Who you are does not have to be so rigid that you force yourself to be defined by ticking several boxes and sticking to them. You can be one thing today and another thing next week.
So often we go through life trying to find ourselves and figure out who we are so that we can settle into ourselves. Yet in doing so we end up limiting ourselves because maybe who you thought you were or wanted to be at 20 will be very different to who you evolve into in your 30s.
We focus on things like having a career that we work towards from our teen or even pre-teen years. We assume that the plans we made 10+ years ago won’t change. And even when they have changed we struggle to let go because it opens us up to changing and exploring ourselves once more. We aren’t always ready for that because there is societal pressure to figure yourself out and settle down.
You’re told that you need to have your life together by a certain age which sometimes leads to you making choices to do things that you don’t even really want to do. And if you get to 30 or 40 and you’re still exploring you’re considered somewhat fringe, unconventional and even looked down on.
But maybe you don’t value the things that other people value. Perhaps you’re very aware of the life that you could or could have lived but you’ve chosen another path that has lead to a deeper exploration of life and self. Something you’d have never had the option to do if you had chosen to give in to expectations of the way that life should be.
We grow up carrying around certain beliefs, ideas and perspectives. We have things that we tell ourselves we wouldn’t do. It could be anything from playing sports to wearing false nails, hiring a cleaner to watching stand up comedy.
These aspects help shape the kind of people we end up becoming.
However, sometimes we reach a crossing where we want to explore other aspects of ourselves without the limitations we had previously used to form our identities.
Perhaps you now want to try something that conflicts with the ideas or beliefs of your past.
It could be something that appears small to others yet for you this change almost feels like a betrayal. It means you’re no longer the person you thought you were/would be.
It’s especially difficult when you start becoming or experimenting with things that you associate with the kind of person you used to judge and make negative assumptions about.
I believe that it is possible to attain the things you want in you life, the kind of things that you daydream about. I believe this because it’s happened in my own life. However, what I often find is that there’s a delay but the delay isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Sometimes we need to give ourselves time to grow and develop before our daydreams become reality.
And in that time of growth and development and it can be easy to start to beleive that what you want won’t happen or you may end up just forgetting about it altogther.
Then at some point after months or years have gone by, you suddenly realise that something currently happening in your life used to be part of your daydreams.
When we have negative experiences associated with certain events we tend to avoid those experiences moving forward. I think that’s a totally normal reaction because of course you don’t want to keep having bad experiences.
However, what can end up happening is that you limit yourself in the future. You avoid things that will help you grow and develop as a person.
Let’s say growing up you had a bad experience with public speaking. You didn’t feel confident, stumbled over your words, forgot what you wanted you say and ended up feeling really embarrassed. Based on that experience you decided that you’d never do public speaking again. You now associate it with feeling uncomfortable and you don’t think it’s something you could ever be good at so you actively avoid it.
It’s gotten to the point that now just the thought of speaking in public is enough to fill you with anxiety.
A whole decade could have passed by yet you’re still deeply impacted by the feelings associated with a past memory.
In this situation, I think the only way to overcome it is to do the thing that scares you. Of course it might not go swimmingly but being embarrassed or forgetting your words isn’t the worst possible thing that could happen you . It’s not good but it could be so much worse. I think changing the way you think about a situation not turning out perfectly is so important.
Focus on just being able to do it and get through it without all the extra pressure of being perfect. Try, try and try again even if it means feeling a bit uncomfortable and being a little awkward.
In time, you go from associating public speaking with being fear and embarrassment to it being a way to express yourself.
Doing this allows you to eventually rewrite the memory associated with that experience.
As we go through life we develop ideas of what freedom would look like or feel like for ourselves. It may come from how you were brought up, the career aspirations you have or maybe just how you feel in particular moments.
If the idea of feeling liberated matters to you then it’s worth while creating a life that aligns with that.
Maybe for you liberation comes from being able to have last minute getaways a few times a year. It could be a day in a new city or a week somewhere far away. What matters is that you have the choice to do it.
It could be that freedom for you comes from being able to speak your mind without worrying about what other people will think.
Or perhaps you feel free when you don’t have to explain yourself to other people, as in you’re free to make choices without having to justify them.
Choosing a life that conflicts with what makes you feel free only leads to frustration. Frustration towards those that have become a barrier to your freedom and frustration towards yourself for ending up in these circumstances.
In all this, one of the most important things to remember is that freedom is a feeling. You might not feel free right now but you can always feel differently tomorrow (or a few months from now once you’ve made some changes in your life).
Looking through drafts is a great way to observe your growth as a writer. Many time you come across things your current self would never write and so you press delete. Other times you come across good ideas that are poorly written out and you then have the option to just delete them and start over or to tend to them with a fresh perspective.
I believe that most writers drafts or deleted content far outweighs what they’re shared and put out into the world.
It’s quite obvious that the things that get deleted aren’t considered worth sharing. Perhaps, it had been in your drafts for a few months or even years but every time you went back to it, you didn’t really like it enough to work on it a little more and complete it. Maybe it just wasn’t a good idea, it happens and it’s perfectly okay.
Then, there are the drafts.
There are days when you write, write and write some more. This results in an influx of ideas and some of these ideas are ‘microwavable’ whilst others are more like seeds.
The ‘microwave’ ideas don’t take much time to be brought to life. They’re not necessarily instant but if you set a little time to work on them you can finish them fairly easily. They don’t stay drafts for long.
Then there are the ideas that are like seedlings, these ones require time, care and attention. They can’t be rushed and if if you ever try to hurry them along, you’ll never be happy with the result. But if you’re willing to have patience these ideas will flourish when they finally come alive in all their glory.
I think it could be said that one of the biggest things that holds us back is that we try to hard to be a specific type of way or create a certain kind of thing. Often our efforts go into emulating what we have already seen done and the way that we think or have been told that things should be.
When this occurs instead of just doing our work and creating, we put limits on ourselves.
Suddenly, the ideas you have end up being tweaked and altered because you haven’t seen things done that way and you’d rather go with what’s been seen to work.
I think a reason we do this is because we don’t have enough self belief to really do things the way we want plus, we want things to work out.
When you’re someone that creates, you never want to put your heart and soul into something and it not be well received. People not taking to your work feels personal because it came from you and often we end up internalising that feeling and coming up with stories like ‘I’m not good enough…’.
The way to avoid all this is to just be, just create. The more you create, the more you find your own flow and no longer feel like you need to mimic others. The work you do will become so much more gratifying.
The more you create, the more you lower the stakes. The first time you create something that comes from you might be scary but over time once it becomes more familiar, it will get easier.
The way that you show up in the world is likely to be imapcted by your confidence and self esteem.
Perhaps you play small and avoid doing things that will draw any attention even though you have ideas and opinions to share.
But the reason you don’t share your ideas is because you don’t value your voice and you don’t believe that anyone else will either. You tell yourself speaking up is for other people.
It’s for people that are better than you. They’re better because they’re older, more experienced, more confident, have higher qualifications, are better dressed and have nicer hair. Sometimes our reasoning makes sense and other times we make excuses.
And so next time you want to say or do something, go ahead even if it feels a little uncomfortable. You don’t need to be ‘better’ than everyone else, you don’t need to be older or more experienced either. All you have to do is say something.
When it comes to solving problems, there is a big difference between finding a solution and finding a solution to the problem.
When we’re simply just finding a solution we tend to come up with things that are short-term, quick to do and don’t really address the issue.
Lets take the example of being upset with someone. Now imagine that the solution you choose is to go off and take space until you’re no longer upset. Then, by the time you come back to the other person you’re now totally over it. That is a potential solution but it doesn’t actually solve anything.
A solution to that problem could instead be still taking space if you need it but then also voicing to the other person how you felt about their actions. That way you create space for discussion rather than being closed off and holding things in.
And so the next time you have a problem to solve don’t just find a solution, find a solution that is right for the problem.
Every once in a while you may be forced to come out of your comfort zone.
The idea that what you resist persists is true, some things just can’t be avoided.
You’ve probably been resistant and stuck in your comfort zone because you’re scared, the uncertainty is overwhelming and you’ve become comfortable with what you know.
Sometimes those are good enough reasons to stick with what you know. You don’t need to force yourself to do things that you don’t want to do.
But maybe you feel like you’re holding yourself back or feel are unhappy with the limitations you have placed on yourself.
If that’s the case, embrace the new and get out of your comfort zone.
Of course things that are new and unfamiliar might feel uncomfortable to begin with but over time that feeling will reduce. And maybe in a few weeks, months or even a year those things that once felt uncomfortable will become part of your comfort zone (or at least much less uncomfortable).