On the right side of the looking glass…

Spring freesias from the garden

In my never-ending quest to get better (the road of continuous self-improvement is a different post, but will probably hijack this one because the two are so interrelated), there’s been so much self-reflection and analysis (mental and physical), faltering baby steps, prioritisation and brutal honesty and actually letting go.

That last bit is the hardest. Letting go of expectations, perceptions, emotions, places, people, dreams. I’ve spent a lot of time working through this this year. As I mentioned a few posts ago, I won’t say “reverting to type” but will quote Polonius again, as I have done several times since I started blogging many moons ago, “to thine own self* be true”.

I was put onto a really fantastic podcast a few weeks ago – one of several actually. This one, You Are Not So Smart reaffirms that I really should have done psychology (and computer science) at university. While it is squillions of episodes long, I’ve been dipping in and out of them – looking at topics that take my fancy, and learning about others that I hadn’t really thought about before. I do find it odd how they explain some topics and perceptions like its all revolutionary, when it’s something so ingrained in academics that it’s our bread and butter (and so ingrained in me that I still refer to myself as an academic, even though I left that life behind a long time ago). But it’s that whole idea of perception – that’s what this series is about, and it’s fascinating.

Anyway, that segue aside, it – and several other things/exercises/aspirations/reevaluations  – have thrown things into stark relief. Taking emotion out scenarios, and reexamining things from other angles is also quite handy. (This is where I envy those who can operate in such a thoroughly rational manner. I find it so draining, but illuminating, but draining). Being consciously mindful is something I’ve always aspired to, getting the hang of it and putting it into practice does take baby steps, but I’m on that path and I know its the right one.

How? Because the mental self-improvement makes the physical self-improvement much easier. It means that while I still fight myself to physically get up in the morning, I am able to put my body and mind through their paces (gym, language classes and other mad adventures), and not end up a quibbling wreck of physical and mental exhaustion come 3pm in the afternoon. Well, I’m less of a wreck than I was 6 weeks ago, but I digress again. It means that after years (in some cases), the puzzle pieces are beginning to fall into place. That I can solve my own problems for once. It’s quite empowering.

So letting go and being true to yourself. Two of the oldest clichés, but also two of the most important aspects of self-awareness and self-acceptance (of course there will always be arguments for self-delusion and cognitive bias here too, but they are also important parts of who we are – as we see ourselves, and we perceive others to see us). This post has already turned several shades of philosophical and circuitous in its dialogue, but the real tl:dr is to do both is terrifying.

Yes, I am being Captain Obvious here, but to actually do one, let alone both, is incredibly hard and takes you so far out of your comfort zone that not many people want to apply themselves in this sort of way. So of course I would jump headlong into the concepts with some wisps of not letting go to be found in my tightly clenched fist.

Why?

Fear of failure. Fear of the unknown.  Fear of  being a disappointment. Of not living up to the expectations you’ve built up for yourself and of others. And guilt. So much guilt.

As somebody who suffers from acute and sometimes crippling anxiety – these fears are constant. And they are detrimental to one’s health, emotions, interactions and relationships. All too frequently those who battle anxiety know how its effecting them and those around them, which feeds a vicious cycle, which can become a negative loop… I hate that space so much, but it becomes self-repeating.

So what do you do? Things that make you happy. Being kind to yourself. Forgiveness. Patience. Leaps of faith: of yourself and from others.

My inner (and constant) cynic tells me that now I’m just regurgitating things that you see in self-help books and magazines, and it’s all really stupid. And maybe it is. None of this is cookie-cutter stuff. But you have to try and see if it works. If it works for me, hooray! If it doesn’t work for you, then try something else. Chalk it up to experience. Live.

I got in the pool today. I was so terrified that things would go pear-shaped and I’d be crying in a shower cubicle desperately trying to warm up. The memory of having to do that months ago is still etched in my mind, and I have been so fearful of repeating that experience. But I must be doing something right with my diet and correcting imbalances. I was able to be in the water. And have fun. And laugh, and swim, and just enjoy the moment. And it was such a relief. I let go of that fear, and took a plunge, literally.

I know there’s a long way still to go. But I’ve made some progress. In theory, I’ve accepted that I’ll be starting many things from scratch. In practice, I know that’s going to be very difficult for me to start from scratch. There is evidence of this littered through the entries in this blog. I think I may actually be okay with it this time. Mostly okay with it.

I’m still working on that though. There’s years of unravelling I still need to deal with.

*After re-reading Persuasion (I adore Captain Wentworth), I can’t help but notice how often we use certain words when discussing a concept of a topic. Austen does it often in her works. Despite my best efforts, I find I did it here: not intentionally as Austen did, but this isn’t a novel. I also have the ponderings of a podcast on the Self I’m mulling over. Freud has a lot to answer for. #teamJung

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