“…for weeds soon choke up the unused path”—Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s like a fairy tale: a woman shrinks back into herself, fearful of the tall, live weeds that intrude upon the path. The tall, thorny weeds come alive and grow and grow and soon they overtake the woman. But it’s not a fairy tale: the weeds are encroaching along the path of your life, threatening to creep in ever closer. How do you stop them from taking over our best self?
You didn’t really notice it happening. And yet here you are, standing on a sandy, graveled path, surrounded by weeds on both sides. These are no little dandelion weeds; these are big, thorny monsters, taller then you, leaning in, taking over, and blurring the line between the edge of your path and the soil beyond.
It happens upon forest paths unattended and it happens in our unattended lives. We don’t notice it at first; perhaps it was just a small little seed. Nevertheless, the seeds find fertile areas and take hold, they take advantage of cool weather, water, and soon enough they begin to choke our path.
It usually isn’t until they are scary tall and near enough to our bodies that we notice just how far they have bleed onto the path. Prickly weeds, so frightening that we cower under them, become powerful enough to keep us still, afraid to move forward or even backwards.
But what are you talking about here? I can pull weeds out of the ground anytime. What’s this whole thing about weeds and overgrown, unused paths?
Take the visual of an overgrown path, overtaken by milk thistles, and apply it to the “weeds” that are growing in your mind right now. What weeds have taken hold among your thoughts and are creeping in, little by little erasing the path that leads to your best self?
- Old patterns/habits/reactions
Change is difficult. It’s uncomfortable. It takes a long time to take hold. Being your “I’m okay” self is comfortable–it doesn’t take much effort. You just have to wake up each day, get out of bed, not think too much, not feel too much, not do too much and everything is hunky dory. Your “I’m okay” self tells that it’s perfectly okay to stay this way, reinforcing that with showing you moments from your past that reinforce you weren’t meant for much anyways.
Old reactions to discomfort are engrained in us (I’ll talk about how our brain can work with us or against us on this just a bit later). We have given in to these reactions, practiced them, for years. And so that comfort is just something we naturally fall into, it’s our safe zone – even though it’s keeping us safe from a perceived threat and not a real one.
Old patterns have deep roots, and while we may have in times past pulled out the dandelion weed that was visible to us, we left the root untouched, and so it grew deeper into the ground and revived itself. Because we felt so comfortable with it, we watered it here and there, feeding into how “that’s the way we’ve always been, can’t be any different.”
So the weeds of old reactions, practiced old habits, grew and encroach upon our lives, working hard to stifle our renewed breath, our passion and desires to be our best self.
- Fear and doubt
Fear keeps you from committing 100% to becoming your best self (note here that I didn’t write better self, because that alludes to something being wrong with you – and that’s not true at all). (Pssst: I wrote about lowering the volume on your inner critic here)
But perhaps were you are right now feels okay. It’s not so terrible, so why commit to changing, to striving to be more of your best self more often. Because let’s face it, there are moments in our lives when we can see that we were on fire, we were our best selves and there was no hesitation in those movements – we were the life of the party, we were unstoppable in our passion, we were caring and encouraging to others, whatever your best self was – it was.
But perhaps we haven’t seen that side of ourselves in a while, and so we’ve allowed ourselves to think that perhaps it didn’t’ really exist. Maybe it was a one-time fluke. We hesitate; we doubt that we could be that best version of ourselves.
So we allow the seeds of doubt and fear to grow, creating deep roots that will be difficult for us to pull out.
Recognizing the weeds that take pleasure in hatching beside our path to our best self, and intruding upon our journey, attempting to choke the desire to continue walking out of us, allows us to remove them, thereby clearing the path. Bring out your machetes and get ready to whack some weeds down!
1. You’ve got to be vigilant
Walking, moving, thinking, these are all action verbs. It means that they require an initial thought, a desire, an intentional act from you to happen.
Life can be busy, overwhelming, and many life fires can flare up at once. That’s life–it happens. As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, all of our energy is needed to put out this big fire over here. We can be okay with not tending to our path our best self. We might even be okay with saying that we’ve done a little work, know the way, and that it will be okay if we just let it be for just a little while.
Weeds take over instantly where death is. Pull out any dead plant by its roots and you’ll see it filled with critters sucking at its very last ounce of life. (Sorry, don’t mean to gross you out here, but nature is a great life-lesson teacher – and somehow, decay brings about more life-suckers than healthy plants do).
Therefore, there is no excuse. You’ve got to be vigilant and protect the path that you have already initiated, developed, and carefully built stone by stone. A path full of clear intention and commitment to seeing and practicing our best self every day allows us to stand strong even when life fires threaten to overtake us. A path full of weeds, doubts, and fears make us as fragile as a twig capable of being blown over by a whisper.
All the work you have done to get yourself here, keep it going by making sure the edges of your path are distinguishable from the weeds around it. Build a castle-style-moat on both sides – don’t make it easy for those weeds, doubts, fears, old habits to creep on over.
2. You’ve got a brain – now use it
Practice makes perfect. Admit it: you’ve practiced selling yourself short or simply ignoring your own passion so often and for so long that you’ve gotten pretty good at it.
Every time you think about your doubts, say them aloud to yourself, or hold yourself back from taking a step towards your best self, your brain takes that as a cue and reinforces that particular neuro-circuit, giving it more oxygen, allowing it to grow.
Your brain can help or hurt – use it to visualize your best self and then put into practice, once a day, being your best self. If practice makes perfect, and if your neuro-circuits that are used the most are the most vibrant, why not practice being your best self, instead of your biggest doubter?
Want more? Check out “Your Brain has a ‘Delete’ Button – Here’s How to Use It"
3. You don’t have to pull weeds alone
Pulling weeds is hard work. Your journey to personal growth (the growth and expansion of your best self), is a solitary one–because no one is you but you (that sounds rather strange and illogical written out, but it’s the truth).
Yet just like a marathon, where people line up the streets to clap and encourage you, or friends volunteer to be part of your team and help you out during the transitions, you’ve got a system of support (whether you know it or not).
Tell people that the weeds have gotten out of control and that you need help. Gather them up with a promise of some cold beers or ice cream for when the job is done, but get a group of people to help. They may be able to offer tips on where the weed roots are (they may see the cause of your self-doubt better than you at times), and they may be able to give you an assessment of your true assets that you had been blind to.
Give this group of people the joyful opportunity to provide you with seeds of hope, kindness, and a true reflection of who your best self is. Moreover, once you’ve cleared out the old weeds, let these friends help you in keeping the path of your journey clean, wide, and long.
4. Show yourself some grace
It’s okay. We’ve all been there and will probably be there again at various points in our lives. Pulling up weeds is hard, tedious, and the bigger and taller and deeper these weeds are, the longer it will take to remove them safely (I’m talking about non-toxic weed here – you’ve got to do this work yourself and not rely on some quick cure, easy peasy, pour some liquid down the drain kind of magic).
But I’m saying it again. It’s okay that the weeds have grown. Comparison is king in this world, where success is defined by the twisted version of you being better than someone else, of having more, being more, doing more. To make it worse, everyone is doing it better than you faster than you, with no challenges, no hard seasons, no pain at all.
(Confession: I find myself slipping into that comparison trap more often than not. What gets me unstuck is hearing someone tell I’m cool just like I am. So I’ll be your “you are cool just the way you are, no comparison” gal for today. You go woman!)
It’s okay to let those comparison self-doubts grow from little seeds to big weeds, threatening to overtake our own, hand-made path to our best self. It happens – and we are only human. (It’s okay to acknowledge that fads don’t fit.)
So while you are seeing the weeds and feeling frustrated, ashamed, overwhelmed, frightening, and silly for letting the weeds grow that high, tell yourself that it’s okay. Show yourself grace and forgiveness.
Write yourself the encouraging reminder note that goes something like this:
“In the past I would have ignored you, you weeds of doubts, fears, old habits, and ingrained reactions. I would have opted to remain standing still instead of looking at you straight in the eyes and telling you that you were going down!”
Realize that some people see the weeds and do nothing about them – and that ain’t you.
Take a few minutes to be okay with where you are, to see how far you have come. I mean, was that road even built 5 years, 1 year, 1 month ago? You’ve built it, with every experience that you have chosen to reflect upon and every fork in the road that you have come upon that needed a decision between being your so-so self and your best self.
Then look and remind yourself of that image of your best self, the image and the person that perhaps for some hours or days, or even minutes, you have been in the past and have enjoyed so much. Now start with one step and then another and another, clearing the path forward to her.
The payoff of pulling out weeds
“Happiness must be cultivated. It is like character. It is not a thing to be safely let alone for a moment, or it will run to weeds.”–Anonymous
While it may seem overwhelming to take back control from those pesky, thorny, milk thistle 5-feet tall weeds, visualize how much more overwhelming they will be when they literally take over.
Will you be okay with the excuse that it’s too much work to pull the weeds out? Will you be okay with loosing yourself, be okay with having the weeds continue to grow and grow until you are but a small, invisible person? (I hope you aren’t okay with that – and if you need encouragement on making that decision, check out my story here.)
The payoff for cleaning the path, and how long and maybe backbreaking that will be (seriously, if you’ve been on your knees manually pulling weeds, you know it’s gonna get hot, messy, and frustrating at times), is that your view will change.
Think about it–with all of these weeds, high as your eyes, can you see anything beyond them? With those weeds all around, can you see yourself growing or shrinking? Can you see any new opportunities or even the simple opportunities that are just on the other side of the weed patch? Can you see outside of the prison wall that is surely growing all around you?
What doubts, fears, old habits, practiced reactions are growing by your path? Pick one item from the list above and implement it today. Get friends or family to help. Give yourself grace and forgiveness before planning how to pull the weeds out by their roots. Practice being your best self, if even only for 5 minutes, to get your neuro-circuits stronger and vibrant. Be vigilant and stare the weeds down! Whatever you decide today, do – practice makes perfect!
Share in the comments below what action you are taking today to clear your overgrown path to your best self.
(And if you need a little encouragement for being on this road to your best self, check out this video: LV’s Journey campaign)
Photo Source: https://stocksnap.io/
I love reflecting on purposeful, thought-provoking life experiences and turning them into life purposes. I am a writer dedicated to sharing life-lessons to empower women to attain their best life by turning experiences into passion-driven action.
When I'm not studying life, I'm intentionally living it. I enjoy art (admiring it and creating it), nature, and I'm a beginner sewer in the attempt to sew my own unique clothes.
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