The Dichotomies

I feel like I’ve aged an additional 24 years in these past few/several months. Or am I in a time loop, an infinite paradoxical void of nothingness and everything-ness?

Oh shit, I can sense it! This is either going to get really philosophical and existential, or I’m going to sound like I’m high.

I just feel so tired, so battle-weary. I have come to believe this is due to some kind of division deep within me. So much of my life has become about balance, and I realize I’m not the best at multitasking. I tend to focus all my efforts toward one thing until I become so exhausted, I move on so it seems fresh and dynamic.

Here, I present a list of dichotomies, as well as a balancing factor. This is all, of course, in an effort of catharsis and self-compassion (the latter of which I rarely allow myself, but also of which am learning to do more).

Part of me has this spirit of pacifism, where I’ve learned to let things be, and not worry, just go with the flow. But then this other part of me feels a new fire has ignited, the rage for so much injustice in the world directed at the underdogs. When am I not complaining about some new horrible thing I learned about these days? I seek balance in picking my battles. It’s exhausting getting offended by everything, and yes, I am aware of how idiotic that sounds. I’ve learned to find my voice in speaking up more and more, but knowing when to concede is wise. I don’t find myself getting upset over little things anymore. Rather, it’s this overarching “change the world” anthem that beats in my head. Who has time to worry about little things when there are larger things to worry about? And even then, some days, I need a break- a break from all the activism and social justice news, a break from what new shitty thing happened today in the world.

Part of me wants to stop eating certain things for moral and environmental reasons. The same part of me wants to be really healthy for emotional/physical well-being. But then this other part of me wants to consume massive amounts of “bad” food, be lazy all the time, and ultimately, not give a fuck about what I’m eating or doing. I used to be hard in the latter. I’ve relapsed on a lot of my nutrition, and to be honest, I haven’t really found the key to balance. I’ve just been trying the best I can to avoid certain products and really hone in on some daily routine for my meals. Feeling healthy makes me feel really good, but so does being lethargic.

Part of me has this idea that things will work out in the end and I just have to remain positive. But then this other part of me eats away at the positivity, leaving nothing but a blackened, cynical husk. Yes, yes, cut the dramatics, Brian. No (*Brian voice*)! Indeed, I must embrace both aspects. I’ve really embraced both my optimism and my pessimism (because both can be really strong in certain situations). I truly believe in this idea of sending out positive vibes into the universe and making the world a better place starting with yourself. I also believe everyone has an evil streak and the world is a dark and cruel place. I can never stay too go-with-the-flow because there are times when it feels like days are passing by and I’m passively taking in the world…and that is to say, I’m not taking in anything. So I must also find ways to take charge of my life and push forward despite adversity.

Part of me actually feels like there’s so many ways my life can be better. But then this other part of me realizes how privileged I am to be in the position I am. Think about this. We are told not to compare ourselves to others. We walk our own path, right? But then what happens when we need to foster gratitude? Be grateful for what you have, they say. Children are starving in Africa, they say. We compare ourselves constantly with people worse off than us because it makes us feel better about our own situation. Furthermore, what happens when we compare ourselves as a way of challenging ourselves to “be better”? People think social media comparison as this Big Bad Monster, but one facet I see is that it connects us to new ideas and adventures. You learn a lot of different perspectives and you see new places you may want to go, new things you want to learn about, and in these ways, you can better yourself with the help of comparison.

So where do we draw the line?

The simple answer is that it’s not simple. But here’s how I balance myself.

I actually hate the feeling when people try to make me feel better. It just doesn’t work and this is a whole other issue for another post. But a lot of the time, it comes down to “well it could be worse” and they go on to try and tell me person A, B, and C have it worse off than I do. It intrinsically doesn’t make me feel better about myself just because someone else is suffering “more”.

I don’t like when I find myself comparing myself to my peers who are seemingly much more successful than I am. And it is so easy to get down on yourself because of these perceptions, whether true or wildly untrue. I’ll be honest, it’s actually taken a lot of work and rewiring to get where I am today, which is this nice place where I’ve stopped comparing myself to others. I’m not perfect, but when I do catch myself comparing and self-pitying, I stop myself and remind myself that I’m right where I should be (and some other possibly hokey, though self-affirming mantras).

At times, this may lead to some complacence, as if to say “yes, I’m okay right here, I’m comfortable, no need to try to change.” In these instances, it’s important to look at your motivations. Intrinsic reward has always been a strong suit for me (and if it isn’t yours, you should work on it). In this way, I’m able to find it within myself to do what’s right for me, not because someone else was doing it or because I think people will perceive me better. Instead, I do things for myself to make myself happy. If you’re happy where you are, then that’s great. But if you’re not happy, the only thing that helps is to actually do something about it for yourself.

In fact, I truly find that comparing myself to my former self is the best way to go at it. Let your old self motivate you to be better and do better by yourself (and in turn, by the rest of the world). Nothing motivates me more than realizing what a little shit I was and how far I’ve come and how much farther I still need to go. I’ve fostered this understanding that “being an adult” is not an age. It’s a journey and it’s a spectrum (as is everything, for that matter). There’s a lot of time, yet there’s so little time.

In terms of comparing oneself to others, it gets complicated. Regarding those perceived as worse off than you, it can foster empathy/sympathy or pity. Go for the former. It’s great to empathize/sympathize with others, not pity them and by proxy, judge them. Regarding those perceived as better off than you, it can foster motivation or jealousy. Go for the former. Jealousy leads us down dark paths and trust, I’ve been there. Learn to change your mindset from being jealous to, instead, being genuinely happy for someone’s accomplishments and/or learning what ways you can challenge yourself to be more successful (whatever your definition of that may be (and for the record, my definition of success is to BE YOUR OWN HERO by being true to yourself and at the end of the day, being happy with who you are)).

Comparing yourself to others can be positively helpful if you’re in the right mindset, but it’s not always so simple.

I will conclude by saying it’s really late and I hope I was clear and not overly convoluted because this actually helped me realize many things (because I was able to put these ideas into words), so perhaps it will help someone else. As a final dichotomy, I do sometimes hesitate to post sometimes because I sometimes just don’t want to think about these things so hard. But in the end, it does help me to just put it out there.

Thanks for reading!

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~ by Btab on 15 May 2016.

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