professional and self-exploration in the digital age
Have you ever had moments where you feel unstoppable and on top of the world and then a few weeks later you feel unproductive, overwhelmed, or lazy? For years, this was my life. “I need to be more disciplined” and “I deserve a break” were tossed around so casually that eventually I created a cycle I felt stuck in. Everyone else is so together. Even when I saw the madness, I still felt like maybe I was broken in that aspect. I’d have weeks where I was so on top of my game that I’d reward myself with a well-deserved break; typically including binge TV and Uber Eats. Until a week would go by of me just getting by, and I’d start to feel disappointed. I crawled into this cycle of creating practical goals, starting off strong, then falling off the wagon as soon as I rewarded myself with something minor, until eventually my self-indulgent tug-and-pull just wasn’t it anymore. Rest days, not rest weeks; otherwise, how was I ever supposed to be able to create stability?
While I was so focused on being in this self-destructive cycle, I shortly realized I wasn’t actually doing anything to break free. Instead, I beat myself up over half-failed attempts, without accepting that the prize was always the attempt, whether I could give it my all or not. I learned how to replace shame with compassion. Rather than sulking in defeat with a phrase like “oh well, I tried”, I shared a genuine moment with myself: “you know what? I tried”. The difference is that I asked myself “what else did you expect?” before I ever fully allowed myself to try. “Things always go wrong” so I had already accepted failure. However, in the second phrase: I looked at an individual moment with a fresh mind. Even if I thought it would go one way based on past experiences, I allowed myself to view that moment for the first time which then helped me acknowledge my failed attempt, but also that it took courage (which is like kind of rare in the digital age now that we can hide behind phones, by the way). I started to achieve my goals while still holding myself accountable; but, instead of calling myself out, I started calling myself in.
Calling Yourself Out vs. Calling Yourself In
If you’ve ever been told that you spend too much time overthinking, are too critical, or too sensitive, I have some news for you: you’re not the problem. Up until now, our society has been based on shame culture, a culture where you’re praised for having it all together (appearing to) and scolded for displaying any sign of human “error” like spilling a drink, dressing expressively, or being nervous during a public speech. Also known as a catalyst to mental health issues like insecurity, anxiety, and self-loathing, shame culture teaches us how to compare ourselves against others before we even understand what we’re comparing. Rather than account for individual circumstances, we’re taught to base our self worth according to where we rank on the scale of good versus bad, also known as successful versus slacking. For me, this made transitioning into adulthood so much harder.
As an adult, everyone goes off on a completely different path, with no common ground. We all become rogue agents and if you allow yourself to live in shame culture, you’ll find yourself sizing up to people who don’t even want the same things as you. This took a while for me to understand and during the process of understanding this, the shame crept in louder than ever, every time I didn’t reach one of my goals. I always felt like there was more that I could be doing. People my age were building apps, buying homes, and getting engaged while I was giving myself a break for working out 3 times that week. I genuinely felt bad and like I didn’t have the drive I thought I did and was slowly less motivated to care. After many failed attempts of breaking my cycle, I was able to realize that it was more than possible for me to thrive in a professional career without sacrificing the things I once drowned in.
You’ve Called Yourself in, Now What?
At the time, I had just started my first career and when my nerve-inducing outgoingness came to a close, real life hit quickly. I had already set up this expectation of myself, yet in every meeting I began to get flustered, my speech was always jumbled, and I’d leave each call with burning cheeks and a strong feeling of disappointment. I wasn’t being the person I knew I was capable of nor the person that I wanted to be. I shortly identified the trigger was that I was attending more meetings with people that I didn’t normally interact with. But still, why was I getting so nervous at the idea of even introducing myself? Well once I identified the trigger, I had a revelation in a solo conversation. Growing up I was always the shy, quiet girl. Now in my adulthood, I fail to believe that shyness exists. Instead I see it as a passive word to cover up fear and anxiousness that no one ever comforted, instead they just adapted to it. I used shyness to my advantage and invested more energy into things I actually cared about.
Realizing this, though, made everything click in terms of my workplace anxiety. I learned that it wasn’t that I was incapable, or really shy like I started to believe, it was that no one ever gave me that space to try before. The fact that people wanted to hear me speak without speaking over me or for me was new and terrifying. The best part is that there was no one to be mad at. Instead, I had an aha moment of relief, saved myself therapy-induced pity, and went straight into action mode. I started reading books aloud, watching TED talks, and having overly revealing conversations with my boss and strangers with intense eye contact. Instead of allowing myself to sit back and watch the conversation out of fear of stumbling on my words or not saying the right thing, I consciously chose to be a part of the conversation every single time. And even though I still got flustered, had moments with sky-rocketing anxiety, or felt a bit down for not being able to articulate my thoughts the way I wanted to, I made every mess up an opportunity to call myself in with a pat on the back instead of shaming myself for being confident to try.
I started to realize that every time I thought I was failing myself, I was only failing society. I’m okay with that. I was never dumb or broken, lazy or unproductive, I was simply a product of a culture that taught me it was okay to allow the world to think for us; in fact, it was preferred. As soon as I called myself in, I realized that the majority of my fears, anxiety, and insecurity all stemmed from limiting beliefs. Now that I knew there wasn’t something wrong with me, I could override them without having to crawl down the rabbit-hole-therapy technique. Instead I chose to take a proactive route of identifying the root of my problem, where it came from, and how to take my power in that area back. I didn’t focus on why it happened or how it made me feel, I already knew how it made me feel. In this process of constantly calling myself in, I began to recognize how much time I let go by, and how much of myself I was getting back and getting to know.Y
Describe the situation to yourself. Why does it stand out to you? What's another time you felt like this? How can I alter the outcome (think action item) this time around?
Whenever you hit a new revelation, big or small, think of what that show's interviewer would say or ask in response.
Example: You've started going to bed earlier like you wanted, but slip up and have a late night. Instead of feeling like you failed, acknowledge that you tried then commit again tomorrow.
When you want to stop, stop. This isn't a fad; you're creating a new life-long language with yourself, so go easy! You'll get further doing this for even 5 minutes a day versus burning yourself out.
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