Why you need to say ‘no’ to yourself

I had an epiphany the other day, after recently falling down the black hole of Youtube and consequently binge watching videos on morbid obesity for a week (stay with me here). While mesmerised by the plight of people who are morbidly overweight and still shovelling astonishing amounts of food into their mouth, I realised that their addiction to food is not dissimilar to my addiction to shopping, or my former addiction to smoking or other common addictions people have to alcohol or gambling. Whatever the severity of the addiction a person suffers from, the common denominator is the inability of the addict to truly say ‘no’ to themselves.

I think especially having grown up in a generation where I was encouraged by society and education to “be positive” and to say “yes” to everything, I have somewhere along the line, lost the ability to say “no”…at least to myself.

Even in society, the trend towards agreement, compliance and conformity has seen a resultant retroaction with the rise in books such as ‘The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck’ which teach readers how to say no to things, commitments and people in their lives that do not add value to their lives or contribute to what’s really important.

While I agree that some people definitely need a helping hand when it comes to saying ‘no’ to others, I am not one of those people. However, my epiphany made me realise that I do need a lot of help learning to say ‘no’ to myself. No to my appalling (but slowing improving) shopping habits, no to making poor food choices, no to spending so much time online, no to being lazy and not learning.

Previously, I thought that somewhere along the line I had forgot how to say no to myself. But after mulling the idea over a bit more, I realised that I never actually learned or was taught how to say “no” to myself. Since I was born to the time I became a legal adult, most “no’s” came from my parents. And by the time I turned 18, the number of no’s my parents dished out rapidly declined, but instead of picking up the slack myself, I started replacing their no’s with my yes’s.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing bad about using the word Yes in moderation when it comes to your own life…but when you’re using it indiscriminately, that is when things begin to slip.

So now after nearly 1.5 decades since my parents’ no’s basically became obsolete, I have to now teach myself how to say no to me. I already know this is going to be a hard lesson to learn, but it’s one that can’t be avoided if I want to lead a productive life that I can be truly proud of. And to think that it all starts with such a small word.

Thoughts vs. Emotions

I recently started a relationship with someone who is very much a ‘feeler’ rather than a ‘thinker’. It took me a few heated, drama-filled arguments with my new partner to figure out why we kept going around in circles, both seemingly unable to comprehend the other person’s point of view.

This opened up a new chapter of learning and introspection for me. I’ve known for the better part of my adulthood that while I have a fiery temper, a deep appreciation for sarcasm and unabashed directness in communication, I am quite stunted when it comes to conveying emotions that fall within the ‘vulnerable’ category. Anger, frustration, disappointment are feelings I have no problem in conveying in abundance because to me they fall within the ‘strength’ category of emotions. I’ve mastered the skill of unloading every ounce of unspoken disappointment or irritation with a sideway glance. However, when it comes to demonstrating emotions like love, care, encouragement, sympathy, sadness and fear I am as awkward as an upside down turtle.

Even when it comes to feeling these emotions, it feels muted and diluted. When I’m angry or frustrated, I can feel it in every fibre of my being, but when it comes to love it’s sporadic, unexpected and inconsistent. Even when it’s not “love”, simply showing sustained affection or paying attention to someone, is at times, difficult for me. It’s almost as if I have a quota of affection and attention for each day, and once that quote is reached, I need to emotionally shut down and shut people out in order to recharge.

This has obviously caused various misunderstandings in my new relationship, because my partner is the opposite and has emotions in abundance and for sustained periods of time…so sustained that it seems unending. I know if I wanted to talk to him for hours on end or spend time with him every day, he would be emotionally ready and available to do that, whereas I balk at the idea. There have been multiple times where he has questioned my feelings for him because sometimes he feels like I don’t want him. Me being the ‘thinker’ that I am then posed this question in response to his doubts: “If I didn’t want you or want to be with you, why would I be in a relationship with you and make time to see you?”.

Whereas he is ruled by his feelings, I am ruled by my thoughts and logic. To me, feelings are not governed by logic, and actions and words that are fuelled by feelings are even less logical. For me, my brain and my thoughts are the stronger force. Within me, my brain is the adult and my heart can be likened to a 5yr old child. When I am heartbroken, it is my brain that wraps around my broken heart, picks it up off the floor and slowly carries it forward and away from the source of the pain.

Another thing I’ve come to realise is that while it takes barely any effort for me to think and articulate my thoughts, the effort it takes for me to convey my emotions to the outside world is monumental. Recently, I was in a very stressful situation at work for a whole week. I was so stressed that I felt like my mind would snap. However, I expressed none of this outwardly. My partner and one of my close friends at work didn’t even notice anything was wrong or different for an entire week, while inside I was mentally screaming for 7 whole days. When I told them what had happened at work and how stressed I’d been after the 7 days, both of them (both feelers) were astonished that I had hidden it so well and for so long.

I think all of this comes down to two things:

  1. I fear emotion because it’s not logical and it cannot be controlled or reasoned with and while emotions do encompass joy and happiness, it also encompasses sadness and hurt.
  2. Showing emotion means showing vulnerability, which is not something I am accustomed to or comfortable with (and yes I have listened to Brene Brown, but that doesn’t make being vulnerable any easier).

At least I’ve come to these realisations. Now that I know all of this, at least I can be more self aware and try to work on my emotional capabilities.

 

 

Hello Me, I’ve missed you.

Living a simple life is much more complicated than I originally anticipated, so here is to trying again.

I’ve realised that I can’t commit to waking up at 5am, 6am or even 7am every day. I can’t commit to exercising 3 or 4 times a week. I can’t commit to tracking my spending and keeping to a budget. And while I would like to, I also can’t commit to a long list of other things either – like eating healthy/vegetarian/keto meals, reading every day, living a minimalistic lifestyle, etc.

So I’m going to be real with myself – What can I (realistically) commit to?

I can and WILL commit to making more of an effort and try to do one thing a day that will improve my life in the long term in a holistic sense.

One thing I’ve noticed recently is that somewhere between by early 20’s and my early 30’s, my focus changed. In my 20’s I was focused on being the best me that I could be and somehow through the last decade that has morphed from something holistic to a checklist of habits that I wanted to tick off. What happened to being a better person? When did that translate to getting up early in the morning, drinking lemon water, doing yoga, journaling, being a minimalist, following a plant-based diet, meditating, buying bulk foods and doing HIIT workouts?

When did I change my focus from who I am as a person to what habits I have as a person?

I know that when I got out of my last looonng term relationship, I needed to focus on discovering who I was as a person and building my independence. This naturally meant a great deal of time, energy and effort focused inwardly trying to find out what it was that I wanted, who I was as an individual and exercising the freedom and power to do whatever it was that I wanted to do, without consideration for what someone else wanted.

At that time, that was what I needed. However, I feel somewhere down that path I began to focus a little too much on what I wanted for a little too long, and now I am beginning to see that my time of self discovery has turned into selfishness and self-centred-ness. At some point I stopped caring what other people thought, even those close to me. I felt it was my right to do as I pleased, when I pleased, in the way that I saw fit.

I’ve had a few insightful moments of self-reflection lately and I am not happy with what I see. I have been more than a little too proud in claiming the title of independent, intelligent, strong and free. Somehow I thought to be that, I had to let go of caring, consideration, empathy, understanding and forgiveness. Now I’m seeing that in order to be independent, intelligent, strong and free, I need to be caring, considerate, empathetic, understanding and forgiving.

I took a step back and now I see a bigger picture. Sometimes, you need to take a step back in order to see yourself.

 

Welcome 2019

I welcome this year with open arms. I can feel the fingertips of my mind finally grasping the idea of commitment and intention. I will live this year with more intention and I wholeheartedly commit to my goals. I will no longer simply ‘hope for the best’, but instead this year I will operate under the mantra of “If you want it, then go get it”.

In anticipation for this year and to give myself the best chance of success, I spent most of November and December 2018 delving deep to think about what it is that I actually want. I also spent a significant amount of time listening, watching and reading about how other people are setting their goals for the new year, what changes they want to make and how they planned to make these things a reality. It helped open up my mind to what I wanted to do and how I was going to do it.

One of my favourite Youtubers ‘muchelleb‘ had the brilliant idea of focusing on quarterly goals instead of yearly goals to avoid getting overwhelmed. It’s such a simple idea, but in practice it makes everything seem so much more achievable and easier to commit to.

For my first quarter goals I have kept it simple:

  • Eat well
  • Sleep well
  • Exercise
  • No buy

This then expands to:

  • Eat well = eat vegan/keto 3 days a week = 13 weeks x 3 days/wk = 39 days
  • Sleep well = in bed by 10pm every weeknight
  • Exercise = workout/gym 3 times a week = 13 weeks x 3 times/wk = 39 workouts
  • No buy = no new things, only on necessities and replacements

To me having 4 very specific goals which are then broken down to smaller steps makes it significantly easier to remember and for my brain to grasp. Knowing that I only need to do 39 workouts over 3 months is a lot more motivating and a lot more tangible than simply “exercise more”.

I have also finally begun to understand that failure is not an excuse to stop, instead it’s a reason to keep going. Every failure is simply another piece of evidence to show that I was strong enough to have gotten up and tried again.

Goodbye Dear Sofa

I’ve been thinking about moving to a new apartment recently, just for a change of scenery and this has prompted me to think about all the stuff that I own. I began to ask myself “do I really want to bring all of this stuff with me to a new home?” and the answer was a resounding “hell no”.

I am still trying to break the habit of accumulating things I don’t need and I’m getting better at this, however, there is still the issue of all the things I’d accumulated before I discovered minimalism. One of the most glaringly unnecessary possessions I owned was my sofa. Now most people would consider a sofa a necessary item of furniture, common in pretty much all households, however my sofa was not an item of furniture I used often, if at all.

Most of my time at home is spent in my bedroom. Everything I watch, I pretty much watch on my laptop in bed. I rarely ever use my living room and I almost never sat on the sofa and since I live alone and rarely have friends over it meant no one else ever used the sofa either. So I decided to get rid of it.

I tried selling it but it became more effort than it was worth, having to reply to potential buyers, setting up a time for them to see the sofa, etc. In the end I decided to give it away for free to a couple who are about to have a baby.

The guy came with a friend and picked up the sofa two days ago and the moment it left my apartment, I felt such a huge sense of relief, like a burden had been lifted off my shoulders. I don’t know why but it felt so good to get rid of the sofa. There was nothing wrong with it, it was in good condition, however it just felt like a massive piece of clutter in my home and I was just itching to get rid of it and regain some space.

Now I’ve rearrange my living room so that the dining set is in front of the TV, next to the windows and now I have more room to setup a workout/yoga area on the other side of the living room. I feel like this arrangement complements my lifestyle a lot more and is a lot more conducive to the things I want to do more off (i.e. writing, learning and exercising).  I wanted to create a space that was more functional for my lifestyle rather than conforming to the typical expectations of what a living room should look like.

 

Before Sunrise

It’s rare that I’m awake before sunrise and it’s not a period of time that I’m very familiar with. I had my alarm set for 6am, but for some reason I woke up naturally at around 4:30am. I tried to go back to sleep to no avail, so at 5:30am I decided to get up. Two things:

  1. It’s freezing at this time in the morning
  2. I didn’t know what to do with myself

I did feel a little hungry so I made myself a green smoothie while listening to a meditation playlist on Spotify (how very Youtube-esque of me). Then I sat down at my laptop (which I’d purposefully left on the dining table the night before) to see if I could write something. I was too cold to write anything, so I took my laptop and now I’m back in bed writing this.

In my “Perfect Work Weekday” post I outlined my desired morning routine which involved stretching/yoga in the morning. Ideally I will progress to that, but right now I’m taking my wins where I can get them and for today simply being awake before the sun rises and eating something healthy in the morning is enough.

If nothing else, being able to get myself out of bed this early feels like an achievement and I think that in itself is worth getting up for.

Here is my green smoothie recipe:

  • 4-5 chunks of frozen pineapple
  • 4-5 chunks of frozen mango
  • 1 medium banana
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves
  • 1/5 of an avocado
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1/2 green tea (cold or warm – warm if its cold weather to help balance out all the frozen fruit, otherwise the smoothie is too cold for the morning. Warm tea also makes the blending easier.)
  • A tablespoon of chia seeds
  • A drizzle of agave nectar

Sorry I don’t have a photo of my green smoothie in a mason jar like most hipsters – I’m too lazy and unorganised for that this early in the morning.

My Perfect Work Weekday

In my last post, I wrote about how my typical weekday plays out each and everyday. It’s not what I want and it is far, far, far from being perfect. However, I was in Kikki K a few days ago and I saw in one of their inspiration journals a question which asked you to describe your perfect day and what that would look like. So here is my perfect weekday and what it would look like. This is going to be my goal for the new few months until it becomes a habit.

Morning Routine

  • 5:00am – Wakeup and feed cat, make tea, drink tea
  • 5:15am – Stretch/yoga
  • 5:45am – Write at least one paragraph in my journal
  • 6:00am – Shower and get ready for work
  • 6:30am – Get dressed – choose a pre-planned outfit that is clean and already ironed
  • 6:50am – Catch bus to work
  • 7:20am – Get to work

Work Day

  • Check emails and respond to emails
  • Focus on Deep Work for 2 hours
  • Break
  • Focus on Deep Work for 2 hours
  • Lunch
  • Check emails and respond to emails
  • Focus on Deep Work for 1.5 hours
  • Break
  • Focus on Deep Work for 1 hour

After-Work Routine

  • 4:00pm – Walk from work to the gym
  • 4:30pm – Gym for 30-45mins
  • 5:15pm – Walk home from Gym
  • 6:00pm – Hug & feed cat
  • 6:10pm – Shower
  • 6:30pm – Make dinner
  • 7:00pm – Dinner
  • 7:30pm – Do 2 chores
  • 8:00pm – Write blog or journal or learn something
  • 8:30pm – Read for 45mins
  • 9:15pm – Get ready for bed
  • 9:30pm – Go to bed

If I could do the above, I think I would be very satisfied with my day and would feel that I’d achieved what I wanted to achieve. I’m going to ask my manager if I can start and finish an hour earlier (I think he would be ok with it). I find that if I get into the office earlier before everyone else gets there, its a lot easier for me to focus and that focus translates to the rest of the day too, so that overall I have a much more productive day.

Also, at the moment I am reading a book about ‘Deep Work’ by Cal Newport. I often find it hard to concentrate at work and will get sidetracked mid-way through a task, which means I just end up taking a lot longer than necessary to finish projects. I really want to change this so that I am more productive at work.