The start of Q2 went great! I took up a 50-hour Yin Yoga teacher training, because I wanted to integrate my yin yoga practice with my regular introspection. Then it started to slow down because I was busy touching grass. I wasn’t focused on my Notion game that much either. I did continue writing, but I didn’t publish as many posts as I’d like to. Then came June when everything plummeted, despite going for a trip in London.
June was a taxing month which continued to July, but it became clearer to me what I needed to let go of. These are some of the things I wish I had been reminded of earlier, some of which deserve their own blog post later on.
Letting go of your ego to be happier (and viewing the bigger picture in life)
I never knew what that really meant, despite coming from a Buddhist family. It’s always “let go of your ego”, but what is the ego? At least in my eyes, ego is how we perceive ourselves, including how we want others to perceive us, to the point where we may become resistant to change. I think that is what people mean by “stop caring what others think of you,” because you’ll be a lot happier that way.
Work stress and anxiety caught up, even more than usual. I was concerned about how I wanted to be perceived at work. I cared about the image that I wanted to project. I didn’t want to be “that” person who wasn’t performing or doing enough (despite doing the work outside of my scope), when everyone else was grinding away. (What is even enough? It’ll never be enough) I became more than just physically and mentally exhausted. My emotional health took a toll because of the expectations that my ego sought to uphold. There were times that I lost my appetite but I still had to force down something to fill my belly, or even the thought of work made me nauseous. Even when I was travelling, my anxiety levels were off the charts because I could not stop thinking about work. I knew I was burning out fast. However, I still couldn’t help but to cling onto my ego at work because it was all that mattered to me. It wasn’t something that I’d experienced before in my previous jobs. So there must be something wrong.
When work finally slowed down, I did feel that if I let go of this ego and accepted the criticism at work, I feel a bit lighter and happier and focus better at work. People’s remarks didn’t matter because I chose to be happier than to let my ego rule me. It’s not to say I can’t accept criticism, but there are better ways to provide feedback without putting someone down. I’m thankful that I had good colleagues and bosses in the past, and it’s unfortunate that not many people experienced the same.
What also helped was to remind myself that I’m more than just my job or the work I do. Sometimes it’s good to look at the bigger picture in life and realise that you still have your family and friends, your hobbies and personal work, besides your 9-6 job. In fact, the more things you do outside of work, the better. At least pieces of your life are split into different areas, rather than having your entire self fall into one bucket. Even if you struggle in one aspect of your life, you still have the other pieces to pull you up.
Sitting with your thoughts and feelings
The more you run away from your negative thoughts, the more they chase after you. Imagine them like a black stray dog. The minute you show fear and run away from it, the more it signals to them to chase you. But if you keep still, it’ll probably not bother you as much. Probably. It may sound counterintuitive, but it’s the same as sitting with your thoughts and feelings and just let them be as they are. Because, unsurprisingly and ironically, you cannot think your way out of overthinking.
While I was supposed to be unwinding overseas, I was still thinking about work, especially when I was alone with my thoughts. While I did enjoy my time meeting up with friends, I craved for any social interactions as a distraction from my anxiety. Normally I’d be more than happy to be alone with my thoughts, but not this time. Every time my mind had a moment to breathe, work came to mind. What did I need to do when I get back? Should I feel bad for being overseas when everyone else is grinding away? Am I good enough to go on this trip? Am I good enough for this job? I should have done this and that to manage expectations before I left. Is it my fault that I’m not competent enough? My thoughts made me feel more anxious and nauseous. I hated it. I hated that I felt awful on leave. I hated that I could choose to work during my leave, but thankfully I chose not to. I tried to force these thoughts out of my head, but they persisted, along with the negative feelings they brought. I wanted to run away from them like a plague. My trip wasn’t all that pleasant.
When I returned from my trip, it seemed as though I hadn’t left. Work poured immediately upon my return. I didn’t have a chance to catch up with my team (and vice versa) as everyone was swamped. No one asked about my trip either. Naturally, I put my head down and worked. But the nausea accompanied me until the work slowed down a few weeks later.
I wished I had the time to sit down with my feelings. I didn’t have time for myself until recently. But it was scary and unsettling to sit with my thoughts and feelings because it made me feel horrible about myself and nothing I did was good enough. So I kept trying to avoid them by distracting myself with more work. At some point, I just got tired of running away. So I sat down and felt all of my thoughts and feelings. I’m not sure how to explain it, but the more I just sat with them like a companion, the more they didn’t feel as scary as I thought they were. Just like a stray dog, it wouldn’t bother you as much if you were still with it.
In time, I somewhat forgot why I was filled with so much dread and anxiety. I don’t think we always need to justify or label our thoughts and feelings. Sometimes it’s okay to let them be. Or hang around them like a friend. Just listen and feel them as they are.
Knowing what you really like
This shit is honestly the hardest thing to figure out when you don’t even know what your wants and needs are to begin with. I thought I was closer to figuring things out, but there were still times where I couldn’t discern if I was doing something because I was genuinely curious to try and enjoy it, or whether I was having a huge FOMO. But I think I’m closer now than before (I say this every quarter lol) last year when I was exploring a bunch of things.
I questioned myself again, wondering if I did enjoy something, why did I choose to put it off? Why didn’t I have the motivation? Was it the fear of not being able to do something well enough, or was it merely a lack of interest? For example, I think I like writing, but I still procrastinate. Does that mean I don’t like it enough? But I realised that the fact that I am excited about the outcome is proof that I do like writing. It means a lot to me to see myself learn and think better with writing because it helps me grow as a person. If not, I’d care less about it. Another way to look at it is I think climbing is fun, but I don’t think I like it enough to pursue it because I don’t care much about the process or results of climbing. I also need to set priorities and identify what’s more important to me right now. I could do a million things, but that would only lead to burnout.
So yes, in terms of writing, it does excite me, which is why I decided to double down on writing for the remaining year.
It’s just that I’m accompanied with fear and anxiety when I compare myself to other writers online who are more articulate. Why does my writing even matter when they’re better writers out there? Hence, I procrastinate. But that’s another business as usual, age-old problem to deal with another time.
Being comfortable with doing nothing
We all know this one — that nagging feeling that comes from doing something that’s meant to be relaxing, yet you judge yourself for not being actively productive. I tend to be more “productive” when I’m online, but less so offline because I’m busy touching grass. For me, being productive online involves reading or studying something new or old, writing, managing my second brain, and so on. But I felt that the more I spent time outside, the less shit I gave about being productive. I wasn’t doing anything productive, but it made me happier. I think. I felt like a normie (not derogatory), but I was quite content with life as it was. Was this how I was before I got into doing all these things online??
Contrarily, I felt less fulfilled. My energy was lower in a way too. I still felt uncomfortable doing nothing, that something was still missing. Maybe it also stemmed from the unfulfillment of my role at work, despite my resonating with the company's mission. And I wasn’t doing any of my personal work because I was spending more time on my job instead. So the problem might be that I wasn’t doing any work that was fulfilling for me, in that case. If I have fulfilment in the work I do, will I be more comfortable doing nothing when I’m taking a break? Or is it possible to continue to be happy when you’re not fulfilled? Is this even the right question to ask? Here’s another journal prompt for me.
I'm ending the note with something I wrote last year, which might help a bit. Just gotta keep unlearning and relearning.