Thursday, March 24, 2016

14 Things to Stop Doing to Myself

Photo: Dwyer.
I suspect I’m experiencing a transitional phase of my life, with plenty of changes unfolding around me—moving in with my partner-in-crime, a chaotic move, analyzing how my career is going, etc. As spring pushes away winter’s slumber effects, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to fix things which have caused near-paralytic bouts of fear and anxiety over the past few months, and left me with the feeling that I’m spinning my wheels.

While cleaning up the bookmarks on my computer, I found an article outlining “30 things to stop doing to yourself.” Reading it provided a framework to look at personality aspects which make me my own worst enemy. A list of items that nicely catalogues recent acts of self-sabotage I want to combat.

Rather than tackle all 30, I’ll jump around the list.

Stop spending time with the wrong people: not a worry here—I run with a great crowd. Where this is applicable, and already showing great results, is trimming my social media feeds, especially utilizing the mute/unfollow functions on Twitter (don’t fret—if my musings annoy you, I won’t be annoyed if you do the same). I’ve cut down to voices I truly enjoy or respect, even if there are philosophical differences, and now focus on institutions and organizations related to my work. My blood pressure has dropped considerably by viewing fewer Twitter fights.

Stop putting your own needs on the back burner: working on it. Exercises like this one, launching a newsletter, investigating new services I can offer, etc. One that needs to be addressed soon-ish: finally launching the business site I’ve tinkered with for years.

Stop trying to be someone you’re not: and truly acknowledge my strengths, weaknesses, and areas of expertise.

Stop being scared to make a mistake: doing so shuts me down, fueling my stress levels. Acknowledge life and work are never perfect. There’s much to learn from screwing up.

Stop berating yourself for old mistakes: one of my greatness weaknesses, as I have a habit of second-guessing nearly every decision I make. I could have done this. I should have done that. Well, yeah, but it’s time to move on.

Stop being idle: I berate myself for not dedicating enough hours to projects (even if I’ve worked on them for days) and for not stretching myself as thinly as possible to produce large volumes of work. These don’t do wonders for my mental state, blocking me up so much that I waste many more hours being idle. The right balance is out there.

Stop thinking you’re not ready: As Louisa tells me whenever I fret about a major project or interview, deep down you’re ready, and you can do this. There are times when I over-research, which leads to as many problems as true under-preparedness. Having stomach butterflies is natural. I sometimes think back to hearing veteran Toronto journalist Christie Blatchford talk about her career and how, decades in, she still gets nervous.

Stop trying to compete against everyone else: I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve stopped great ideas cold in their tracks because I saw someone else doing a fantastic or highly-respected job. Maybe they can do it better than I would, but that’s a lousy excuse for avoiding taking chances, or finding my own voice on a given topic.

Stop doing the same things over and over without taking a break: yup. Not doing so leads to mental and physical fatigue, fueling feelings that I’m spinning my wheels.

Stop making things perfect: a big one. See “stop being scared to make a mistake.” Also, my perfectionism eats up time better spent on other projects or enjoying life more. I’ve accustomed myself to working at a certain level of quality, hoping others will notice and offer interesting new opportunities. I must realize that sometimes, ya just gotta get the job done, or that imperfections sometimes lead to opportunities or great unexpected experiences. Take a perfectly planned road trip which may be “wrecked” by traffic or weather issues, forcing alternative plans which prove far more memorable.

Stop following the path of least resistance: I may miss out on a great routine-breaker.

Stop acting like everything is fine if it isn’t: I long prided myself on maintaining a public persona of being cool, calm, and collected. Those closest to me know this isn’t always the case. I used to bottle a lot up, internalizing my feelings because nobody needed to know about them, giving time to figure out a fix. Lately I’m realizing just how much the support of others really, really helps. And when I’ve been upset, I let it out…though I might not recommend screaming in the middle of Atrium on Bay while working a job I loathed, as much as a stress-reliever/cry for help it was.

Stop trying to be everything to everyone: the article mentions how this leads to burn out. So true.

Stop worrying so much: this has plagued me for most of my life. I’m a chronic worrier, fretting about things I should be concerned about, things I’m overblowing the significance of, and things I have zero control over. My imagination runs into hyperdrive when I have a major case of worry-itis. Rarely do things turn out as horrible as my worst visions. Shit happens, as does success. Don’t get obsessed about what others may think of, say, an article—there are always going to be nitpickers. Don’t fret about damaging relationships out of fear of displeasing them on a particular item—if it’s a good relationship, you’ll find alternate solutions, or laugh it off and move on.