Emotions come on like a lightswitch — everything’s fine, until it’s not. Nowadays, the blurring of emotions and real life is the cause of many relationships falling apart, with one or more parties quickly opting to “cut the other person off”. Scroll through Instagram or Facebook for a minute or two and you’re bound to scan over a post related to this behavior, as getting rid of “toxic” people is applauded throughout mainstream society.
I lost my humility. After nine months of painstakingly working to strip away every protective layer in which masked my essence, I thought I had reached the pinnacle. I was confident I had surmounted my own ignorance, hellbent on interrupting the negative patterns I became aware of with headstrong discipline. I had finally returned to source, and the river could continue to flow.
Constructive criticism always made wince. I was never quite mentally ready and even less emotionally prepared. Each sharp comment or cutting remark was interpreted as an arrow aimed straight at my heart, which I helplessly swatted at like a fleeing mosquito. My automatic tendency to deflect the feedback was primarily due to an overwhelming discomfort with who I actually was — and who I pretended to be as a result.
I’ve tripped the alarm on my personality more times than I can count. One of the benefits of being stricken with self-denigration is you never really get too attached to a particular way of being. You’re willing to give up however you define yourself in lieu of a vogue disposition appearing to generate positive results.
In the children’s classic The Velveteen Rabbit, the story centers around a stuffed rabbit made of velveteen that a boy receives for Christmas. Like the toys of most other children, the boy plays with it for a period until a newer, more exciting toy comes along. The rabbit gets tossed into his chest with a slew of other worn-out playthings, most notably the Skin Horse.
Growing up within the confines of team sports, I would commonly hear this phrase uttered from my coaches: “The only way we lose this game is if we beat ourselves.” Unable to make sense of the context as an aloof thirteen-year old at the time, I didn’t fully appreciate the rhetoric until adulthood — where the competition is you and you alone.
I gave in to the social media highlight reel a few years back. It not only seemed like a prudent method to stay connected with people I was losing touch with, but the temptation to embellish in a few fabrications regarding my self-worth was too much to pass up. When placed at the forefront, one’s relationship with oneself can be one of life’s most confronting crusades. For me, I put off taking the hard look in the mirror simply because I felt I was the only one having to do so. From my vantage point, everyone else seemed secure, undeviating, and unabashed.
No matter how selfish our behavior, we all have a need to make a difference. A bit of an existential by-law, contribution is a right of passage when forming a legacy. Beyond that, experiencing our most expressive emotions pales in comparison to watching someone else be overwhelmed with joy and gratitude. Shared feelings are multiplied. When we see someone else light up because of what we said or did, our emotion expands exponentially. A piece of their happiness and elation is compounded and transferred, with the cycle repeating itself for the duration of the moment. Our most powerful efforts as human beings have been collective — and that’s not changing anytime soon.
In his book “The Art of the Good Life”, Rolf Dobelli outlines the overestimation of set-up in our lives. He brings forth examples such as flying a plane or driving a car, emphasizing that a mere seconds left its own devices could result in a tragic accident. It’s a sequence of perpetual re-adjustment, and it’s only on course for a fraction of the time it’s off it.
The temptation to be right is often irrefutable. Much to our true self’s chagrin, the ego operates like a drug addict — a single taste and habits begin to form. We have a need to feel important. It makes us feel less alone. It’s hard enough in today’s world, we certainly don’t want to go through it with everyone assuming we’re helpless. Solving the same problem, yet via conflicting merits, love represents an alternative strategy. It allows us to feel ourselves in another. Like someone’s on our side. Even though when it’s all said and done, we’re all we’ve got.
I’ve racked my brain for years on how to cause life to happen, as opposed to just letting it unfold. My results have varied, all the way from run-of-the-mill fulfillment to complete emotional turmoil. However, in recent past, I’ve come across a few critical distinctions to salvaging precious energy while making life work—most notably with the people in it.
Think back to college. Some of you honestly can’t because that part of your memory was warped from the austere grandeur of hunch punch, marijuana and tequila shots — which to you, I salute. But if we consider that time as a whole, and survey most adults on their experience, the most notable takeaway is connection. People upon people are continually introduced to us like a Chinese buffet. And much like that distinct dine-in experience, if you don’t like something, you go pick something else. There’s no shortage.
If you clicked this title, odds are there’s a little piece of you that feels incomplete. I can appreciate that. I may not know exactly what it is, but I certainly know what it’s like to wage war over what’s missing. Maybe you’re at an impasse with a loved one. Your career. Your friends. Your lack of direction. Or maybe, just yourself. All that I get. I hear you. I’m with you every step of the way. Life can place suffocating amounts of pressure on us to succeed with flying colors. We want to make everyone proud. We want everyone to know who we are. We want to be fully self-expressed. But sometimes, it’s not that easy. Sometimes, before any of that happens, we have to make it out of bed first.
The demands of modern-day society overwhelmed me. It was a game of keeping up, as opposed to finding my path. My way of being became skewed, wading in between collapsing parallels of ego-touting impostor syndrome and a silent-but-deadly identity crisis. My innermost essence wasn’t even a blip on the radar of my awareness, let alone something I aimed to deliberately realize. The virus-like spreading of my confusion transformed into self-deprecation, convoluting and exacerbating the issue even greater. The confusion was never the problem. The insatiable need to know the answer was my demise.
What if you had a relationship with failure that had no meaning to it? I asked myself this question the other day. A cascade of run-of-the-mill emotions showed up as I kicked the idea around, most along the lines of freedom and peace. But eventually I arrived at realizing the most important thing this paradox would provide me is time.