Saturday, February 3, 2018

Personal Development Burnout

Dear Self, 

I feel completely overwhelmed.  

Where do I even begin? Over the last year and a half or so, I have been on an incredible journey of self-discovery and improvement. At first, I didn't know what was happening. It started out incredibly gradual and  effortless. I was focused on a diet that my friend and I were doing, but then, in support of that diet, I started making improvements to adjacent areas of my life and that snowballed to the point where I was a completely different person inside and out within just a few months. I was physically much healthier and I was mentally and emotionally stronger and more aware. 

At some point I noticed all the changes that I had made in such a short amount of time and I panicked. I felt as if I was running down an ever-steeper hill and I didn't know how long I'd be able to keep my feet beneath me. I decided to take a break for a bit and stop pressuring myself to improve.  I lost some progress and my life, for a time, went back to how it was before all my work. It was horrible. I don't know if I was always that miserable and unaware, or if the knowledge of how my life could be made anything less than that unbearable by comparison, but either way, after about a month, I couldn't take it anymore and I went back to my new self. 

Since then I've made some major self-discoveries and have been trying to work on growing in those areas. The biggest of which is that I have a very muted sense of my own identity and almost no self-worth or self-esteem to speak of.  Because of this, I latch on to people, become possessive and jealous, and tend to do whatever it takes to gain people's approval and validation. 
 
Living with the knowledge of this problem and my striving to correct it has been the theme of the last six months of my life. It has been overwhelming and exhausting. I've read dozens of books, I've spent a lot of time reflecting, and I've made changes. I've worked hard at this. I've worked SO hard (As I write this, I am realizing for the first time how much effort and dedication it has required. I don't think I've ever given myself credit for that). And I've worked alone because I'm the only one who can truly solve this. But at times, all the effort that I put in just made things worse for me. All I saw were my deficiencies, my weaknesses, and my inability to change them.  
 
I feel as if I'm in a catch-22. I know I need to start doing things on my own and to stop doing things because of other people. I know I need to start valuing myself so that I no longer need the validation of others. I know I need to become stronger and self-reliant, but I feel too mentally and emotionally weak to do this on my own. I sometimes talk to friends or family about it, but there's two problems with this. One, the conversation tends to turn into me seeking validation for my efforts, and two, when they help, it only makes me feel more useless and weak because I feel as if I needed help. 
 
All of this culminates in the fact that I am exhausted and overwhelmed by my thoughts, by my emotions, by my constant introspection, and most of all, by my relentless quest for self-reliance. 

I don't want to go back to how I was again. It was nearly unbearable. But at the same time, I don't know how much longer I can keep this up. 

Sincerely, 

Me 


Dear Me, 

I can see that you're very hard on your personal growth. I can understand the fear of sliding back into the state that you were in the past. I can also tell that you're putting a lot of pressure on yourself. It seems to me that you're pushing yourself because you feel inadequate and don't want to feel that way anymore. You want to be strong and self-reliant.  

From what I can tell, the pressure you're putting on yourself to become stronger is having the opposite effect as intended. You're being incredibly critical of yourself and that is damaging your self-esteem. You need to be supportive just like your friends and family are. You need more compassion in your life and when it comes from you, your self-esteem will start to grow. 

You should also try to focus on the fact that for the first time, you realized how hard you're working on yourself. Give yourself credit for how much effort and dedication you're putting into this life-long endeavor. It's not your friends that changed you. It's not your family. That was all you! Sure, they supported you, but you need to realize that at the end of the day, it was your efforts, your decisions, your actions, and your dedication that brought about change. No amount of advice, guidance, or support can ever take that away from you.  

Self-esteem is built between you and yourself, just as esteem for someone else is built over time. Take a look at all your efforts and growth and respect yourself for it. Build a respectful relationship with yourself. Over time, your sense of identity, your self-esteem, self-respect, and sense of self-worth will naturally grow. This will take time, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming.  

When you focus on your idealistic and unrealistic goal of this incredibly strong, independent, completely self-reliant version of yourself, it's impossible to see anything but how far you are away from it. All you see is your failings and your deficiencies. Instead, build a strong, healthy relationship with yourself. Conduct your life in a respect-worthy way. Be true to yourself. Be compassionate, love and respect yourself for you who are. Not who you want to be. That's how you build a nurturing relationship with your friends and it's how you can build yourself up and be your own best friend. 

Remember to be kind to yourself in the coming months and years. Like most things, this will be a process. It will take time. This is not a problem that can be "solved." You will grow, but there will always be something you can learn, something you can improve. So, your goal of solving this doesn't make sense and striving toward something that by definition cannot exist is a sure way to become overwhelmed.  

Sincerely, 

Self 

Yoga Class

Dear Self, 

I don’t know what to do.  

My girlfriend and I broke up a couple months ago. We were very close friends before we were together. When we broke up we mentioned briefly that we should go back to being friends, but we would be distant for a while. Around that time I stopped doing everything I normally did. I stopped going to yoga, rock climbing, and music night. All the things that I loved to do. All the things I looked forward to every week. This wasn't out of sadness or hurt. It was because I wanted to see what things I really needed in my life and what I would be without them. 

This week I've decided that I need to start putting these things back into my life. The first thing I was planning on doing was to start going back to the Sunday morning yoga class that she used to teach but had to give up due to school. 

On a whim, I decided that I should see if it was still the same type of yoga class or if they had changed it to another type of yoga. When I looked up the schedule online, I saw that she is teaching the class again. I immediately got a pit in my stomach. Even though we had a pretty mild breakup, I've had nearly no contact with her since that conversation and it seems as if she wants minimal (if any) contact. I want to remain friends with her and I thought that's what she wanted too, but I don't want to see her before we're both ready. I don't want to invade her space or have my yoga practice compromised by the situation. I need to get back into a regular yoga practice, but now that she's teaching, I don't know what to do. Do I just go for me and see how it goes, or should I avoid her on purpose and go to another class? 

Sincerely,  

Me 



Dear Me, 

I'm sorry that you're going through a rough time. I can tell that you're in an emotionally fragile place. I also can tell that you just want to get on with restoring your life to the way it was before.  

The hard truth is, though, that your life will not go back to the way it was and holding onto the hope of getting back to that life is going to hold you back from all the wonderful possibilities that are in store for you. 

You need to let go of the expectation that she will remain in your life. You need to let go of this Sunday morning yoga class routine. And you need to let go of her. 

If finding out that she is teaching a class that you were going to go to was all it takes for you to have to run for advice, you are definitely not ready to have any interaction with her. 

My advice is to find an equally healthy Sunday morning routine and start that tomorrow instead. There are lots of healthy, uplifting activities that you can do on Sundays in place of yoga. Go to a farmers market, go grab coffee or brunch with a friend. Maybe find a non-profit that you can volunteer at.   

You don't have to give up on yoga or rock climbing or anything else that you love doing. If you run into her, then you run into her, but don't intentionally go be in the same room as her. At least not yet. Do yoga on a different day, a different time or a different studio all together. 

I hope this helps. 

Sincerely, 

Self 


Dear Self, 

Thank you for your insight. It is definitely not what I was expecting to hear, but I think it was exactly what I needed to hear. 

I took your advice. I invited a friend to go to a farmers' market and a coffee shop with me. I had a good time. The farmers' market didn't have what I was looking for, but I enjoyed the walking and conversation. 

When I first read your advice that I need to let go of the past, and any expectations of the future, I immediately recognized it as what I truly need. And with that recognition, I felt a certain peace, relief, and lightness that my heart hasn't felt in a while. As much as I'd love to believe otherwise, I know that this is not going to happen overnight. This is going to be a process, but today helped a lot.  

Thanks again, 

Me 

Personal Development Burnout

Dear Self,   I feel completely overwhelmed.    Where do I even begin? Over the last year and a half or so, I have been on ...