more in control of your life. When I focus on one thing, I can easily identify the thoughts holding my back. This eases my stress and anxiety, and I become more open to change.
Spiritual growth tip 4: Talk to yourself
I know this sounds weird but it’s something I do a lot. When I start feeling guilty or have intrusive thoughts, I ask myself the following questions:
- Why am I feeling this way?
- What evidence do I have to support this?
This process of self-reflection is extremely therapeutic. It helps me realize why certain events turned out the way they did, and empowers me to reflect on my own process. What’s more — I also develop an awareness I didn’t previously have.
Spiritual growth tip 5: Be gentle with yourself
By nature, I’m a go-go-go type of person. Being gentle with myself and taking breaks is not something I used to do . I always thought I had to be working on (or towards) something. But constantly being on the go and always pushing myself to do more was counterproductive. Rather than feeling accomplished, I felt exhausted!
What I’ve realized in my own experience is that we’re all human, and we all make mistakes. Life isn’t filtered photos and perfect sunsets. There are hard times, set backs, and challenges to navigate along the way. Fortunately, each mistake is an opportunity to learn something new.
Be gentle with yourself. It’s okay to make mistakes! We are all perfect and imperfect at once.
As you work to reframe negative thoughts, give yourself space and time to make these changes. This process will be ongoing — it’s a journey, not a destination.
About the author:
Hi! I’m Charlie — a 21-year-old living in Australia, with a love of coffee. I am currently doing a Social Media Marketing Course and have a dream to run my own Digital Marketing Business. I usually will spend my time in cafes, and you’ll find I’m the loudest one in the room.
I stumbled into spirituality through my love of psychology and from there I have been diving into anything personal development and spirituality related. I wasn’t always like this. I used to have quite the victim mentality and I want to share my story to bring light to the fact that growth, spirituality and self-awareness is not all love and light. That there is another side to spirituality that we need to face to get to the good stuff and that this “dark” side is what leads us to our growth.
Although it hasn’t always been easy, I am so grateful for the spiritual journey I have been on. The lessons I have learnt and the self-awareness I have found has been completely life changing. I hope that you stay on your spiritual journey and be gentle on yourself through the tough times and push through. Healing may not be linear, but it is worth it in the end.