14 May 2014

33 – The Things You Need To Tell Yourself

You get asked to take stock of yourself and your life every so often. I don’t know who or what’s doing the asking. Fate. The universe. Our subconscious. God. But you hear it, even if it doesn’t register with your ears. You can feel it in some part of your being that I have no words for. But I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

Being asked to take stock of ourselves is a big task. It can be unsavoury and a little intimidating. Scary even.
 
Either way, it’s good to pause and reflect when this feeling comes over you. It’s like stopping on a trail to survey how far you’ve come and where your feet can take you next.  Going anywhere without a sense of direction’s a great way to get nowhere.

How you take stock of things is your own affair. There are no rules so far as I can tell. Nor can I say with certainty why it’s important to do this. I would guess the reasons are several and, again, different for each of us. Taking stock can allow us the chance to sort out the things that motivate, torment, and scare us. It can enable us to tally up what we’ve accomplished, identify what we’re grateful for, and confront the things we regret. It’s the chance to look at ourselves under a hard light with an unblinking eye.

We all abide by certain principles and values. They drive us and shape us. They help explain why we dig into our particular corners of the universe the way we do. However we tend to forget or neglect them, losing ourselves in the hustle and noise of life.

The urge to take a hard look at one’s self is often preceded by a major change or turn of events. This is understandable, for such changes or turns often leave us feeling as though we’re fumbling through the dark. And quite often the change or turn finds us drifting around untethered at the very moment we need to know what anchors us in this world.

And in such moments, these are some of the things we need to tell ourselves:

“I am better than I think I am.” That feeling of aimless wandering that often accompanies a big change tends to convince us that we’re insufficient in some way. It tries to tell us that somehow we don’t quite make the grade. It’s not true. Sometimes to fail is to pass, and sometimes to quit is to succeed. And you’re always better than the reality of the world you choose to reject tries to suggest you are.  

“I do not have to stop changing or getting better.” Most of us complete our formal education between our late teens and early-to-mid-twenties. Sadly, it’s implied that genuine learning ceases in that moment. Some would suggest real learning ends before that. Similarly, we’re led to believe that our bodies must begin breaking down in our thirties. ‘So, why bother trying to change ourselves?’ such thinking implies. Such thinking is wrong. I’m fitter and smarter now than when I was a twenty year old university student. I am better and plan to keep getting better. So should you. We’re not designed to live in a state of cruise control once puberty ends.

“I need to love me.” The same World that likes to tell us when to stop learning and growing is the same one that tells us we’re unworthy for refusing to obey its conventions. But that’s OK. It’s not the World’s job anyway. Loving ourselves is our first job. Mom’s help, but they can’t do all the work for us. If we don’t love ourselves we can never truly love anyone or anything else. It is never a selfish thing to care for one’s self when necessity urges it. In fact caring for, and loving, one’s self is absolutely necessary.

“The biggest mistake I can make is to not learn from my mistakes.” This becomes easier to deal with if you also accept that you never really stop learning or growing.  It also helps to accept that you’ll probably never stop making mistakes either. Such is the consequence of having to make decisions based on limited information without knowing the possible outcomes. That’s called life. And you have to live with the mistakes you’re inevitably bound to make. But when you’re humble enough to accept your own shortcomings and exhibit a willingness to learn, two wrongs can actually make two rights.

“I need to always be honest, especially when the truth I have to speak is an unpleasant one.” It’s better to upset someone with a truth driven by honesty than to anger them with a lie triggered by deception. Stating a hard truth is a show of courage and an offer to trust. Masking a hard truth with a lie is an expression of fear and a violation of trust. Honesty earns respect and is always the foundation of solid relations. Lying is a sure way of losing them both. Or to get yourself thrown off a balcony into the thoroughfare. So tell the truth. Always.

“I am going to die.” It’s true, and our tendency to ignore the fact of our certain death is a fatal error. I’ve talked about this before. The only other thing I can add is that acknowledging our worlds will end may drive us to begin leaving our own genuine mark on them.

“I’m at my best when I’m being me.” The World likes to suggest that our best foot should go forward when we’re in uniform, on the clock, and at our desks. I’d like to put my foot up the arse of whoever suggested that. People are always more important than the uniforms on their backs and the brands they're asked to promote. Most of us work to make ends meet and that’s it. I highly doubt many of us were ever ‘meant’ to work for the companies that we work for. The only things we’re meant to do in this world are the things that matter to us. And it’s when we’re doing those things, or with the people who matter to us, that we’re truly at our best.

So don’t worry about that little voice in your head. And it’s OK to feel like you’re wandering. Sometimes they’re reminders to tell yourself the things you need to know about yourself. The universe is big, and we’re all entitled to our own place in it. And while we can’t know the universe entire, we can know ourselves. And in understanding ourselves we can better understand the universe, and how and why we actually belong in it.

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