Recently, I have been the worst version of myself. As I think about this, I wonder what has brought me to this perception of myself. It could be that I am still being successful but it is only my warped self-obsesses position which forces this opinion. I hope not. And I don’t think it’s just that. Despite being usually hard on myself and sometimes having unreachable expectations, it is true I am less proactive, have less energy and becoming increasingly disinterested with life, which I loathe. I am always one who believes life has much to offer, many beautiful and sad things which one must experience to be a better human being.
This type of thinking could be countered with many arguments: self-obsession, social impositions and unrealistic expectations of what is ‘good’. Mostly, the issue is my apathy to so much which had previously brought me joy and my attitude. These are things which can be altered. Undoubtedly other people have experienced similar issues.Welcome to the early twenties. The degree is complete, all those years of variety and opportunity are starting to get tarnished by council tax, rent and the tedious necessity to work. These things bother me tremendously and suck the beautiful soul out of living. These post is mostly for myself, but if any other person gets inspired or feels less alone, then that makes me happy and would always be looking for other tips. Being half term I actually have more time to think and create these pointers:
- Have something beyond your job: One thing I have noticed is that I work so much. I am in work for about 50 hours a week, 11 hours a day. That doesn’t cover the hour commute. I’m lucky to get 6 hours of sleep a night. Not to mention, I tutor for an extra three hours a week which requires hours of preparation and travel on top of the 50 ish hours I give to my primary job. I’m so exhausted that I feel deflated and don’t exercise, which in turn makes me more sluggish. I don’t read because words on a page becomes wriggling insects to my weak puffy eyes. I don’t have any friends in London as I haven’t had time to socialise because I am tired and don’t have weekends cause I also work on those. All this sounds bleak. Very bleak in fact. Of course, I still enjoy spending time with colleagues and flatmate and occasionally friends from uni, but I certainly want more. Even if it means proactively studying, reading, walking, running, the occasional trip on the Thames, the travelling to central London, and even going to a bar and maybe even meeting some new interesting people! Shocker! That is the plan, to do one thing each weekend that I didn’t do last weekend. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be deliberate and varied.
- Ask questions: One symptom of my bad-version self is disinterest in other people and a lack of compassion. This usually stems from tiredness. Ultimately, human beings are self-centred, but wherever I can, I like to counteract that. Shouldn’t we always strive to try and make other people feel cared about, interested in and that they are valued. The best way to do this is to ask questions; people love to talk about themselves. When I do this, I just find it interesting and have had some surprising conversations. One time, on a train home I sat across an older couple and we had great conversation. The guy used to be a lecturer in psychology and he told me this story of when he dressed up as Hannibal and freaked out all his first years so that postgrads could assess whether recall improves in stressful situations. Interesting, huh? It’s so random but so brilliant. Try it. You’ll feel better, they’ll feel valued. All winners.
- Exercise: Seems simple I know, but I am a great believe in this. Perhaps a little too good at believing it and not putting it into action! Even during the process of running life seems better. Perhaps the endorphins or the distraction from the pain in my legs, but there is certainly a sense of achievement and knowing I have done something which is going to better how I feel. Breathing in the fresh air, moving your body, stretching, just having a physical feeling makes me feel like me. Perhaps some of you exercisers out there will sort of understand this. There is plenty of evidence (which I shan’t bore you with) which confirms that exercise is a habit of successful people.
- Quit social media (sort of): I work in a school and have to look after 14/15 year olds. My job would be much easier without social media.The amount of times I have to try and give perspective to my students that 2 hours on Facebook isn’t a necessity to sustain themselves. Admittedly, I don’t engage in any arguments over snapchat (a concept which completely baffles me) and nor is my social life wholly measured by the number of friends I have on Facebook or the number of followers on Twitter. I actually have 22 followers on twitter, a recent thing in my life, and that makes me both proud and anxious. Proud that I can write this vaguely without hypocrisy (ignoring the 600+ ‘friends’ on Facebook, right?) but anxious because I have fewer followers than my mother. Or rather, anxious because for a lot of the world, it is a reflection of what type of a person I am and whether people are interested in me. Clearly not. What I find is that this media-frenzied mindset is parasitic. It literally takes away from our life and drags us to our phone, tablet, laptop or PC. Any screen will suffice. I spend too much time looking at instagram, Facebook and usually people I’ll never meet or never want to encounter anyway. Whilst it has its value, it’s nice to take a break. I frequently turn my devices off when I want to work or deactivate accounts as soon as I feel I am too engrossed by them. It’s liberating. Not only do you have time for other things now but you actually focus on what surrounds you. You escape the online bubble with all these strange expectations which you don’t realise you’re part of until you step outside of it.
- Realism: As I meet more people, I find that there are two types of person. The first is someone who is driven to be better but never quite meets their own expectations so always has a sense of failure dragging them down. The second has low expectations so achieve less in order to save themselves from the low expectations they have imposed on themselves, usually fuelled by fear of failing. So they end up underachieving because they’re scared. Both require realism with their own expectations. You gotta take those ideas and be real. Are they achievable, are they below myself. You can expect too much and you can expect too little. The issue is that folk don’t realise that they are like this. Aside from this, we need to be realistic to the fact that all the people in the world will have opinions and prefer different things about different people. What I am trying to learn is that I cannot measure how I feel about myself through the perceptions of other people. That makes no sense. By projecting other people’s opinions and being preoccupied with what other people want from me, I stifle myself.
So, remember Henry David Thoreau’s words:
“I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I have not lived…I wanted to live deep and suck all the marrow out of life.”