Recovery for All: The Universal Longing to Restore our Sense of Wholeness

Recovery for All: The Universal Longing to Restore our Sense of Wholeness

By Lisa Gruenloh, MPAP, CPC, Founder and President of Purpose Journey®

When the word “recovery” is mentioned in the context of behavioral health, many of us instinctively think of addiction recovery. But we all are recovering from something, aren’t we? Haven’t we all experienced a sense of brokenness – a lack of self-worth or self-regard — in some way, at some point in our life? And have we not adopted our own unique coping mechanisms to alleviate or avoid the discomfort?

In the spirit of our community’s collective efforts to eliminate stigma around mental health, my contribution this month invites each one of us to reflect on the deeply personal and profound questions: “What in my life am I still recovering from? What in me needs my care and attention?”  Here are some ideas to explore these questions and move from any sense of brokenness toward a greater experience of wholeness.

Self-awareness: Lovingly explore difficult thoughts and feelings

The many aspects of our unique life experience help form our self-perception, creating the foundation for a pattern of thoughts, feelings, and belief systems – for better or for worse. This mental and emotional “operating system” can contribute significantly to our sense of self-worth and self-regard, our ability to respect ourselves while understanding and appreciating both our strengths and weaknesses. Our degree of personal self-regard impacts everything: our sense of inner peace, the quality of our relationships, and our capacity to live a meaningful and fulfilling life.

Sometimes our self-regard is impacted by our own actions. We’ve all made bad choices or mistakes that we regret. We’ve experienced disappointments that we cling to. We’ve been hurt or harmed by others. Some of those scars, in their various forms, may remain. Perhaps we have hurt others. Whatever our individual life experience, challenges with self-worth are universal and can cause deep pain.

To uncover or shine light on thoughts that might be impacting your sense of self-worth or self-regard, consider these questions:

· Do I continue to hold onto shame for past mistakes or harm I’ve caused to others?

· What does my inner dialogue sound like? Am I compassionate with myself or harsh and judgmental?

· How about my sense of self-regard? Do I struggle with thoughts such as: I’m not smart enough, successful enough, attractive enough, good enough, lovable enough?

As you reflect, try to use discernment rather than self-judgment. With thoughtful discernment, we can acknowledge shortcomings as part of being human, without relentlessly condemning ourselves, replaying our mistakes, and dwelling in feelings of unworthiness. We can transcend emotions such as guilt or regret by activating positive emotions such as love and humility. Tapping into the power of emotional intelligence in this way inspires us to take positive actions such as forgiving ourselves, apologizing to others, making amends, or shifting behavior. While even empathetic reflection can be uncomfortable, when left unchecked, negative thinking patterns fester, often unconsciously. That only keeps us trapped in thought, feeling, and behavior cycles that prevent us from seeing the best in ourselves and the possibilities in our lives.

Self-acceptance: Extending empathy and compassion to yourself

Instead of ruminating on imperfections, we can remind ourselves that we are always doing the best we can with our current knowledge, resources, underlying belief systems, and habitual thinking. At any moment, we can extend compassion to ourselves – accepting ourselves as we are, forgiving ourselves, while committing to do better.

We can also train our minds to challenge our thoughts and beliefs because, let’s face it, much of our internal “inner critic” dialogue isn’t even true. Take some time to think about what is true about you. What are the values and virtues that inspire and motivate you? What character strengths define who you really are? Bringing out those values and attributes more frequently in your daily activities and interactions along with regularly recognizing your strengths and contributions can help keep the sabotaging voices at bay, while increasing positive self-regard.

When the negative chatter shows up (and it will, as our brains are wired for it) meet it with empathy. Become a curious observer of your thoughts and ask yourself if you would talk to someone you care about in the same way. What would you say, for instance, to a young person, if they were harshly admonishing themselves for a low test score? Would you tell them they’re not smart? Of course not! You would encourage them and build them up, knowing that’s what they needed most in that moment. We must do that for ourselves: accepting failures as a natural part of life that can help us grow rather than believing that we are a failure or a mistake.

Self-acceptance is also contingent upon embracing our sense of dignity — the recognition that every human being is a person of value. If this is something you struggle with, surround yourself with people who can remind you of how valuable and significant you are. Be willing to acknowledge any aspect of yourself that feels unlovable or unworthy and challenge that falsehood over and over again, knowing that those are the aspects of you that most need your love, empathy, and compassion.

Self-accountability: Embracing the courage to “mind your mind” and accept support

Of course, we don’t want to stop there, because we want to feel better and do better, right?

Self-awareness and self-acceptance are not “one-and-done” experiences. They are building blocks to transformation. We cannot be accountable for things we are not aware of, and we tend to avoid accountability for things we cannot accept about ourselves.

Being accountable to ourselves for how we think, feel, and act is one of the most empowering ways to live. Self-accountability means adopting an ongoing commitment to our own growth and understanding our impact on others. As we nurture self-accountability as a daily practice, our inherent sense of wholeness, meaning, and fulfillment expands. It becomes easier to be kinder to ourselves and others. We naturally become more focused on actualizing our potential and being a powerful source of goodness in the world.

As we do this for ourselves, we have an opportunity to help others feel valued and recognize their own worthiness. While everyone is born with inherent value and worth, not everyone experiences feeling valued externally. Inequities, discrimination, labeling, and othering of all sorts continue to be prevalent in our society.

On life’s journey, we must not forget that we don’t have to go it alone. Embracing the love and support from the people who accept us just as we are while encouraging our growth is vital. We also can find value in support groups, professional counseling, or in spiritual community.

Closing thoughts: Never forget your true identity

When I was publishing my Return to Wholeness writing journal, I knew I wanted my dear friend Ester Nicholson to provide the quote for the back cover. Ester is a coach, consultant, recording artist, and author of Soul Recovery: The 12 Steps for the Rest of Us -a Path to Wholeness, Serenity and Success. This is her contribution:

“Whatever you feel a need to recover from, any time you feel a sense of brokenness, remember this: your past and what you’re going through is an experience. It is not your identity. Your identity is the magnificence of life in full expression, and you are here to recover your essential nature of wholeness. You are here to rediscover your true identity of worthiness, enoughness, and deservingness of all things good, no matter how many times you’ve felt broken and alone. You are here to awaken to the highest version of you!” ~ Ester Nicholson

Take a deep breath and feel those words deep in your being. Share this message with someone who might benefit from hearing it. Keep it handy to read again, if and when, you need the reminder.

Lisa Gruenloh is an International Coaching Federation (ICF)-certified executive and emotional intelligence coach and purpose-driven entrepreneur. She’s Founder and President of Purpose Journey®, a consulting, training and coaching company that helps individuals and organizations harness their unique values, strengths and purpose with bold action to optimize their well-being and impact. She’s also the Founder and Executive Director of Journal for Change, a 501(c)(3) organization that brings the transformational practice of journaling to non-profits nationwide. Learn more at and .


Sep 02, 2022 | Blog

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