We're getting a bit sentimental today as I tend to do around this time of year aka birthday time. And from time to time I bare a little bit more of my heart for whoever chooses to listen here on these interwebs. This week as I count down the days to my birthday, I wanted to get honest with you about the funk I had been struggling with for the majority of 2016-2017.
Have you ever been so good at pretending that you even fool yourself with the fake? Perhaps it's due to our social media training and the constant broadcasting of the "best" highlights of our lives. Perhaps it's due to our denial of not wanting to accept the reality of our conditions. Perhaps it's due to the lack of honest friends who are able to see past our facade. Perhaps it's due to projecting so hard in the hopes that projection becomes reality. But in doing so, we get stuck in the in between. We see the glass ceiling, the next level, the breakthrough--but we somehow get lost between rock bottom and wherever "there" is. We know things could be worse but we also know we are not where we want to be. We become ungrateful. And then somewhere along the way, the length of the journey boils into unhappiness but disguises itself as "I'm okay". Cue the apathy, lethargy, indifference--whatever you want to call it.
Luckily, I had a close friend who could see me where I really was and call me out on my unhappiness even when I refused to believe the truth of its existence. I am so accustomed to being a bubbly, positive, and encouraging presence that sometimes I don't realize when I'm being genuine or am just saying what I know to be the right things to say. After my friend called me out on said unhappiness (don't fret--it was brought up to me in a kind and honest way) and a couple of months post being defensive aka trying even harder to exude whatever picture of happiness and positivity I could conjure, I started to notice a real dip in my energy. The hustle had me more burnt out than ever before and my apathy was at an all time high. I was constantly questioning if all this was worth it. Anxiety attacks began to reappear after being dormant for some time in the form of tears and heaving while sleeping, while driving, while sitting alone in my room. Whatever was going on showed itself in my weight increase and my social activity decrease. It showed itself in my joking excitement to live vicariously through others. But what began as a joke actualized into more desire to live the life of others than my own. I was molding myself into a vessel of doubt but didn't know how to attack the dark clouds looming over me. Here is a page from my journal on Saturday, February 18, 2017 to understand the negativity I was breeding on a nearly daily basis, both out loud and to myself.
There is no quick fix to the funk. And there is no singular solution for each of us who face similar struggles. But for me, the slow turnaround started with facing the truth of my unhappiness. Only then could I start to uncover how many fears and lies I had been sweeping under the rug. Only then could I start to search for the root of these fears and lies. Only then could I even begin to talk truthfully about how I was feeling to my friends and family. Only then could I could start to believe God when He says, "You are enough." Because let me tell you, that funk was affecting my ability to believe in myself. It was affecting my ability to be grateful for the victories in my life, however big or small. It was affecting my understanding of what it meant to "enjoy the process". For as long as I thought I was treading deep water, I wasn't able to see that I was inching towards land. But I learned something recently that helped me shift my mentality ever so slightly. And I'm finally beginning to trust those inches are making all the difference in the long run.
Neuroscience can now demonstrate the brain indeed has a negative bias; the brain prefers to constellate around fearful, negative, or problematic situations. In fact, when a loving, positive, or unproblematic thing comes your way, you have to savor it consciously for at least fifteen seconds before it can harbor and store itself in your “implicit memory;” otherwise it doesn’t stick. We must indeed savor the good in order to significantly change our regular attitudes and moods. And we need to strictly monitor all the “Velcro” negative thoughts.
[To read more on this neuroscience study click here.]
I've been so quick to indulge in the negative and disregard the positive (hence the phrase "Velcro" negative thoughts). Happiness had been fleeting because I wasn't allowing myself to fully savor those moments. It's incredible how easy it is to constantly put ourselves down even without the help of what others speak over us or what society feeds us. Studies say it takes 5 positive experiences to overshadow 1 negative experience or 5 positive comments to overshadow 1 negative comment. No wonder so many of us tend to recall flaws before we recall beauty. However, slowly but surely, paying greater attention to the daily victories (regardless of size) has noticeably affected my productivity and motivation. I've even physically felt my encouragement tank refuel -- it's no longer a hassle or burden to be present for others but a genuine desire to see joy anchored in their lives. And being an encouragement to others is once again bringing joy back into my journey.
Regardless of the older we get and the more we learn, I don't think we're ever immune to getting caught stewing in negativity. But the inches of effort we make, make all the difference even when we can't see it in an immediate tangible way. All this to be said, don't be afraid to bare yourself to others and know who you can bare yourself to. Thank you to those friends of mine that give me space to be vulnerable, who see me when I'm not okay, and remind me that I am enough. Thank you to my Abba Father who sees me, who hears me, and who is always with me reminding me that I am enough.
Cheers to another year of learning and living and being exactly enough.