I am convinced this journey of self-discovery is a lifelong one. Every time I think I have a handle on the things I struggle with and need to overcome, something else crops up that makes me realize that life is an ongoing learning process and it's okay to stumble along the way.
This past week was a bit of a struggle for me personally. I had a lot of different projects going on at once that kept me from any real down time. I didn't sleep much because of it and whenever I lack sleep, my emotional well-being suffers. I begin to make decisions and rationalize situations based on emotional responses instead of logical ones. I struggled with a number of obstacles this week, but really I was struggling with self-doubt and battling my own insecurities. After a few enlightening conversations and many hours of introspection, I came to the conclusion that in most situations in my life I am my own worst enemy.
My obsession with over-analyzing every situation
I am an over-thinker. I know this about myself and while sometimes it helps me work through certain situations, it also causes me to obsess over every little thing. I sit in bed at night and go through the steps of my day. I rework every conversation I had and try to interpret hidden meanings. I pick up on body language and facial expressions and try to read into each one. I wonder what a person isn't saying and try to guess how they're feeling.
I am a people pleaser and probably always will be to a certain extent, but I am trying so hard to let go of things I can't control. That includes letting go of the idea that I'm going to make everyone happy. I've always considered myself good at reading people. I think that's what makes me a great friend because I can usually tell when someone needs something without them having to ask. I can usually guess what people are feeling without them having to speak because I have always been able to put myself in someone else's shoes and see things from their perspective. While I think this helps me be more understanding and empathetic of the people in my life, it also creates an incredible amount of stress for me. Let me correct that -- I create an incredible amount of stress for myself.
Instead of putting myself out there, speaking my mind, and acting as the confident person I want to be, I find myself walking on eggshells in an attempt to please those around me. And most of the time, it's completely unnecessary. I need to accept the fact that not everyone is going to like what I say or do, but that's okay. I need to accept the fact that not everyone is going to like me, but that's okay, too.
My negative internal dialogue
I truly dislike the self-loathing, insecure, feel-sorry-for-myself side of me. I am happy to report that it's becoming a smaller and smaller portion when it used to be the largest part, but it still rears its ugly head from time to time.
I have a nasty habit of comparing myself to others and somehow I always come up short in one way or another. I hate failure and feeling like I don't measure up. I get frustrated when I try something new and am not good at it right away. I get embarrassed easily and hate feeling stupid. I focus on the negatives and my shortcomings instead of highlighting all that I do have going for me. You should hear me on job interviews. I give the most honest job interview you'll ever witness, but I think I've always undersold my abilities.
I've spent my entire life on the outskirts of everything or hiding in a corner. I only recently realized that it's not because others make me an outcast or keep me on the edge of things. I put myself there. I have for years. I need to push my limits more and stop shutting down when I face situations that make me uncomfortable. I need to step outside my comfort zone. I need to realize that everyone I'm comparing myself to is most likely doing the same thing. I need to push aside my own insecurities because I've spent too many years holding myself back.
My aversion to being vulnerable
This is one I've touched on many times before. And even though I realize it is something I need to overcome, it is easier said than done. I've always closed myself off to vulnerability, but I've missed out on a lot of love, happiness, beauty and opportunity because of it. Vulnerability is scary because it means opening up yourself to others -- and with that, opening yourself up to rejection, judgement, and misunderstanding.
When I open up to someone, I almost immediately wish I hadn't. Pulling back has become a reflex for me over the years, something that I've always done to protect myself. I pull back before someone can push me away. I shut down so that there's no chance of getting hurt, but I end up hurting myself. Sometimes, I even hurt those around me because I don't know how to open up. I come across cold and uncaring when that really couldn't be farther from the truth.
It's not easy to actively choose to be vulnerable. I need to do it more. I need to open myself up more because I deserve it and because the people in my life deserve it, too.
My vision of how things are supposed to be
This is one I think I struggle the most with. I'm a planner and a control freak. I have to-do lists for my to-do lists (I'm not exaggerating!). I used to plan out every inch of my life down to the tiniest detail. Whenever any little thing didn't go according to plan, it would send me into a tailspin that I had trouble recovering from.
When I was in high school, I had a plan for my life. I was going to be an advertising executive that worked in the city. I was going to be married by 24, have my first child at 27, own my own home by 28, and follow with 7 more children because I have always wanted a big family. That plan couldn't be farther from my reality now. I am 33 years old and am not sure if I even want children anymore. I am a freelance designer that can't imagine working a nine-to-five job in the city every day. I am years from owning my own home and I'm not sure I want to commit myself to staying in one place for any length of time. I look back at my life's plan now and can't help but laugh.
I am trying to find the beauty in letting things happen and be as they are. I need to learn how to roll with the punches more and not panic every time something doesn't go according to my plan. Honestly, the best moments of my life are the unplanned ones -- the moments that take you by surprise because there is no expectation -- and those are typically the ones that take your breath away. I need to stop getting so caught up in how I think things are supposed to be and be happy with how things are unfolding before me.
I used to joke with a friend that it's always been me against the world. I think now I see that it's always been me against myself. I've been battling my own expectations, insecurities and self-doubt for years. It's time to make peace with the things that have held me back in the past and move forward past them.