The Vagaggle: Learning To Focus
I feel like I say this all the time, but I lead a hectic life. My priorities shift from teaching to studying to working to Instagram to friends to family, but there’s one thing that never seems to take priority, and that’s myself.
I’m one of those people who forget to eat, who put rest at the bottom of the to-do list, who essentially doesn’t take care of themselves. It’s been that way for years, but the difference is now I’m in my mid-twenties I’m finally starting to feel my body and mind panicking because they’re starting to realise that this way of life is unsustainable.
I’m not alone in living my life like this, in fact most people born in the millennial generation are similar. We were told that we are lazy and selfish, and we were told that the reason we weren’t achieving the same level of wealth and stability as the generations before us was because we weren’t working hard enough. Obviously now we know that really it’s because of things like rising house prices and rising costs of living paired with next to no rise in minimum wage, and although we’re working hard to let Generation X not fall into the same trap we’re still left with the feelings of failure that have been ingrained into an entire generation.
We’re so busy trying to prove everyone’s opinion of us wrong that we’re forgetting to listen to our own bodies and minds, leading to more and more people burning out.
Recently I’ve been making a conscious effort to focus on what it is my body is telling me and why it is telling me that and what I can do to change that, so for example, I’ve got a few free hours this afternoon in between jobs, I’m going to sit on my bed and I’m going to listen.
What is my body telling me?
It’s telling me it’s tired.
Okay great, why is it tired?
Because I left an assignment till last minute and ended up pulling an all-nighter.
Okay great, why did I do that?
Because I kept putting the essay off because I’m worried about putting time and effort into it and still coming out with a poor grade.
Okay great, why?
Well because I’m afraid of failure.
Okay great, why?
Because I’m worried then people will find out I’m not actually smart and I just pretend to be.
Okay great, why?...
You get the idea. Now what’s the immediate fix? To get some sleep. And what’s the long term solution? To address my fear of failure and my imposter syndrome by switching up my conditions of worth. By shifting my locus of evaluation so that I can feel confident in my academic abilities and not measure my worth by a grading system and tutor feedback. So I therefore put effort into an assignment without fear of not achieving a top grade, instead of pretending I don’t care and leaving it till last minute as a safety net, so that if I do badly I can simply blame it on that as opposed to my academic abilities...
Well not really, but it’s not meant to be simple. It’s uncomfortable and brings home some hard truths about myself. But it doesn’t cost as much as counselling and it’s teaching me to listen to the feelings in my core, rather than just listen to the learnt thoughts I’ve been taught over the years.
Not only that it’s helping me to listen to the cues which my body sends out, basic things that I’ve learnt to ignore, like that I’m hungry, or thirsty, or tired, or in pain. The basic instincts that keep us alive but that we’ve been told to push aside in order to succeed.
So if you’re interested, give it a try. Find a comfortable, quiet place where you’ll be undisturbed and get settled. You can close your eyes or you can keep them open, you can write down your thought process or just go with the flow. Then reach into your very core, ask yourself what’s wrong and then keep on asking why. Keep going until you can go no further and then ask what can be done about it. I like to come up with a short term solution for the surface level issue which I do there and then, and a long term solution for the deeper issues which I jot down and then reflect on when I have more time, or maybe take to personal therapy if I’m feeling flash with the cash.
I’m not guaranteeing it’ll work, but if like me you feel drained and that the candle is almost out of wick at both ends, then anything is worth a try surely. What's standing in the way of you feeling okay today?