My Journey to Finding Me!

Around 7 years ago, I hit rock bottom.  Freshly out of a long-term relationship and many friendships left in disarray, I felt worthless and defeated.  I swore I would never love again; I would never put myself in a position where someone could hurt me.  Like a warrior heading into battle, I put my armor on and decided to move forward in the world. I was going to conquer it on my own and didn’t need anybody’s help.

Hey, guess what?  This didn’t work.  Looking back on the next four years of my life is what I like to refer to as my “Great Depression.”  I was able to put on a great show for most people in my life; all rainbows and sunshine.   When people asked me “How are you?”  I would put on a smile and say “Great, wonderful, living the dream!”  But almost every night, when my head would hit the pillow, tears would flow, or I would slip into a restless sleep, never being ready to face a new day…  My appetite was gone, and I was always exhausted.  I was not engaged in my work, nothing seemed to go right, and I was constantly blaming others for the world’s problems.  All I wanted to do was lay in my bed, listen to mellow dramatic music and sleep.  Every day felt like a chore to just wake up and put on this fake persona I had created. Every day was just exhausting.

During my Great Depression, I received an email from this little well-known group called the Saskatchewan Young Leaders about a retreat they were hosting called “Finding your why, beyond the numbers.”  I thought this sounded fantastic; a 3-day break from work and getting to spend some time in beautiful Cypress Hills.  I asked my leader if I could go and thank goodness she agreed.  Little did I know, my life was about to change drastically.  As I was sitting through the sessions, I felt as if I was the only one in the room and the presenters were speaking directly to me.  Too many things hit way to close to home and I started to recognize all my “problems” were created by me.  Talk about a slap in the face!  Here are a few major things I learned:

– Consider what stories am telling myself.  What is fact? What is fiction? How is this affecting me and others?

– Become aware of my mindset.  Am I already going into something with a negative attitude?  Am I making assumptions that it will fail or go wrong before it even begins?

– I do not need to control my emotions, but I can control how I react to my emotions.

– I’m the only one that can change me.

I started to take baby steps to put what I learned into practice.  I started to take more responsibility for my actions.  I was able to take a step back and look at past events (good and bad) to see the role I played in them and pick out what I could learn from them.  I started to be aware of how I affected the people around me and focus on my mindset.  I started to realize that I began smiling without force.  I was genuinely laughing, sharing my thoughts with those around me, and wanting to interact with others.  I was willing to put myself out there, be seen, and let my guard down.  I started to dig deeper and work more on myself, find my true passions in life, and not feeling guilty or ashamed of them.

This did not happen overnight, and I realized this was going to be an ongoing journey for me. Many things are easier said than done, but the more you practice, the easier it gets.  Here are the things I keep top of mind to help me stay on my growth and learning path:

1. Change your mind set – is your cup half full or half empty? I know, we’ve all heard this, but it takes practice and I continue to constantly remind myself to stay positive or find the good amid the chaos.  It really does make a difference.

2. Show your gratitude – be grateful for everything. Big things, small things and even the not so great events that have happened.  Everything that has happened to this point has brought you to where you are and one day you will be able to look back and realize what these events have taught you.

3. Take care of you first! – How can you help or be there for others if you aren’t working on a full tank of gas? If you are depleted, you are not at your best and have nothing to give.  This is not selfish, this is selfcare.

4. Find your passion – it is hard to be happy when you are spending most of your time doing something that doesn’t align with your personality or values. Wait, I’m not saying go quit your job tomorrow, but ensure that you have activities in your life that fulfill you.

5. Assess who you spend your time with – how are they affecting your energies? How do they affect how you see yourself, others and your surroundings? This was a hard realization for me during COVID.  By being forced to take a break from everyone, I was able to figure out who I truly valued in my life and how they affect me on a daily basis.

6. Find your people – find those humans that fully accept and love you for you. The real you.  The you when you are at your best and even more important, the you when you are at your worst.  If you don’t think they exist, then I challenge you to ask yourself – have you let your true self shine?  What others think of you is their concern, not yours.  Be proud of who you are and how far you’ve come.  There is not another person on this planet that is like you.  Own it and rock it.  Stand tall, be yourself with no apologies and your people will find you.  Trust me – it’s happened for me.

So, there you have me in a nutshell!  Take from this what you will.  By no means am I an expert in this area and you truly must find what works for you.  I wanted to be vulnerable and share my journey in the hope it could help someone down the road.  I’m truly grateful for SYL and how it was the push that I needed to make positive changes in my life.

Shaundra Burton