What you must never ignore about yourself

understanding yourself

What you must never ignore about yourself

Recently, I found myself stuck. You know the feeling. It wasn’t a particular problem that had me spinning my wheels; it was more of an all-encompassing frustration, a massive mental block preventing me from accomplishing anything at all. My attention was scattered. My energy was low. I was putting minimal effort into my work.

But, as I have many times over the years, I returned to the advice a mentor gave me long ago: When you’re overwhelmed, confused, or lack drive, look for the hard truths you’re probably ignoring. Then, make a list. What do you know to be true but wish wasn’t? What do you want to change but know you have to accept?

You probably don’t have to think very hard for the answers. We all have a list, and I’m willing to bet that they’re all only slightly variant from one another. More often that not, the unwillingness to face one of these truths is what’s keeping you stuck.

Accepting each reality head-on almost always loosens the knot, and frees up your energy to accept what you can’t change, and change what you can. Most recently, my “hard truth” list looked like this:

People are self-absorbed, myself included. We all spend most of our mental energy thinking about ourselves. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Self-reflection is how we become stronger, which in turn makes us better equipped to help others.

I suck at a lot of things. Sometimes I try to chase every single opportunity that comes my way — and most of the time, I’m not as talented, competent, or brilliant as I think. The good news: This gives me a reason to only focus on the things I’m truly good at. Isn’t that liberating?

Most people won’t get me. And that’s okay. If I can get comfortable with myself — comfortable enough to present the truest version of myself to the world — the acceptance I get will be that much more valuable. And the people who provide it will become the ones who matter most.

I only get stronger by doing hard things. When life is easy, we become complacent. Growth comes from doing things that require serious effort.

Making a living requires making difficult choices. I have a finite amount of time in a day, and anything I do is a choice about how to spend it: Will I catch up on email or meet my friends at a bar? Will I spend an extra hour at the office, or will I go catch a movie? I also have to be a person outside of work. Navigating that balance requires an endless series of decisions.

Free things are worthless. When you give away all your time or work for free, others won’t value it.

Maintaining relationships takes effort. Never take people for granted, or they might walk away.

Suffering is good. A little bit of pain can bring a lot of perspective and empathy. Don’t be afraid of it.

It’s okay to be alone. I don’t have to be around people 24/7. I also don’t have to be friends with people I don’t enjoy spending time with, or be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t make me happy. I’m better off when I can think of myself as good company.

It’s painful — and helpful — to be in my own discomfort. Wherever we are knotted, we have the capacity to loosen. The way out is just to keep collecting lessons, and keep paying attention to the ones we least want to see.

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