We are all seeing the world through special lenses.  Lenses that brighten or darken the world around us.  Lenses that focus on some things and disregard others.  Lenses that create a reality specifically tailored to the viewer.  No lens is the same. The day I realized that my reality wasn't necessarily the reality was a liberating and earth shattering day.  I have lived in two worlds.  The one before this realization and the one after.

Before:

Fear.  From a very early age I was scared.  I had a premature sense of mortality that, with much thought and consideration, I feel stems from the loss of my uncle. My Uncle Billy was a quadriplegic who I had grown up seeing in wheelchairs and hospital beds.  I think my own struggles with illness that landed me in and out of doctors' offices, made my uncle's situation comfortable to me.  I wasn't intimidated by his condition or the environment he lived in.  I felt connected to him.  When he died, I believe this is when I realized that my life wasn't a permanent thing and that I am also vulnerable to death.

The following year I began to have panic attacks.  My constant struggles with illnesses convinced me that I was dying.  At 10-years-old I was obsessed with taking my temperature, always careful to monitor the possibility of contracting meningitis, which I was convinced would be my end.  I remember many nights not being able to sleep, feeling like I couldn't breath, and crying to my parents.  This fear did not leave me even when the panic attacks stopped.  My fear morphed from hypochondria to fear of the world around me.  I felt small and powerless, the perfect combination for a victim mentality.

Throughout high school and college I let life happen to me.  My fears and powerlessness led me to accept treatment that was so beneath what I deserved, but I felt I had no choice.  I saw malice, danger, and deceit in the world surrounding me.  The possibility of rape, robbery, death, failure, and disappointment was constantly on my mind.  Not only were they apart of my fears, but my reality.  I had so many things stolen from me, I have brushed elbows with sexual assault, I have felt attacked, and I saw people, especially men, as distrustful and had plenty of evidence backing this up. For a long time, the world was a scary place and I wasn't safe.

The Moment that Changed Everything:

After college, I met my mentor who exudes love and nurturing energy.  There is a kindness, happiness, and self-assuredness to her that inspires everyone around her.  She's one of those people that you meet and you just have to know their secret.  One of those people who has life figured out in a way you haven't yet grasped, that allows them to shine.  This woman is the one who shattered my world and I will forever be grateful for that.

Working under my mentor, I managed the office of my massage school.  One day, while working the front desk, a man came into the office.  He was obviously drunk and instantly I was frightened.  Almost as if he could smell my fear, he was drawn to me, and instantly began encroaching my personal space.  Although there were other people in the building, we were alone in that room and I felt frozen.  I feared the worst, yet felt incapable of protecting myself or calling for help.  At one point he was behind the desk with both his arms firmly planted on either side of me and I felt trapped.  At that moment, one of our massage therapists, Sophia, a beautiful, strong, mother of three, came into the room and instantly reacted to the inappropriateness of the situation. She barked at the men who, just as instantly, recoiled at her strength and firmness. In a flash he was out the door.

My mentor came into the room and saw my stress.  I broke down crying and told her the story, shaking with fear.  She looked at me, all hints of the nurturing, loving woman melted into a shocking fierceness as she told me that if anyone hurt me, she would kill them.  I believed her.  She then, with tears in her eyes, told me she was sorry that this was the world I lived in and said that it didn't have to be, if I so choose.  If I so choose. If I so choose. She went on to explain that the strength that Sophia possessed that scared that man away, could be mine as well.  That I could learn to feel safe in myself and that sense of security would project a powerful energy out into the world and I would begin to see how that resulted in a safer world.  This was the beginning of the end of the fearful, negative world around me.

Constantly inspired by my teachers, classmates, and mentor, I began to consciously shift my thoughts to ones that were more empowering and positive.  I began to recognize that the reality I was living in was seen through lenses actively focusing on the darkness, completely unaware of the light surrounding me. I began to choose to switch my focus to the light and was in awe of how much more beautiful my life became.  I began to feel safer, happier, and in charge of the life I was living.

About a month after my encounter with the drunk man, I was again working the front desk when the VERY SAME man stumbled in, just as drunk. He recognized me and made his descent.  Little did he know, I was not the same weak victim he had met last time.  Not an ounce of fear was triggered in me in this man's presence.  Instead, I saw him more clearly as a sad, disturbed man, harmless, but hurting.  I didn't take his advances seriously and very firmly told him to leave.  I watched how my strength met his advances and completely shut him down.  He left.

I was shocked by how quickly my world had changed and was so grateful for those two experiences that profoundly showcased the contrast of the two worlds I had lived in.  From that moment on I have consistently and actively chosen to live in a new, more positive world. When I feel burdened by negative thoughts or feelings, I try to remain open to a different way of framing my struggles in order to see them more positively and in a way that promotes positive growth and change.  I choose to feel safe and strong and to approach life with a sense of empowerment.

After:

My world has forever changed with the shift into positive thinking and seeing.  Every struggle turns into a blessing.  Every hardship has a purpose.  Every bad day is an opportunity to fight for a good day.  Every negative thought allows me to learn how to love myself deeper.  Every argument leads me to a deeper understanding of myself and the people in my life.  The world is no longer scary, I don't feel endangered, and I refuse to be a victim.  What small shifts in the way you think can you make to change your life?

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