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Do you get in your own way repeatedly? Wonder what’s wrong with you? Do you feel that you often fully work against yourself, your well-being and possible happiness? That it’s all hopeless? Maybe that’s not entirely true as you’re just more aware of your louder and counterproductive enemy inside. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a supportive and soothing side within you.
Look, today I lost my wetsuit. Two days before that, my mind. That has more to do with each other than you think.
I realised that both served as an entry point to assess the current relationship status with myself. Here’s a brief summary of how self-talk thereby played a central role over the last few days. It contains surprisingly little wetsuit content – at least I’ve tried my best, I promise!
This is also for you when you think you hate being miserable but have no idea yet that you secretly find comfort in it. And ignore or aren’t aware of alternatives yet. Or haven’t fully been able to commit to your well-being, for whatever reason.
Shall we begin?
First of all, don’t worry about the wetsuit – it’s gone and it won’t come back. However, let’s start with this part of the story first. I hung it out there next to my car whilst watching countless sets of big waves supplying the coastline with fresh water. Don’t ask me how or why, but I was so lost watching all this happening in front of my eyes, so invested in a random podcast that I listened to and ultimately getting hungrier and hungrier that I decided to drive off to one of my favourite restaurants in town that was supposed to close the following day for a few weeks. Time for a last lunch at this fantastic place, right?
And I totally forgot about .. the wetsuit! I mean I eventually remembered, but I was already in town and approaching my lunch place. My wetsuit would still be there, I calmed myself, and enjoyed lunch. And coffee. Only to return to my previous parking spot to find out that it was .. exactly, gone!
Taken by the winds and carried over the sand dunes of the national park that was close by? Maybe. Taken by random lucky strangers or campers who found a wetsuit that coincidently perfectly fitted their size and body shape? Maybe. Taken and thrown away by the people who were just about to empty all the trash bins in the surrounding areas? (Yep, that was happening that day as well.) Maybe.
I guess it doesn’t matter what and how it happened
My wetsuit is gone. However, as I write these lines, I’m also in a slump and feeling down. Whatever happens sucks and gets blown out of its proportions, alright? Let’s say there is a good experience in my life right now, like having a surprisingly charming chat with an acquaintance as we joined forces to assess the surf conditions? Forgotten in a split second only to get the focus back on worrying, being anxious and expecting other doomsday scenarios in which I will inevitably fail again.
Fail at what, you may ask? Doesn’t really matter, the mind is doing its job, failing at whatever I might think about and whatever keeps me in check. Added with the automatic and honestly fucking weird anticipation of proof that all these fucked-up scenarios and prophecies will come true eventually.
Let’s say bad experiences happen, even just tiny stupid things like, well, the thing about losing the wetsuit? Triggers a similar experience and chain reaction that I just described in the previous paragraph, but it’s a bit faster, and do you want to know why? Because my mind doesn’t even need the split second that it needed to neglect the good experience. Good for the mind, so happy for it. Getting even faster to its magical work!
Long story short: It felt like I really didn’t need another new chapter about how miserable my life was at that moment, when everything had already felt heavier and more burdensome than usual. *read this in your favourite cynic voice* “Do you feel my pain? Can you imagine, even in the midst of my wavering, there’s also this! Poor me, fighting against the cruel universe.”
But wait, was it really that bad?
Sad but true: I like to put myself down
Let me give you an amazing and mind-bending insight into my inner dialogue when I couldn’t find what I was looking for: Is it harsh to call myself an idiot for what had happened? It’s too easy and unimaginable to laugh it off, move on and just buy a new one, right?
Somehow automatically I tried hard to make my life as miserable as possible. Tried and succeeded in judging myself, saw it as another example of how my life kept unravelling in front of me. Guess what – it felt so relieving, so good, so familiar. “This is it. You’ve lost it. Again.”
Only after a couple of minutes did I realise how much I actually appreciated my behaviour of making me feel worse. Of course I didn’t like what happened in the first place, but is it really necessary to make an even bigger fuss about it?
So I realised that I had a choice
Fuck do I hate writing about choices right now, but what can I do, shut up, cynic me! And let me simply recap what I heard in my head: “There is no point in raving or mourning over that stupid piece of fabric. Move on. Buy a new one and surf again, or don’t buy a new one, sell your board and shut up and move on. But first and foremost, please change into some sort of productive and non-self-destructive mode to minimise the mental clutter here, for goodness sake. Decide, act and move on. Thank you, your tiny but still present and available, reasonable you.”
Well, that was an unexpected, direct and straight-forward voice in my head that I didn’t expect.
I guess I’ll buy a new wetsuit.
Shut up about it.
And move on.
Post Scriptum: Wait, there is more to this
As I wrote these lines and edited them for clarity, to my own surprise I found a hidden gem in the random rambling that I put on paper. Have you noticed? Here, close to the end, there it is. I wrote it myself:
“Thank you, your tiny but still present and available, reasonable you.”
Ha, interesting. Did I write this little version of me into existence? Or did it just slip out of me as I finished the story and thereby reminded myself subconsciously that there is indeed a part in me that doesn’t get carried away by either daily chaos (wetsuit) or existential stuff like, well, as I mentioned, the slump, the worrying, the burden of existence and everything else that is doomed to fail and break. (Not to make too much fun of it, but I hope you get the point.)
That’s what led me to keep exploring this topic a bit further, although I thought I had finished that story for good. Analysis time! No more wetsuit mentions from here on. Now I’m actually honouring the promise I made at the beginning. (I know, sometimes it takes a bit longer, I’m sorry.)
I too often forget that there is this tiny supportive side in me
That does exist, shouts my wins, is willing to recap my milestones and the incredible effort and success it took to reach them! The supportive side in me that actually loves to tell me how proud it is of me, and that likes nothing better than reminding me how proud I can be about myself.
But I just won’t listen, right? It’s actually sad that I’m not listening. Not that kind of sadness because I lost my wetsuit as I was headlessly leaving it at a random place. No, this is actually sad because there is a part of me that wants to help me and wants and needs the mutual support to create and grow a sustainable, healthy and cosy thriving relationship to navigate life way easier.
But I usually miss that all that is already here, tiny but still present and available and reasonable (This won’t be the last time you will hear this combination of words). Only to hope that one day I will miraculously find it somewhere else or accept the hard truth that I have to build it from scratch because I wasn’t born with it. Can you feel the black and white thinking, the absolutism, the drama and the pressure and pre-programmed disappointment that no one actually asked for or needs?
Because I guess it would be too easy to just realise what is already available to us? Rant over. After all, the point of this story is that we are our own worst enemy, or at least that’s the misperception we have. Time to move on.
I have created this working theory
There does exist a tiny but still present and available reasonable version of me somewhere inside. What does this version look or feel like?
- Is it as loud as the self-doubting, enormously critical version in me that feasts on my insecurities and daily fuck-ups? Hell no, there is no comparison to that side of me that regularly grows whenever I’m down, sad or alone.
- Is the reasonable version of me as energetic, powerful and present as that other monster that I just described? No, not really, but I have to admit that I’m not doing a lot to give the reasonable version of me a fair chance to be listened to, so it can release its energies and send its message to its recipient.
- Is tiny reasonable and available me all too often forgotten, neglected and overshadowed by the other version? I mean, yeah, that’s an unfortunate clear answer. I mean look, a few minutes ago I thought I had written the supportive side of me into existence – although I should know better.
Ouch. I just reread that last bit again
- It’s one thing to suffer from the loud and terrorising, ever present and all too familiar version that haunts my dreams and regularly shakes my existence and dismantles the shaky belief in myself.
- It’s another thing to (try to) manage that dominant side in myself, and learn to tame it as well and healthily as possible.
- It’s a whole other exercise to foster, to nurture and to love the tiny but still present and available reasonable me that is, well, tiny but most likely ready to grow. And growing is fun, how about that for a change? Damn, of course I’m ready to grow. What else am I trying to do here all this time?
Fair enough, good question, let me answer: Far too seldom do I realise that I should focus on and tackle the third bullet point, so allow me to repeat it again: Trying to foster, to nurture and to love the tiny but still present and available reasonable me that waits for me to connect.
Just imagine the tiny supportive and reasonable side of me would grow, hold me in its hands, or hold me accountable. What would be possible?
Let’s be honest here
This never was about the wetsuit. In times of misery, it’s rarely about the external circumstances or things that happen to us, but about our general relationship with ourselves. Sure, you could also say that it is about how we respond to things and how we create an understanding within ourselves to deal with it.
All too often, it comes down to how we live our life in our heads and how we talk to ourselves. This relationship is given, and it’s a matter of what we do with it.
I guess I have a pretty, well, less than ideal relationship with myself
It may sound harsh, and it’s not a final statement, but more like a current snapshot of how I feel about myself. I allow my loud and critical side to bitch around me, and way too often I choose to follow its voice and get carried away from my true self. Taming it isn’t working, and getting angry at myself or that loud side within me because of it often just adds counterproductive feelings, heaviness, angriness or hatred.
But it’s easy to stay where you are, right?
We can secretly like to be miserable. We can learn about new things or methods without actually applying them. Distracting ourselves from the real problems and the world around us. Running away from things rather than facing them. Sure, all these things trick you into believing that you’re busy and working towards something although you’re not. Procrastinating and distracting yourself from what bothers you only extends the misery. And you choose to stay in your miserable but comfortable and familiar comfort zone.
Perhaps you have felt comfortable in familiar misery. I know that all to well, and I know how much it hurts to admit that to myself. But again, that’s not a final assessment but a snapshot of a certain time in our lives. A time that could be over soon and that we could leave in the past.
There is so much room and space to actively design that relationship with ourselves from now on. To improve it and to make sure it stays at a certain level that we can agree with and that makes us happy.
It starts with a decision though
Remember when I realised that in the first part of the story? That “fuck, I don’t want to write about choices, but there it was?” It’s a thing.
It’s not just fighting, taming or reacting, but proactively shaping the relationship with myself that I want to prioritise above everything else. With the loud, angry and doubting, attacking me, as well as with the small, vulnerable and simultaneously bored me that wants to be developed and nurtured. That version of me that wants to grow stronger and be more present in my daily life. In my constant inner monologues. In my guidance, walking through life.
Two sides of action with a common denominator
- On the one hand, it’s time to take off my boxing gloves that I think I need to handle my loud me. But learn to be softer, kinder, more gentle.
- On the other hand, it’s time to reach out to my tiny but still present and available reasonable me, that is, again, more than ready to grow.
This may all feel more unspectacular, less confrontational, less black and white and slower and in the first place less promising to you. It is simply a new, different and unfamiliar way of looking at these things, no more and no less. But it is definitely more sustainable, more supportive and – most importantly – more tangible and realistic to achieve step by step.
It feels like the more suitable path for what I need and for what I’m looking for
Perhaps the questions of “How do I talk to myself?”, “I am standing in my own way.” or “Why am I my own worst enemy?” continue to transform into others:
- Have I ever thought about the possibility that there are two sides in me that I can choose to communicate with?
- Am I used to talking to the critical, doubting side of me? Or do I always just listen to it and actually believe it?
- Can I imagine myself listening for a while but actively decide to move on, without buying into that stuff?
- Can I find a connection with my supportive, reasonable me that is, well, present and available after all?
- What side of me do I want to nurture, do I want to see grow and succeed?
- In what ways could I see the supportive side in me develop? What do I actually need more of in my daily life so I can learn to support myself more and more often?
As of right now, I don’t have answers to all these questions, but I do have a strong sense of how I want to move forward from here. With a different perception of myself: One that is kinder, more gentle and integrating the supportive and loving side in me that is, after all, tiny but present and available to me.
Take-Away: What I have learned from this particular struggling exercise
Every time I ask myself why I am my own worst enemy, it helps me to remember that I am only partly in my own way – and that there is another side in me that is actually just waiting to be used, loved and integrated so that I stop sabotaging myself less often but support myself to take off and heal.
Insecurity is loud. Discovering and listening to my tiny, calm but present and available supportive “me” is possible though. It’s there. Connect to it, develop it, and grow!
What helps in times of misery or feeling insecure in your own skin?
A possible tiny step to move forward for developing a possibly tiny but available supportive side in you: Try this short 15 min loving kindness meditation. Repeat it for 7 days, in the morning after waking up or doing your morning routine, in front of the mirror, and let me know how it changed your perception of yourself within that short time frame.
Remember, it doesn’t matter what specific thoughts or feelings are going through your mind at the time. What matters is that you are taking the first step towards a more compassionate relationship with yourself. And that is exactly what we do with this practice – offering ourselves and others phrases of loving-kindness.