Any athletic or artistic endeavor requires us to embrace vulnerability. In competition riding we put ourselves on display for not only the judges but also our competitors, the general public which includes the ever present “railbirds”. At times we are subjected to the cruelty of others. I would bet many of you have a story where hurtful comments have been made either directly to you or you heard what was said behind your back. I’ve been shocked hearing some of the things my students have been told not only by their peers but even by previous trainers! Sometimes the comments were incredibly cruel, hurtful and unkind. Putting yourself “out there” whether in competition or in a clinic or lesson is an act of courage but in order to maintain the enjoyment of the activity, some resilience is necessary or one would quit at the first negative comment.
I think the first step to learning to be resilient is to acknowledge any feelings that arise. If something was said to you or about you that hurt your feelings, identify that. Let your body and mind communicate with you whatever it is you feel, whether it be anger, sadness, frustration, loneliness etc... Until you allow yourself to feel what emotions arise, you will not be able to move forward. We live in a society of emotional repression and i think that’s a dangerous way to live. Meditate, sit in stillness and own your feelings. After that, I think it’s a great idea to get your feelings out on paper. Journal or use automatic writing. Purge your mind, body and spirit of the blockages preventing you from taking forward action. When you clear the space of these trapped emotions, you will have the ability to move on.
Secondly, as country artist Patty Loveless sings, “Life’s about changing nothing ever stays the same.”. The first of three marks of existence in Buddhist teaching is the idea of non permanence. Situations are fluid, constantly changing. Working towards creating an ability to adapt in challenging situations will help you be able to become more resilient in times of difficulty. People that are able to “go with the flow” and be flexible are going to be much better overcoming obstacles than those that are rigid in their mind set and expectations. Embrace change as an opportunity for growth. Remember, growth only occurs outside of your comfort zone!
Third, and this is a big one...work towards creating a higher self esteem. This of course, is a fluid process in itself. Letting harsh comments roll of your shoulder instead of taking them personally will go along way in keeping the joy in your pursuits. However, this is so much easier said than done! In one of my favorite books, The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, he explains “Others are going to have their own opinion according to their belief system, so nothing they think about me is really about me, but it is about them.” When I encounter a difficult situation where I feel on the receiving end of an unjustified hurtful comment or action, I tell myself that what was said or done ultimately had nothing to do with me and was a result of that persons own insecurities or belief system. It sounds simple but sometimes just changing our perspective on the situation can allow you to see it in a whole new light. Jesus says to “turn the other cheek.” Cruel words and gossip can feel like being slapped in the face. Reacting to cruelty with anger and revenge only creates a never ending cycle until someone is strong enough and wise enough to rise above it!
As a professional, one of my biggest challenges is when a client or horse moves on to a different trainer, especially when they’ve been with us a long time. All professional trainers know this feeling. Often there is no explanation and so we are left wondering...what did I do wrong? In this situation I have come to understand that peoples situations change and perhaps we were only meant to be on this journey together for a short time. Maybe that person leaving will create the space for someone new to step in that is eager to learn from our knowledge. If your sad or disappointed allow yourself to feel it. If you’re angry, allow yourself to feel that. Then move on. Learn from the situation what you can but then move on and focus on the present moment and give your focus and attention to those that remain.
The final step in creating resilience is reconnecting with your purpose. My mission is to share my passion and love of classical Dressage to all who want to partake and when somebody says goodbye I trust in the Universe/God that there is a plan. By reconnecting with our purpose we step outside ourself and can see the bigger picture. Perhaps someone said something mean about your riding or your horse. Reconnect with why you started riding in the first place. Let their comments fuel your fire but not out of anger or vengeance but to become the best rider that you can be for YOU. Let growth of the spirit be your ultimate goal.
It’s so important that when we create resilience in ourselves that we do not close our heart in the process. This is what I personally find most challenging. Whenever we put ourselves out there we open ourselves up to potential pain and struggle but also to love and joy and friendship. Speaking from experience, it is not worth losing the good by keeping out the bad. No risk, no reward or as Shakespeare says “Better to have loved and lost than to never have been loved at all!” It’s natural for us to put up walls when we get hurt so we can’t get hurt again but a wall is a wall- you can’t keep out the bad without keeping out the good.
Strive to live with an open heart. Allow difficult situations to fuel your growth. Live a wholehearted life. To quote Brené Brown, “Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough.”
And remember, no matter what anybody else says, you truly are enough, just as you are.
Until next time, express love in all you do, think and say.