Flying with Wings of Gratitude
It was the first day of my high school senior year, the end of summer, 2009. I woke up extra early that morning in an attempt to make a good impression. Not only was it the first day of senior year, but it was the first day at a new school for me…mainly because I was a head strong, rebellious teenager and I didn’t know how to behave. I was nervous and trying to choke down the smoothie and toast I made myself for breakfast, but a feeling of nausea kept me from finishing it all. You see, I grew up homeschooled and had always longed for the “normal” high school atmosphere. I guess my bad behavior had finally landed me there, and now I was thinking twice about it.
I laid out my outfit the night before - a navy blue polo from Aeropostale with a hot pink logo on the front, a pair of light colored pants, some flats, and a hot pink ribbon I had cut and personalized to tie in my hair. I took extra care that morning trying to cover every blemish and imperfection I could find. My nerves and anxious thoughts ruminated with every brush, swipe, and blot I made. Would they like me? Would I make any friends? Would they think I was just “The weird homeschooled kid”? ( a feeling and title that was all too familiar). I finished with my hair and makeup and I looked down at my outfit and frowned. I had really wanted the Abercrombie polos I had tried on the other day, but ultimately it was decided that they were too expensive and the Aeropostale polos would have to suffice. I peeled the polo shirt over my overly wide, linebacker-like shoulders. “I guess this will do,” I told l myself as I shrugged my shoulders down and forward in an attempt to feel smaller.
The drive to school went by like a blur. I was only a few minutes deep into my Secondhand Serenade album and next thing I knew, I was taking out my headphones, waving goodbye, and hopping out of our old blue suburban. The first class I had was History, and I was doing my best to remember the lay out I was shown on the annoying tour I didn’t pay attention to. I made it to my class a few minutes late which ensured that everyone else was already seated, and they could all take a good look at the new girl.
I walked in with my head down, praying to God they didn’t notice me, and headed to the first empty chair I could find. Once I was seated, I glanced around and took it all in. I was seated next to a girl with light hair and light eyes in a bright yellow Abercrombie polo. I smiled and introduced myself. “Nice shirt” she said as she looked me up and down. “Thanks” I replied, overthinking and unsure of what else to say. “Nice ribbon too” she added. “Thanks! I made it myself” I said proudly. “Yeah, I can tell,” she responded as she turned around to giggle with her friends. That was the last day I wore a homemade ribbon to school…and the first day I set aside my money from my after
school job for a shirt from Abercrombie.
Since we were children we have lived in a society that has programmed us to have a mindset of lack, insufficiency, and inadequacy. I can remember it all the way back to Saturday mornings. The smell of waffles, syrup, and apple juice as I watched my cartoons and the commercials in between. There was a constant stream of toys that you HAD to have as it promised in some way to improve your life or make it more “fun”. Then as a teenager it was a new accessory or outfit….those hideous sequin or jelly purses, those T-shirts with random slogans that cost twice as much just because they were labeled “Bobby Jack”, and the polos with Abercrombie or Hollister splattered across the front so everyone knew where you got them from.
Ever since I can remember, society has been teaching me that I am the sum of my belongings, my appearance, and the items that I own. It has taught me that I am only as pretty as products can make me, and I am only as popular as the clothes that I wear. From my very first core memories I can recall a feeling of lack and inadequacy. At such a young and impressionable age we are taught to seek more and more in an attempt to belong and feel accepted. They have wrapped up our insecurities in a box with a bow and labeled it with a price tag of $59.99, claiming that we will feel better once it’s been purchased. And we do. We purchase. And then we purchase the next best thing that promises the same. And we keep purchasing because we are promised a tangible solution to a lifelong problem and a tangible solution doesn’t exist. Maybe that’s why the majority of the people in the United States are in an astonishing amount of debt. We are the sum of our belongings after all, and that’s how we justify buying what we can’t even afford.
I am not innocent of this myself. I have fallen prey to our society as well. There have been many times in life I have found myself living a life of “lack” and promising myself that if I can just have this one thing…achieve this one goal….then I will be completely satisfied. The sad thing is, once we achieve that goal or receive that item, the goal post moves and we once again find ourselves running a race that is incontinent and unrestrained. How can we ever be satisfied when we are always told we need more? How can we live a life of contentment when we are told our worth and happiness depends on it?
I came to this question recently on my health journey. My doctor told me that in order to heal my body, and ultimately live my life normally, I would need to make several lifestyle changes I just was not at all excited about. I kept focusing on what I had to go without, instead of focusing on what I had or what this would ALLOW me to have. This made me angry, bitter, and ultimately had me stuck in a very unhealthy victim mindset. It wasn’t until a recent guided meditation that encouraged me to “Zoom out on my lens” that I was able to see the bigger picture. I had been so focused on what I was going without and what I was “missing”, that I was failing to acknowledge the true wealth I had at my fingertips. It wasn’t until I changed my mindset to one of abundance and gratitude that I finally realized how full my life truly was.
I went from grumbling about working every day to being thankful that I have a job that is consistent and provides for my family. I went from being annoyed at suspending my Amazon Prime account and cutting down on my Starbucks runs to being excited that the money I saved would provide a better future and education for my step son. I went from being bitter and angry about the health issues I was stuck with, to stepping into my own power and finding joy in the fact that it is teaching me lessons and showing me how to help others. I went from longing for more to being content and happy with what I have, and the freedom in that is plentiful.
Before I hop off, I want to share with you three things I have been implementing in my life to change my viewpoint from one of lack to abundance. Life is busy and hectic and it can be hard to establish new habits, but I promise you that these can be life changing.
Step 1: Start and end every day with a mindful moment of gratitude.
This can mean journaling. This can mean simply being still and letting your mind do the work. There are a thousand ways to do it. Whatever is easiest for you to implement and remember. I actually put banner reminder for my morning alarm and then I use my journal at night. How sad is it that I need a banner reminder to be grateful?? If that doesn’t show me how much this practice is needed, I don’t know what does.
Step 2: Stop comparing yourself to others.
Quite honestly, the hardest step for me. I have often gauged my worth on other people's approval and it can be so hard to see someone going far in life when you feel like you are stuck in a rut. But, when we move our mindset to one of abundance instead of lack, we are rooting ourselves in the belief that there is enough for everyone. Someone’s gain isn’t your loss and someone else’s achievement isn’t a threat, because there is enough for you too! So watch your friends as they chase and achieve their dreams and rest in knowing that you can do the same. The only competitor you have is you.
Step 3: Accept yourself, your flaws and all!
Something that keeps us stuck in our negative mindset and life of “lack” is our subconscious limiting belief that we are not worthy of abundance. I challenge you to start thinking “Why not me?”. What makes any of us less worthy than someone else who has achieved the same? Learn to love yourself and accept the fact that you are worthy of love. You are worthy of good things. You are worthy of achieving your dreams simply because you exist. Accept that you deserve abundance, despite your flaws and know that you can be deserving while still improving and bettering yourself. The two are not mutually exclusive. So often we wait to achieve change before believing we are good enough for more. Quiet that limiting belief and know that you can be both
deserving and changing simultaneously. After all, you are simply a butterfly undergoing metamorphosis, that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to fly.
Experts say it takes 2 months (or 66 days to be exact) to form a new habit that becomes automatic. I am on day 15 and still using my banner, but it wont be long until gratitude and abundance spin themselves into wings, and I for one, can’t wait to fly.