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.

 

A Year of Simple – Part 1

This is the (LONG) story of how I got to this point.

There are moments in your life when you have a new realisation. Sometimes its a lightbulb suddenly switching on in your brain, other times it slowly creeps up on you. For me in this instance, its the latter.

I’ve been trying for a while to “get my life together”. In truth, I guess I’ve been trying since I graduated high school, but I didn’t really know then that that was what I was doing.

I’ve always felt the urge to improve myself in one way or another, but I never really had an end goal in mind and I didn’t really have a role model to emulate. So for the last decade or so I’ve just been blindly trying out new things and sometimes these things kind of took me off track a little (or a lot) in terms of the self-development goals I had…but I guess that’s just life.

In 2012 I got out of a long term relationship, one that I had been in since university. From that point until now, I’ve changed a lot as a person. I’ve tried a lot of things, discovered a lot of things and learned a lot of things which has been great. BUT as part of that change process and period of discovery, it has also felt like its just been one thing after another, non-stop for 6 years straight and now I am exhausted.

In those 6 years I did/discovered/tried/learned the following:

  • Ended a 7 year relationship
  • Managed to navigate a way to maintain a strong friendship with my 7yr ex
  • Move out of home for the first time
  • Lived in a share house for the first time
  • Fell for an older man
  • Got my heart broken by said older man
  • Dated casually for the first time
  • Went out by myself and made new friends for the first time since university
  • Travelled overseas by myself to India, Nepal, Japan, Sri Lanka, Maldives
  • Had a brief overseas travel romance for the first time
  • Got a new job during that time
  • Travelled for work for the first time (domestic and internationally)
  • Started my own freelance business for the first time
  • Stopped my own freelance business when I realised how much I hated admin
  • Invested time to try new hobbies for the first time
  • Hooked up with random people
  • Learned a lot about dating, people, and open relationships
  • Dated someone who had been to jail for the first time
  • Lived on my own for the first time
  • Rented an apartment on my own
  • Moved house on my own
  • Assembled a crapload of Ikea furniture on my own
  • Cooked for myself
  • Did all chores for myself
  • Paid all the bills by myself
  • Moved in and lived with a boyfriend for the first time
  • Dated someone with children for the first time
  • Got my own pet that was solely my responsibility for the first time

During all of that I also had stints of trying to:

  • Eat healthier
  • Exercise more
  • Get fitter, lose weight
  • Cook more
  • Manage my finances
  • Save more money
  • Learn new skills
  • Start new hobbies
  • Make new friends
  • Sleep better
  • Have a cleaner home
  • Be more organised
  • Be more fashionable
  • Become a better person, nicer, more patient
  • Contribute more to the community, get involved, volunteer

Between all of that, it never felt like I had a moment to really focus on myself – not in a proper, full focus, dedicated kind of way. It was always a haphazard attempt here and there, focused on one area or another, in between everything else that was going on in my life.

I knew all the individual areas I wanted to improve on. It was like a checklist in my head, but it was never the big picture – never the whole picture. It was like I had all the pieces of the puzzle, but never in my hands at the same time and never put together.

To be honest, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I didn’t have a proper direction to head in or a road to follow. Even after I discovered minimalism, I’ve just realised that all I’ve been focused on is decluttering my stuff and making my apartment look more ‘minimalistic’. I’ve completely missed the point and the actual reason behind minimalism which is making space for the things you love and by things I mean the people and experiences.

And I’ve also realised now that even minimalism (done right) isn’t the whole picture, it’s only one facet of who I want to be. And that’s how I came to my slow epiphany over the last week. Even as I type this, the idea is still a little fuzzy around the edges and not 100% clear – but the shape is there and getting clearer by the minute.

I need to simplify my life, not just one aspect, not just my possessions, but my whole life. I want a simple life and I only want to focus on the things that will enrich my life. No more dating random people for the hell of it, no more hooking up with people for the hell of it, no more moving apartments for the hell of it, no more getting bored with a job and hating it, no more half-arsed attempts at eating healthier, getting fitter and saving money.

For the last 6 years, every time I got a little bored, I’d instigate a change e.g. meet someone new, try something new, travel to a new country, move to a new apartment, etc. While I recognise some of those changes were necessary, I know for sure that some of them were just for novelty value – just to see what it would be like because I was basically using them as a substitute to actually changing myself. Instead of changing my mentality and perspective, I was changing my situation.

And I guess it’s a bit of a catch 22 – because my situation was always in flux, I never felt like I had the time or energy to really focus on myself. Now with 20/20 hindsight I can see that I just didn’t know how to change myself and if I’m honest, probably didn’t actually want to put the work and effort in to actually do it – which is why I spent so much time making my life so complicated and used that as a distraction.

Having figured out the above, I am now making the commitment to myself to solidly dedicate the next 12 months to simplifying my life. No more unnecessary changes. No more distractions. Everything I choose to do I will do with intention and purpose and I will dedicate 100% to. No more half-arsing life.

The Minimalist Side of Maximalism

The people I respect most are not those that are famous or rich, but the people who govern their lives with iron discipline, who chase after their goals with relentless determination and who get what they want through sheer strength of will.

These are the people who live life to the fullest and in my mind also live life in a minimalist way. On the surface it may appear otherwise as they may have an abundance of material possessions and live a maximalist lifestyle, however it is their drive that is minimalistic in nature. Their singular focus in achieving their goals, without distraction, without inefficiency, without the unnecessary, is the embodiment of minimalism.

As Joshua Becker from becomingminimalist.com says, “(Minimalism) is marked by clarity, purpose, and intentionality.” While the concept of minimalism is often applied to a person’s lifestyle and possessions, I believe as the idea of minimalism grows, it will become evident that it exists and can be applied to many facets of life and many different people, even those that by all intents and purposes live a maximalist life.