Groundhog Day!

Don't Drive Angry! (Groundhog Day, 1993)Back in 1993, there was a little film called Groundhog Day. In it, Bill Murray plays Phil, a weatherman sent to good old Punxsutawney, PA, to cover the festivities. He’s none too happy about it and just wants to get it over with and go home… but finds himself living the same day over and over again.

Eventually, he breaks out of that cycle, but it takes him a long time to do it. Once he does, he’s a much happier person. Not just because he’s finally done with groundhogs and small towns, but because he’s come to terms with a lot of his own issues that were holding him back.

Being a comedy, there’s a lot of hilarity along the way, but the personal journey Phil takes is an awful lot like one we all find ourselves on from time to time.

Again, and Again, and Again

When I was just barely a teenager, I spent nearly three years of my life pining over a girl who wanted nothing to do with me. I was convinced that if I tried hard enough, I could get her to like me and we’d live happily ever after.

I tried (and often failed) to talk to her.

I made her a mix tape with my favorite songs (which was returned to me).

I spent days of nervous planning just figuring out how I could catch her attention in a positive way (and then was often too terrified to carry any of them out).

In that time, never once did I question why I was doing all of that. I just kept doing it.

Again.

And again.

And again.

It may not have been the same day, but it was the same pattern. I’d try something, get shot down, feel awful about myself, then repeat the process. Every time feeling worse and worse. I was trapped in a negative spiral that encompassed most of my life.

Jumping at Shadows

Much like Phil in the movie, I eventually figured out that I was stuck. I didn’t know why. I didn’t know how to get out. But I knew, after about two years of beating my head against the wall, that I needed to get out.

Sadly, I didn’t have the benefit of immortality and nothing else to worry about that Phil did. There also weren’t a whole lot of comic moments. Well… none that I found funny at the time.

Things got pretty bad. I was very depressed, very negative, and constantly wound up. When I was out, I’d see someone coming from a distance and I’d get twitchy with anticipation and dread thinking it was her. If I saw a shadow that could be hers, I’d jump. The situation consumed a whole lot of my time, mentally, and continuously made me feel awful.

Then, someone planted a seed in my mind. It was another girl (isn’t it always?) who told me I didn’t have to put up with all the stuff I was. She told me that I was a decent person and should take better care of myself.

It was another half-year before that really sunk in and gave me a way out.

Ask Why

What it came down to was finally asking myself the hard question: What did I hope to gain by pursuing this girl who wanted nothing to do with me?

The answer was that I just wanted to feel better about myself.

When that clicked into place, it became very clear that I was on completely the wrong path for feeling better about myself.

Not only was I chasing someone who was only ever going to push me away (at best), but I was expecting someone else to make me feel good about myself.

Why didn’t I feel good about myself? Because I was always being rejected.

What could I do about that? Well, for starters, stop going after someone I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that would reject me.

From then on, I started paying a bit more attention to myself. It was a long road–another five or six years–but, eventually, I came to terms with a number of things that I didn’t like about myself. Even better, I fixed a lot of them, often on my own, but also with the help of good friends that came into my life just when I needed them.

All because I took a moment to step back and ask myself “Why?” Again. And again. And again.

Self discovery is an iterative process.

Day’s End

Phil comes to terms with himself in the movie. He learns to like himself more and that allows him to better connect with others. He even finds love, right in front of him.

As silly as it may sound at times, it really can work like that. Rarely quite as clean cut as in a movie, but once we learn to like ourselves–once we take care of ourselves–we can see more clearly and feel more deeply and be genuinely happy. Happy not just with ourselves, but with others, too.

Phil’s looped Groundhog Day finally ends and he reaps the benefits. My looped patterns took years to get out of, but when I did, life got a lot better.

Thing is, I “lost” a lot more than a day figuring it all out. Mostly because I took so long to ask the important questions and take the needed actions to change things.

You don’t have to just wait around to see your shadow or not. You can, right now, take a hard look at who you are, who you want to be, why you do what you do, and if that’s getting you where you want to go.

What patterns are you stuck in that are holding you back?

What can you learn on this Groundhog Day?

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