I didn’t (and don’t) really know how to explain my reasons because I’m still figuring them all out. It feels like trying to tell a story that I’m in the middle of.
Kieran Moolchan’s inner monologue and story behind how he is learning to defend against his own negative self-talk.
GUEST WRITER INFO
Kieran Moolchan is a product manager, gamer and frisbee enthusiast, and mental health advocate in Winnipeg. He’s a charity fund organizer at A Critical Cause and is always willing to listen before even thinking about giving advice. He says ‘yes’ to less things than it seems like.
About 3 minutes ago there were about 700 words on this page about “being the best, like no one ever was.”
From that opening Pokémon joke, and went on and on about the our internal desires for greatness and how the process to achieve that greatness was blah blah blah
“Shut up, Kieran.”
I usually hate the first thing I write.
But that’s because it usually sucks.
…Or it’s because I’m conditioned to be extremely critical of any work that I do.
Many of us are conditioned to bring ourselves down. That conditioning comes from different sources and triggers, but it nags and criticizes some of us every waking second.
It’s that inner voice…can you hear it?
“Why would you do that?”
I hear that voice all the time.
When I’m writing when I’m talking when I’m driving when I’m walking when I’m buying groceries when I’m making soup when I’m running when I’m boarding an airplane but don’t have my boarding pass on the right page of my passport so then it takes an extra five seconds to switch to my photo page the attendant looks up at me and raises her eyebrows for a second and there’s sixty people behind me and they just want to get home to Trinidad because it’s February in Canada and wouldn’t we all rather be in the Caribbean?
“You’re bad at airplane embarkation.”
I was thinking about trying to put together a plan to make it my priority to find some time to allocate some personal energy to sending a message to someone I respect about offering to, if they were into it, and only if they had a minute, do some work for them for free, only if they wanted it, because I’d love to help them out.
“They wouldn’t even want your shitty help why even offer?”
There was a moment that I was putting in a resume application to a place that I have always dreamed of working but then I didn’t do it for three months because if I failed then my inner voice would win and I’d be embarrassed at…myself?
Eternally held back.
Consistently brought down.
By my own inner voice.
For some reason, I’ve always thought that my critical inner voice brought me a type of power. The kind of power that let me see my mistakes and look for a way to be better.
To be better next time.
Just be better.
But the negative aspect of that can be an inner voice that critiques with cruelty, instead of constructively.
Has my inner voice always been so destructive?
I think that when I was younger, I had a lot less ammunition to berate myself with when I tried to accomplish something. I didn’t know what I didn’t know, and that was exciting, not terrifying.
As a kid, I was curious and confident, though prone to the occasional outburst of emotion that was quickly quelled by someone, usually my father, saying that it was disappointing that I hadn’t expressed my frustration first and then found a solution, instead of letting that frustration fester into anger.
My dad was pretty good at helping me feel what I needed to feel without losing control of those feelings.
I’m thankful for that.
And so, I could see what I wasn’t good at, analyze why I wasn’t good, and then improve.
But that was just something that I did, not something I felt I had a voice inside speaking out about.
I was me, and I just heard…ME, inside my head.
I think we don’t truly start to notice our inner voice until it starts to sound like someone, or something else.
In university, it was things like long mood swings, and missed classes because I couldn’t get out of bed. There wasn’t just a lack of energy. There was also something different, something other than the same inner monologue that I’d heard before, that perfectly reflected the way I felt or the way I thought I should be thinking.
It was a tired voice whispering: “why bother?”
I didn’t recognize this voice.
I’m not saying it was another person. It was just a version of me who I didn’t recognize.
But after a few weeks, that voice would perk up, and I’d sound like myself again.
Then, in 2011, my dad died.
“Feel what you need to feel” was something that only lasted so long before I was stuck in the feeling. I was past grief and into depression. I quit school, basically. I stopped doing track and field…I’d been pretty good at it and I just dropped it. There were deeper reasons than just an inner, but it was shouting the whole time.
I was acutely aware of that voice now, during that time, and it was telling me that this shitty feeling was going to last a lot longer.
I didn’t want it to.
So I went back to school, thinking I could ignore it, or function with it whispering within me.
But that was tough too.
Because, as I found out through therapy and a psychiatric diagnosis a few years later, everyone has an inner voice, but mine was supercharged with the symptoms of bipolar type 2. I’m open to talk a lot about that diagnosis, but all that means, when it comes to inner voices, is that I’ve had the experiences of all sorts of internal narratives.
Sometimes I feel so powerful and unstoppable that I have to recognize that what’s in my head is much too enthusiastic.
During the best of times, and more and more often now, through practice and self-awareness, my inner voice sounds like the one I recognize as mine: curious and confident.
But the hardest voice I have to deal with is one that is a saboteur.
The one saying: “Why bother.”
Do you ever let your own inner voice get out of hand?
I definitely do.
And the times it gets out of hand means I’m no longer going through the process of trying to be better. Instead, I’m tearing down the thing I just did. I’m tearing down my own performance when I should be building on it. The thing is, there is almost ALWAYS something good about what came before. Even if what came before felt like a disaster.
The best we can do is build on what we did before.
Our inner voice, when it’s feeling like a particular kind of jerk, holds back our will to start and our will to build. It makes us feel so bad about the million ways that we could fail that we end up paralyzed and overwhelmed, unable to begin, accomplishing nothing.
And if we do nothing; if we have nothing to build on because we never started, then our inner voice has really sabotaged us.
The good news is that through all my experience I’ve come up with three steps that are simple to say and write down (but require practice) for when that inner voice is moving from helpful to harmful:
- Don’t pick up the phone
- Don’t let him in
- Don’t be his friend
Seriously, Dua Lipa ain’t wrong.
1. Don’t pick up the phone (Or, use your inner voice caller ID)
A lot of the time I can feel when my inner voice is going to drop some trash commentary on what I’m doing.
The monologue changes from “Let’s do this!” or “Let’s do this…a little better!” to something more nefarious, like “Are you sure you’re up to this?”, “Do you even KNOW what you’re about to do?”.
And then, before I can even answer with “Yes, I’m ready!”, it wants to answer for me.
“You’re nothing. Don’t even try.”
At that point, I’m not picking up that phone.
I’m going to dive in to the thing that I was about to get a negative comment about. If I just try it, just do it, and fail, that’s better than not trying it at all because my little voice was being a party pooper.
At least, after, I have a performance to improve on. And hopefully the rush of having done something a little out of my comfort zone.
I’m not giving that mean inner voice the chance to stop me from starting.
2. Don’t let him in (When that voice comes knockin’ don’t open that door)
Once I’ve done the thing, or I’m doing the thing, I have to keep up the momentum, no matter how many internal side-eyes I’m giving myself.
I am, embarrassingly, for some reason, stress sweating while I write this.
I’m alone in an office. There’s no one around. Yet, I’m stressing OUT.
“What if you/they hate this article?”
“What if my Dua Lipa connection fails and I have to start this sucker all over again?”
Oh yeah, that’s my inner voice.
I’m not letting him in.
I’m not letting that voice stop my momentum.
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Throwback to when I got the chance to speak at a Pecha Kucha night about my mental health journey last year. The way I feel today is a lot different than how I felt when I was fighting with the worst of my symptoms four years ago. ⠀ I'm where I am now because of the help of my family, friends, and mental health services in Winnipeg.⠀ ⠀ But those services could be better. When things were at their worst for me, it didn't seem like there was an accessible path to help. Resources exist, but they felt far away.⠀ ⠀ I still get messages from friends and friends of friends asking "Where do I go for help?" or "Who should I talk to?", and there should be more done to make it easier to know how to get help, and feel comfortable asking for it.⠀ ⠀ This Saturday, April 22, I'll be part of a 24 hour charity video game stream. We'll be raising money to support mental health initiatives in Winnipeg. There will be guests, stories, and a welcoming community of gamers ready to make things better.⠀ ⠀ Tune in on your computer or phone at:⠀ ⠀ CriticalCause.org⠀ ⠀ I love y'all.⠀ ⠀ Photo cred @ jeope (on Twitter)
3. Don’t be his friend (create a new, more constructive inner voice)
We’re almost at the finish line. Maybe I’ll go back over this post and see what edits I can make. I’ll probably engage in a little constructive criticism and then seriously question if this blog isn’t just hot garbage but what if it is hot garbage and when I read this post over the next day I realize what a huge mistake I made and that not even light edits can save it and…
Damn, I woke up in his bed in the morning.
I’d just gone over for a little coffee and critique and the next thing I knew I was fully under him.
“Come on Kieran, just charge ahead and hit publish.”
“Believe in yourself, the world won’t end if you missed a typo.”
“Most people are hopefully still on board with this extended song lyric metaphor, seriously!”
But for real, if you shack up with your hurtful inner voice, using it to justify the inadequacies that you think you might have, you won’t be able to lean into improvement and constructive habits.
That inner voice needs to change, or, if you’re feeling extra dramatic, throw it out and make it a new, encouraging and positive voice!
It takes a lot of effort, and practice to do, but that voice doesn’t have to be so negative. It doesn’t have to bring you down.
I’m not saying we should never listen to our inner voices.
I’m not saying that a constructive, cautiously optimistic voice doesn’t sometimes keep us safe.
Our voices are a part of us. They’re an amazing, powerful part of us that can drive us to do great things.
But if you find that your inner voice is being cripplingly critical, like I did, for years, and sometimes, even now, I hope that you can start the breakup process with your jerk voice.
With practice, and mindfulness, your relationship with your inner voice can become supportive and safe.
And if you need an external supporting voice, let me know.
We can practice together.
WHAT COMES NEXT FOR KIERAN
Kieran is going to keep as active as possible with ultimate frisbee, biking, and working out because one of the best ways to keep the mind healthy is to keep the body in motion. It also holds back the neverending tide of McDonald’s he eats.
He’s serious about listening and giving advice, so feel free to send him an email at http://kieranmoolchan.com or tweet in his direction.
Books, Instagram accounts, articles, podcasts, docs, TED Talks and more! Let’s get growing and glowing with self-love.
I believe we’re all on a journey of personal growth. Whether it’s mindful and positive, or not, that’s up to us. Some of the materials I’m suggesting here are specific to my life experiences and the types of things I’m working through, so keep that in mind. It’s about finding whatever works for you and serves as a beacon of light when you’re struggling.
If you’re ready to show up, get mindful, learn from your mistakes, laugh a little bit and make some changes — you’ve come to the right place. I’ve compiled a list of both recent and older materials that I love for your consideration. I hope you get something from them just like I did.
As with all articles: don’t judge them based on the headlines. I’d recommend actually reading them before you get your knickers in a bunch.
- How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation
- What’s The Difference Between Being an Alcoholic and Just Really, Really Liking to Drink?
- The Depressing Phenomenon of Men Who Ask Their Dates No Questions
- When Feminism is White Supremacy in Heels
- Girls’ Night Out (article + doc)
Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution
Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things
Gaga: Five Foot Two
Homecoming: A Film By Beyoncé
These are my all time non-fiction faves (my favourite fiction book of all time is here). I always have a stack I’m working on. Based on what you’re seeing here, if you have book recommendations for me please go ahead and slide them on into my Instagram DM’s.
- Literally any book by Brené Brown. I’ve read almost all of them and I will forever keep my collection of her books. (The Gifts of Imperfection is a good starting point)
- Sober Curious by Ruby Warrington
- You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
- What a Time To Be Alone by Chidera Eggerue
- F*cked by Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson
- Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
- The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer
These are gonna be ALL over the map. Follow these accounts if you want to be more socially aware, lean into antiracism work, get that daily dose of encouragement, want to love yourself more, love a good laugh and/or want to confront your BS.
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Today is the day. Take 2 minutes, or 20 minutes, or 2 hours. Do it however you need to… even lock yourself in the bathroom for 5 minutes! Take a few deeps breaths and some time to accept and reset. Be present to your feelings. If you attended my breakup recovery webinar last night and are still feeling it, stay tuned for the full breakup recovery course. Launching soon! #createthelove
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My shaving bumps came out to remind you that you’re absolutely 100% STILL FIRE and the concept of being ‘flawed’ is arbitrary in an already RIGGED system based on making women jump through cosmetic hoops for people who use 6-in-1 body wash. Never forget. There are people in the world using 6-in-1 body wash loudly dictating which women deserve to be desired.
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you are not for everyone. you will be an enemy. you will be wrong. you will be a devil. you will be offensive and rude and inappropriate. you will say the wrong thing, act too soon, and eat plenty of crow. you will be humiliated. you will be shamed. you will be in trouble. you will be evil. and god damn it, you should be. because it means you are truly living, truly evolving but most importantly- not giving a fuck. go forth in being untasteful, admit when you’re wrong and apologize to those you hurt. you are not for everyone.
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I have never felt more powerful or more at peace with my body than I do right now. And you know what? I deserved this all along. 🖤💙💚🌈🌞 Photo by the incredible @alex_cameron ✨ • [Image description: Megan is sat on a wooden stool against a grey and pink floral backdrop. She's wearing a black full length chemise, black lipstick and smiling into the distance while playing with her hair] #bodypositive #edrecovery #bodyacceptance #goldenconfidence #bodyconfidence
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Traveling while Black part 3,000: “…..white feminists tended to romanticize the black female experience rather than discussing the negative impacts of that oppression. When feminist acknowledge in one breath that Black women are victimized and in the same breath emphasize their strength, they imply that though black women are oppressed they manage to circumvent the damaging impact of oppression by being strong – and this is simply not the case. Usually when people talk about the strength of Black women they are referring to the way in which they perceive Black women coping with oppression. – bell hooks, "Aint' I a Woman" • • Yesterday, I was standing waiting for my bags in the TSA pre check line (I make this distinction because white people get very uncomfortable when you come into spaces that are made accessible to them via class). "Yellow.. its the color of the season. Did you know that?" I was wearing a yellow turtle neck and had to move away when this presumable white woman was going to reach to touch it. As I was walking away, another white cis woman looked at me as if she was seeing Jesus and said, "wow you look amazing!" Y'all its a yellow turtle neck and khakis! But Ericka, its just a compliment, nah its their discomfort on loud speaker. White people do not compliment each other to this extent, I know they ain't shifting their way of being when they see me. • • I used to get dressed for these compliments. I would wait to wow white folks as my internalized anti-Blackness said that Black people weren't here for my weirdness. This fetishizing didn't end when I was married to a white person either, she did it too. When we divorced, I wasn't able to grieve. "You are so strong, Ericka! You will be fine!". When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, same thing. This rhetoric is what kills black parents in labor. Medical institutions think that we are only strong too. Like (@kolbybrianne) said this absolutely plays a role in desirability, and Eb said yesterday, if Black femmes are godlike, who wants to fuck god? • • bell hooks goes on to say that Black women are strong so white women can remain victims. • • Black folks only: Have you had this experience?
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Why is it that in order to talk about race white women act as though their safety is in danger? They approach it as if it’s rocket science. They place themselves into a role of one who must be coddled into understanding as opposed to shaken up to their role in the oppression of entire communities. • The marginalized have been living in fear, pain and frustration for generations but all of a sudden white women are the ones in need of “safe spaces” to finally talk about it. • Share this because I’m really tired of discomfort being called anything besides what it is and white people aren’t immune to discomfort, it’s exactly what’s needed in this conversation regarding race.
Rachel also offers a free 30-day antiracism course (targeted at WW) that encourages you to dig in and #DoTheWork. You can sign up for that here.
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There is always so much pressure on us to be happy and it’s unrealistic to be expected to sustain contentment. Allow yourself to be happy, allow yourself to be miserable, and everything in between. . . . . . #recipesforselflove #happiness #love #quotes #book #quotestoliveby #life #quotesdaily #selflove #selfcare #loveyourself #book #booksofinstagram #bookstagram #feminism #lifestyle #instagood #feminsta #feminist #zine #illustration #digital #drawing #instabook #design #graphic #art #instalove #yourself
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taking nutrition advice from a collection of strangers on the internet: based on a true story.⠀ ⠀ -⠀ ⠀ Pick your sources wisely friends – there is no optimal diet or ‘method’ of eating which will be applicable for all. 🎉 In a world of keto-dieters, intermittent-fasters and BCAA shakers, don’t forget about the basics. ⚡️Prioritise nutrient-dense foods. ⚡️But make room for the not-so-nutrient dense ones too. ⚡️Fuel yourself w/ enough energy to live a happy, wonderful life. ⚡️And don’t forget food is delicious and should be enjoyed. Always. – (Ps if you did a factory reset on me, outfit #1 would be my look.)
Fave episode: Any episode from their 2017 series of episodes on Role Overload (single ladies, working mothers and working daughters).
Fave episodes: Her episodes with Eckhart Tolle or Brené Brown (she has multiple episodes with each of them).
I would actually recommend starting at the beginning and listening from the first episode onward. I think this podcast kinda broke the internet when it started and set a precedent for a whole new generation of female-hosted sex and dating podcasts.
Tbh we all need a good laugh or some insight once in a while, and here are a couple accounts I can always count on for that.
I’ve thrown myself into an ocean and I’m trying to forgo what I’d normally reach for as a life raft, so I’m learning to tread water as a result.
I think it’s probably safe to say that we’ve all experienced a period of uncertainty and/or change at one point or another in our lives. Depending on your situation, the transitional period might be by choice, or forced upon you. But either way, I honestly don’t believe one is easier than the other.
There is no time limit. It can be a month, a year or your whole damn life. Some people have learned to deal with this and they thrive here and don’t sweat it (which is admirable). Others, like me, seek comfort and consistency because that’s what I grew up with.
I’ve been in one hell of a transition period, y’all. I’ve thrown myself into an ocean and I’m trying to forgo the habits I’d normally reach for as a life raft. As a result, I’m learning to tread water.
I haven’t been able to bring myself to write a blog post for a while. A lot has happened. I feel like I’ve been hit with more truth bombs than ever before and I’ve had to show up for myself and own up to my own bullshit in so many ways. I’ve been trying to protect myself as I heal and change in isolation as much as possible, but I know I can’t do it forever. I don’t thrive when I hide from the world. This morning I reminded myself that there’s nothing to be ashamed about.
So that’s where I’ve been. I’ve also been writing a book, but that’s beside the point.
All this uncertainty has changed me in ways I couldn’t have anticipated. You might be thinking “well….fucking DUH” but I had no idea about all the ways it would force me to evolve. The Big Snooze (a term coined by Jen Sincero that you’ll read more about below) has really really really tested me and something tells me I’m not through the thick of it yet.
“It’s like when you quit smoking or doing drugs and go into withdrawal. Finally, you’ve taken a leap and done something that’s going to massively improve your life, and for days, sometimes weeks, you feel worse than you did when you were a wild child. You’re hacking up all this nasty crap, ridding your body of toxins, shaking, sweating, puking, wondering why on Earth you thought this was a good idea. It’s really fun.
Same goes for when we rid ourselves of limiting subconscious beliefs that have been holding us back and take a giant leap outside our comfort zone. It’s a detox of such staggering proportions that sometimes it can feel like The Universe is conspiring against us — trees fall on our cars, our computers crash, we find our significant others in bed with our best friends, we get our identities stolen, we get the flu, our roofs cave in, we sit in gum — when in reality, The Big Snooze [ego, fear, the devil, whatever you call it] is creating chaos in an attempt to self-sabotage and keep everything as is, instead of moving forward into unknown, yet desperately wanted, new territory. Every successful person knows this and has been through this.
When taking great leaps forward, life often turns to shit before it turns to Shinola.”
– Jen Sincero, You Are A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life
I didn’t realize how hard it would be to leave parts of my old self behind in order to move forward. That it would feel a lot like grieving in some instances.
My workaholism. My drinking habits. My dating habits. Basically all the things that kept me comfortable but stopped me from feelings things fully or growing.
Hell, there are habits I’ve tried to walk away from 100 times and failed 100 times. It’s embarrassing, but it’s incredibly human. I thought I’d have put certain tendencies in the past by 25, but the truth is that there’s no good time (or age) to let go.
In some cases I’d do just about anything to let myself off the hook of taking change into my own hands and owning it. Asking “universe! send me a sign that something needs to change! I don’t know what to do!!!!” and the truth is that the universe had already slapped me in the face with the consequences of my action like a million times, and it was getting tired of my bullshit just like I was. So it gifted me a mental breakdown complete with snot bubbles, then proceeded to club me with a frozen trout while shouting, “WAKE UP YA SMART SLUT YOU’VE KNOWN ALL ALONG.” I came to in a different goddam dimension with so much clarity it hurt.
But that’s just me.
Hard truth: there’s no way to make leaving something behind that no longer serves you any easier. No short cut. No way to hand off the work. It’s all you, boo.
There’s no simple way to stop taking the escapism hatch and start opening yourself up to the pain of reality. Sometimes we wait to bottom out before we are forced to change, but what kind of way is that to honour the one life you’ve been granted? Don’t make me go through the trash to find that frozen trout the universe hit me with.
I truly believe we kept getting sent the same lesson over and over again until we learn it.
I can certainly say I’ve been sick of my own bullshit many times, but I know firsthand that doesn’t mean change will follow. Beating the odds and making change stick can’t come from a place of shame, wanting to prove people wrong or being utterly frustrated with yourself and your failures. It comes from an entirely different place in your soul.
You love yourself enough to know that you deserve to know what’s on the other side.
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My past self still haunts me. Not always, but sometimes. Slipping in when she finds an opening. She is a spectre. Not quite a memory — a way of being. Coming back to remind me that at one time I was a different person who set fire to everything just to watch it burn. I can’t see her when she visits me but I know she’s there. I can feel her replaying old memories on a projector onto the back of my mind. The full body sensation of shame that puts you right back there in that moment when your world revolved around whatever was happening. I feel my spine tingle, and I know I’m not safe here. I plant my feet and observe that everything keeps moving even if I stop. I can’t go back to that place and time where she was thriving and making me believe that destruction was the only option. I remind myself she’s a spectre. Gone but never forgotten. Her lessons and scorched earth are part of who I am today. She left me with almost nothing so as an act of survival, and mercy, I left her behind so I could start over. I was built from a new blueprint on the rubble she left behind. #realtalk #poemsofinstagram Photo by @mskanishaszekely
To some extent, I’m also trying valiantly to accept the fact that change and growth has no end point. So finding “comfort” forever ain’t realistic.
Real, sustainable, healthy change can only come from self-love. And I know firsthand, learning to love yourself isn’t a goddam picnic.
When I started on a self-love journey in 2015, I didn’t know what I was in for. All I knew is that I needed to change, but at the time, I wasn’t using the right fuel to make it happen.
These are what my moments of self-love look like these days. I feel myself changing as I move through making new habits and it turns out that what’s on the other side of it is…clarity. Which can be great but overwhelming. Sometimes it’s practically so blinding it stings.
So how am I coping with this newfound clarity? Well. It’s not glamorous.
It’s coping, after all 🤷♀️
I’m slowing the hell down in pretty much every way.
I’m staring out the window at midnight listening to music I loved as a teenager on repeat.
I’m reaching out when I’m flailing before I disappear into the quicksand of fleeting feelings.
I’m staying sober and drinking so much f*cking La Croix.
I’m prioritizing sleep.
I’m holding space for people I love who are in pain.
I’m thinking about getting another tattoo, but waiting on a day where I feel great to go through with it.
I’m addressing shame and its vines that have grown around my heart and mind.
I’m crying. Because sometimes when you become clear on your own bullshit it’s A LOT.
I’m watching Eat Pray Love and Silver Linings Playbook like my life depends on it.
I’m playing with other peoples’ dogs.
I’m remembering that I make mistakes, but my mistakes don’t make me (yes, that’s a Mac Miller lyric).
I’m checking myself (gently) when necessary.
I’m making peace in the war against the eczema on my face.
I’m journaling pages full of questions for myself.
I’m repeating “you are enough” every time I leave the house, walk into a new place, go to sleep and wake up.
I’m spending a lot of time on my own.
I’m meditating every damn day so the squirrel that lives in my brain doesn’t overrun things.
I’m going to counselling like clockwork.
I’m having more difficult conversations than ever before.
I’m sharing my energy very very purposefully.
I’m standing strong on my boundaries.
I’m laying on my carpet at 4:42PM when I can’t look at my laptop anymore.
This is when / where the work is done. This is not a process that can be distilled down into a 30-second montage in a movie or cleanly cut into a vlog.
I’ve come close to stalling out in this transition period and getting stuck here. You can find a way to get too comfortable in the uncertainty in order to dodge further change.
2019 – you aren’t f*cking around. Damn.
I see you. I’m no longer being dishonest with myself about my self-limiting bullshit. I’m no longer avoiding change because I deserve better. And I’m paying for it in extreme discomfort. But it’s coming from the right place and I find comfort in the fact that I know deep down I’m doing the right thing.
I’m grateful. I’m terrified. I’m respecting my one life.
Emma Sherren of Blonde’s Eye View on when you do everything “right” but it still goes wrong.
GUEST WRITER INFO
Emma Sherren is a 25-year-old wine & cheese enthusiast, blogger, and self-proclaimed comedian. She has a degree in Rhetoric and Communications from the University of Winnipeg and has a career in events and marketing.
I always thought I was taking the right steps in order to set myself up for a safe and comfortable future.
I graduated high school, went to University directly after, backpacked through Europe during the summer, graduated from University and got a job. While I was in university I worked a full -time and part-time job in order to make money and also make sure I had some experience in my field once I graduated.
Every step I took seemed to be exactly what I thought I needed to be doing because that’s what everyone else was doing or had done before me. Although I felt generally happy, my day to day life had fallen into a robotic routine. Wake up, go to work, come home, sleep, start again. Of course, friends, family, and outings factored in, but I found myself going through the motions to get to the weekend instead of turning on my brain and getting creative.
Upon graduating, I had a couple of great positions that I ended up leaving for other jobs because of factors unrelated to me. In the past, when I would start looking for a new position I never had a problem finding another job. Finally, a couple of years and jobs after graduating, I thought I had finally found a job that I saw a future in. I was excited to settle into my position for the long haul.
Turns out, I was wrong.
I was let go from the position about three months in. I was called into the boss’s office at the end of the day, was told I would no longer be continuing in my position, and effective immediately was being dismissed.
I was sent to my office with a box to pack, and as quickly as I had started, I was finished. I was in a complete state of shock as I walked to my car and immediately started sobbing out all of the tears I’d been holding in until that point while on the phone with my mom. All I could think was, “did that really just happen?” I had never felt this kind of rejection in my career. I was angry, confused, embarrassed, hurt, and mainly I felt as though I had completely failed.
The situation felt a bit like a break up that ended suddenly with so many unanswered questions. I was not given any feedback, and because of that I felt like I didn’t receive any closure and had nothing to take away moving forward. My mind immediately started racing through my entire time there picking apart every piece of work I’d done or email I’d sent. All I wanted to know was, “why did this happen?”
I thought I had taken all the right steps to get a job I deserved. I was in disbelief. While I should have been gearing up for the excitement of the holiday season, I found myself drowning in anxiety, scotch, and ego-crushing emotions.
How would I find a job right away?
What would my parents, boyfriend, and friends think?
Why wasn’t I good enough?
I started to dread going to family dinners or seeing people fearing they would ask me about work or what I had been doing. Listening to other people talk about their careers or days at the office felt awful because I had nothing to contribute. I had never felt so lost in my entire life.
I decided I had to allow myself the time and self-care I needed to navigate this scary, confusing, and transitional time. This time included a lot of crying, carbs, wine, and feeling extremely sad and negative about myself. But during that process, I was also able to really think about what had happened, what I was feeling, and start looking for a solution.
Why did I keep thinking I wasn’t good enough? Why did I keep worrying about what everyone else thought of me?
When I had accepted this job, I had two other offers on the table but went with the one I thought would provide the most stability (ironic hey?). It took reminding myself daily that I was capable, hirable, and deserving of finding a job that I love.
I started looking at jobs but decided to not just apply for every single one I knew I was qualified for. I started to really think about what I wanted to do, and what I really enjoyed doing, opposed to throwing my hat in the ring for anything and everything. I began reaching out to companies, blogs, and other local entrepreneurs who I resonated with, looked up to, or thought I would enjoy working for. This time also gave me the opportunity to think about all of the things I did not want to do or habits I did not want to fall back into.
I enjoy a schedule and routine, but a few days after I was terminated, I found myself thinking about what had been happening in my life the last couple of years. I was losing my creative side, and feeling really drained at the end of the week. I would wake up in the middle of the night several times a week worried about work-related matters and was constantly anxious. I had stopped really getting to know myself, and I realized now was the time to become reacquainted. When I started to do things I was excited about or apply for jobs I thought I could actually be passionate about, I felt more in control about where my life was going to go, and although I felt unsure about where exactly that was I felt happier then I had in months.
This is what I’ve learned during my time being unemployed:
Don’t be too hard on yourself
It’s hard not to instantly fill your mind with negative thoughts after something like this happens, but beating yourself up isn’t going to help you find another job.
I understand, easier said than done. You aren’t going to feel amazing every day, and that’s okay! But the more you remind yourself that you’re a kick-ass modern woman (or man) with a ton to offer, the faster you’re going to be on the right track towards a job you’re going to love.
Remember all the reasons that the company wanted and fought for you in the first place.
Remember that a lot of times these things happen not as a reflection of your own performance, but because of matters out of your control.
Lean on your friends, family, and loved ones
These are the moments that your family, friends, and loved ones are the most important. As much as I was embarrassed and worried about what these people would think and ask, no one was casting blame or judgment. These people in my life rallied around me with advice, support, and were all understanding when I needed to step away and take time for myself.
Don’t let your own ego be the reason you don’t have a support system.
Take a breath (if you can afford to)
Of course, the first thing you think of when you lose your job is “how am I going to make money?”
I was terrified of what my income situation was going to look like, and initially, I thought I’d try to get whatever job I could as quickly as possible.
Then I realized that was the worst possible thing I could do for my long-term well-being.
I decided to take this situation as an opportunity to take a breather. I dipped into my savings and booked an impromptu holiday to Mexico with my boyfriend before Christmas, made new connections, began looking into jobs that really interested me and finally started writing again.
Things happen for a reason, and while you may not always know what that reason is, allow yourself the time to figure it out if you have the financial privilege.
What Comes Next for Emma
Emma took some time off from her job search during the holidays and started 2019 in style.
You can read her blog here: https://www.blondeseyeview.com/
When winter takes a toll, and our routines feel repetitive, why do we feel a little bit dead inside?
It’s usually mid-winter for me when I really start feeling like I have to drag myself out of the house and that daily deja-vu sets in.
For the first time, I took a vacation in late January, which I thought was supposed to prevent that feeling????? In my case, I came back during the coldest snap of our entire winter and promptly got sick and went right back to business as usual — watching Grey’s Anatomy in my bed.
In case you missed the memo, I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba where it’s winter (aka brutally cold) at least half the year, making it feel like an eternity.
Winter exasperates that rinse and repeat routine feeling. But I’d also argue that no matter what time of the year it is, slipping into a predictable day-to-day routine makes me feel a certain way, and I know I can’t be the only one who feels this way.
*Before I go any further, I think it’s important to recognize that it’s a privilege to experience the kind of routine I’m talking about. I acknowledge that a lot of people without stable income or consistent shelter/food want this predictability. Privilege plays a big part in someone’s level of comfort in society and I never want to lose sight of that fact.
Even though my baseline of happiness is a lot better than it used to be ever since I took some steps to manage my burnout, I still found myself feeling REALLY emotionally flat and generally withdrawn the past few weeks. A little “dead behind the eyes,” as my friend Amie would say.
Winter has a shopping list of effects on our bodies and brains — so that’s important to keep in mind. Also, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is very very real. Don’t even get me started on Valentine’s Day.
Those are all valid answers, but there’s one more thing that occurred to me recently:
We unconsciously expect extraordinary, always, so when life is everything but that, we get bummed out.
As usual, I will credit Brené Brown for enlightening me on this idea.
The idea that we live in a culture of scarcity shouldn’t be a surprise — feeling like we don’t have enough, or aren’t enough, is practically background noise to us at this point. Especially when, for the most part, we are exposed to extraordinary day-in and day-out on social media and the other media we consume.
So when you combine that background noise of NOT ENOUGH with the disheartening effects of winter, it’s…not good.
Seeing vacation pictures in the dead of winter is the perfect example of this (in my humble opinion).
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The weird, and the wonderful. This trip makes me think back to the first time I was alone in Halifax for a few days and I didn’t know what to do with myself. I remember circling a block three times trying to get the courage to walk into a busy cocktail bar I wanted to try but I couldn’t make myself go in and sit by myself for fear of being judged. I remember in Switzerland being too scared to ride a bike for fear of getting hit or lost and here I’ve biked almost everywhere. That fear is completely and utterly gone. I guess you could say I got better at travelling too, but I really believe it’s the confidence to do it on my own that’s changed completely. Truth is, people question you less when you’re not questioning yourself. #solotravel #nola #neworleans
I remember exactly how I felt when I was sitting at my desk last February with an electric heater pointed at my feet seeing tropical vacation pics on social media. But I think the problem isn’t necessarily the photos themselves, it’s how they make us feel.
Maybe it’s a little bit of classic jealousy, but I believe it goes a looOooOooT deeper…it’s a micro-dose of resentment and anger toward our own wintery boredom and ordinary-ness. At least, looking back, that’s how I felt.
And in my opinion, our habits and patterns during winter can get kinda boring and blah if we don’t put the effort in (laying around, eating comfort food, not having as much sex, not being as social…the list goes on), so we are especially vulnerable to feel this way.
It’s easy to lust and look forward to spring and that feeling of renewal. Looking forward to things is healthy, but doesn’t how you feel along the way matter? I would argue it does, especially since I have a feeling it’s going to be a while till we see grass.
I didn’t like the book The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson, but the chapter titled ‘You are not Special‘ is interesting. I agree with him when he says, “being ‘average’ has become the new standard of failure.” He also says “the vast majority of your life will be boring and not noteworthy, and that’s ok,” and I think that applies here.
“Once you accept the premise that a life is worthwhile only if it is truly notable and great, then you basically accept the fact that most of the human population (including yourself) sucks and is worthless. And this mindset can quickly turn dangerous…” – The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson (paperback, page 61).
Brown and Manson essentially say the same thing in two very difference ways: it comes back to gratitude for the ordinary, and self-acceptance. We need to believe that what we have right now is enough, and acknowledge and appreciate it in all it’s ordinary glory. It’s also believing that WE are enough, unconditionally.
The idea for this blog post came to me when I was cleaning up and purging my apartment using the KonMari method a few days ago.
I was doing some long-overdue work on my laptop when I spilled tea on the trackpad and it started glitching. So, I booked an appointment at the Apple store, but the soonest they could fit me in was a few days from then. I was already feeling crappy because I feel like I haven’t been very productive lately (this is the first blog post I’ve put out in…a while) and the fact that I couldn’t use my laptop to work just made my productivity-related guilt even worse. So I logically decided to make the most of the time. I had been watching Marie Kondo’s show on Netflix, and deep cleaning is something you’d never catch me doing if it was warm outside.
So after I thanked my clothes for their time in my closet, I got around to doing books and papers which is the next stage of cleaning according to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. After reading my old journals, which was just a recipe for a casserole of tears (spoiler: they are not happy), I decided to put on Oprah’s Supersoul podcast episodes with Brené Brown.
I was sorting through old pictures and tossing old paper documents when Brown said: “in a culture of scarcity, we are always chasing extraordinary.” I stopped and wrote what she said down.
I was in the middle of looking at the evidence of the very ordinary life I have lived, on a very normal Tuesday morning in the dead of winter, and I felt joyful! Marie Kondo’s method is all about expressing a shit ton of GRATITUDE and wow, does it work.
It was an ‘aha’ moment I guess you could say.
It made me realize I was feeling a little dead inside in the dead of winter because I was swimming in the feeling of inadequacy around my ordinary routine instead of cultivating gratitude for it. Why? Well, the easy answer is that NOT being grateful is the path of least resistance. I’ve also been a little aimless, and the “you are not enough” monsters were looming over me. The perfect storm.
Life doesn’t need to be extraordinary to be meaningful, but we do have to make effort to find the joy in the ordinary.
I don’t know about you, but when I think about the best moments from the last month it’s nothing flashy or wild. I think part of what made them so good is that I was fully present and open to appreciating what was happening: laughing with my friends, eating Thai food with my mom, bouncing around in boxing class, making a scrapbook of my memories…the list goes on.
Make a list of your favourite moments from the last month. Let’s learn to embrace ourselves and our ordinary, especially when we want to hibernate.
Joy breaks through the unimportant bullshit in our heads, through the concerns and preoccupations and finds its way straight into our hearts.
I honestly don’t know why there’s so much profanity in this blog post. Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching too much Netflix and Youtube. You’ve been warned.
I hate this question and I love it. Because if you can answer it with “yesterday” then that’s great! If you can’t remember, the realization can be a little sombre.
I’m not gonna bore you with some long spiel about feeling joy as a child and how we all need to revisit that childlike wonder because, quite frankly, 1) wow what a boring metaphor 2) fuck that. It’s not realistic to revisit childlike wonder because I have rent to pay, meals to prep and should probably call my mom back.
As adults, I believe we experience joy very differently than when we were tiny humans. I, for one, don’t take that shit for granted like I did when I was a little kid.
Life is constantly trying to deflate us, cut us down to size, check us, humble us, remind us of where we are at, throw us for a loop, and screw us over to teach us lessons – so if I see a butterfly land on a goddam leaf right in front me you bet your ass I’m going to stop scrolling through Instagram and appreciate the beauty and magnificence of life for 10-15 seconds. I went YEARS without letting myself feel joy fully, so now when I do let those moments unfold I usually cry like a disturbed infant that has seen a clown and I appreciate it that much more. Sometimes it’s in public while I’m wearing my shirt that says PRETTY COOL BUT I CRY A LOT and then I start laugh-crying.
Joy is a fleeting opportunity.
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The quickest way to happiness is learning to be selfless Ask more questions, talk about yourself less Study David Bowie, James Baldwin and 2Pac Watch the sun set with best friends from a rooftop Wear a helmet, don't be stupid, jaywalk, but look before you do it If it snows, go outside, build a jump, get some help Get a sled, thrash the hill with your friends, 'til it melts Go to festivals, camp, fall in love and dance You're only young once, my loved one, this is your chance – @macklemore & @ryanlewis [Growing Up] #tbt #loveyours #gratitude #growth
I’m freelancing right now so I’m struggling with having ZERO sense of routine and I woke up at the beginning of this week just feeling…kinda flat? Turns out it was basically a sign the check engine light went on, but I digress.
I felt “fine,” but I don’t settle for fine.
Instead of ruminating on WHY I was feeling this way (me? overthinking my feelings? WOW shocking I know), I decided I needed an injection of joy.
Then I found this article that hit it right on the head:
“Looking back, it was on that day that I decided that even if I was fine, fine was not enough.
Fine is not thriving.
Fine is not complete.
Fine is not what I came here to experience, and I couldn’t face another day of pretending to be here and whole.
My sense of wonder and magic, my awe, my creative spirit, and my light had been calling out to me all this time. Only I couldn’t hear it until then.” (full article here)
It’s easy to get so caught in life, rushing from place to place and checking things off our to-do lists that we can be bad at taking in those moments and end up missing them entirely.
Or alternatively, it can be hard to let yourself feel happiness or joy. I know it sounds silly, when you state it like that, but it makes sense because it’s fleeting and hard to trust. Like cheap food court sushi until it makes you sick.
Joy is the ultimate pattern interrupt.
Joy breaks through the unimportant bullshit in our heads, through the concerns and preoccupations and finds its way straight into our hearts.
Joy brings us into the present moment.
Joy and gratitude are two concentric circles if you ask me. Feeling the warm wash of gratitude over you is like stepping into a sunbeam. But the thing is, you gotta be willing to move your feet in order to feel it.
“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”
So I want you, right now, to take a deep breath that you feel in your ribs and stomach. Drop your shoulders and unclench your jaw. Read this then close your eyes: replay the last time you laughed until you couldn’t anymore in your head, then think about the last time you smiled because you couldn’t help it and the last person you embraced.
DOESN’T IT FEEL GOOD?! We do so many things expecting joy out of them, but the truth is we have to be mentally, physically and emotionally there to experience it. We have to let it hotwire it’s way to our hearts.
I’ll drive that getaway car any day.
Here are 21 small suggestions on small ways you can seek out joy:
- Hold the door for someone and make eye contact. Eye contact is such an underused, amazing form of human connection.
- Write down on whatever paper you have near you three good things that have happened in the last 24hrs.
- Give your mittens to someone who looks like they need them and wish them well.
- Find some swings. Go on them.
- Go outside on a sunny day and take some big, deep breaths. Even if it’s only for five minutes and the air hurts your face.
- Read two pages of a book you know you love (I can’t help but laugh at this book).
- Watch a YouTube video that always makes you laugh (here’s my go to).
- Watch five minutes of your favourite comedian on Netflix (I’m a big fan of Ali Wong and/or Iliza Shlesinger).
- Ask someone for a hug.
- Put on a banger and dance f*cking HARD until you are out of breath (here you go).
- Hang out with a dog/cat. Don’t have pets? Find a dog to hang out with.
- Write someone you appreciate a note and leave it somewhere for them to find.
- Have an orgasm.
- Cook a new recipe and enjoy it (I made this for dinner this week and it was great).
- Dig something out of your closet that always makes you feel amazing when you wear it and put it on even if it makes no sense for the context you’re wearing it in.
- Text your funniest friend asking them to cheer you up. I’m sure they won’t disappoint.
- Live music. Self explanatory.
- Take a nap. Hell ya. SLEEP!
- Go to the library. Even being around a bunch of books is therapy.
- Book something in the near future that you can get excited about (it can be big or small) then set a countdown in your phone so you can get warm fuzzies leading up to it. Remember: don’t wait for other people to be free – if you really want to do something, just go do it, dammit.
- Ride a rollercoaster or do something equally scary and adrenaline based. Better than drugs! Yay.
If you are NOT in a place, emotionally, where you can access joy, or maybe just can’t GET there for any number of reasons, that’s ok friend. Even the idea that it’s out there waiting for you, and that you deserve it, can be comforting. Don’t beat yourself up.
Side note: I own this book and it makes for a great gift or little micro-dose of joy. Highly recommend.