I know that the title of this post doesn’t sound particularly patient, kind or loving but I think that some of us introverted folks need to say it a little more often. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if a tonne of extroverts need to say it more too because it doesn’t really matter what our personality type is; most of us just want nothing more than to fit in and feel loved.
I do think that advice from friends and loved ones and work colleagues and all manner of other people can be so useful and its always worth taking it on board rather than dismissing it all immediately. BUT, there can sometimes be a tendency to rely so heavily upon advice that we end up refusing to listen to the most important person of all: ourselves. Remember that we are the ones that need to live with our decisions and so our gut instincts are normally quite useful as they are giving us an idea as to what direction to take to make us most happy.
I decided to write this post because it’s a topic that has been playing on my mind a lot since getting sober. I sometimes wonder who I’d be and where I’d be if I had listened to my own little voice that exists in my head rather than worrying what others thought or what they ‘expected’ from me. By the time I had gone down the drinking rabbit hole, I didn’t seem to have any idea how to listen to my own instincts. I didn’t trust myself because my confidence had reached such a crippling low and that’s such a scary place to be.
I have tried to pick apart what led to my problems with trusting myself but here’s what I feel that I have pulled out from it all over the past three years.
My early life was dominated by sport and as a swimmer and student my days were rigidly structured. I loved the disciplined lifestyle but something in my brain went pop when I reached 18 and I ended up running away to London and doing all the drinking and partying that I could handle. I then made my way to South Africa, met my ex husband and got pregnant. He left me after two years of marriage and I was left with a baby that I didn’t know if I even wanted. My life felt like it was in tatters and it was the first time that I had ever listened to my own advice. I had gone totally off the rails and I vowed that I was never going to do it again. From then on I didn’t trust myself and I ran every big decision by my parents for the entirety of my twenties. I became like a child again and that continued until I got sober over a decade later.
And now I look around myself and can’t help thinking that my life would be so much better if I’d just dusted myself off and tried again. I definitely need to have toned it down a bit, but I could have learned and grown like a normal human.
I know that it’s useless to spend too much energy on this wondering, but it has made me think about the advice I would give myself if I could talk to that very frightened young woman.
First and foremost I would tell her not to be frightened. No matter what has happened over the years, I’ve always landed on my feet and this would have continued to be the case even if I’d been a bit more daring and tried things my way. And if things did get really bad then I’d just dust myself off again and start over, just as I did when my husband left us.
If I could do anything differently it would be to try and use my creativity more. I’m sure that there are a lot of airy fairy dreamers out there, just like me, who struggle in the 9-5 corporate world but they slog it out because that’s what they’re expected to do. The advice given to everyone is to get a boring job and just suck it up. It’s well meaning advice because parents and friends don’t want to see you poor and suffering, but it is still really sucky advice because it’s bound to make you unhappy.
So I want to ‘advise’ you to listen to yourself. You will probably get it wrong a few times and if you’re anything like me you’ll probably get it spectacularly wrong, but at least you’ll only have yourself to blame. There’s nothing worse than a plan gone wrong and then feeling bitter towards the person who told you to do it.
And you may not make it in whatever your heart desires but wouldn’t you rather die trying that grinding away at the office because your mum told you it was a safe bet and God forbid that you should go against what she says?! And what if you do make it in that thing that you’re dreaming of? What if you do suddenly find yourself getting that book deal or winning X-factor or gold in the Olympics? Could you live with yourself if you were miserable in a job you hated when you could have had that moment of magic, if only for that moment?
I’m not saying that the 9-5 office job is bad and if that provides you with the fulfilling and happy life that you want then you should absolutely keep going. You are already luckier than the vast majority of people in the world if you are quietly content with your lot because you are happy. But don’t do something because everyone around you says that it’s the right thing to do. Do the thing that gives you satisfaction. You might still have to do something to top up your income but if it means taking a pay cut to go part time and write that book you’ve been meaning to write, then why not?
Have fun out there peeps; it’s meant to be a pleasurable journey!
What if I fall? Oh, but my darling, what if you fly?Erin Hanson and Winnie the Pooh