Sometimes it makes sense to take revenge on your past self.
Here’s what I mean by that: many people with anxiety issues have troubled relationships with themselves, of all different levels of severity.
A lack of confidence and a weak self-esteem can make it near impossible to solve the issues we want most to solve or to correct.
But when we begin taking small actions that don’t align with our lack of confidence or imperfect self esteem, we gain power over them.
And all we need to do is look for opportunities to make decisions in spite of how we feel and in spite of how we expect ourselves to act.
Although I’m not a practicer of it, Zen Buddhism is a very simple, meditation-based form of Buddhism based on personal experimentation rather than lengthy ideologies or scripture.
From the little I understand, spontaneity in Zen practice means to act with a clear head and without baggage in the form of thought.
And I appreciate any philosophy that moves followers away from thinking and towards action and “spontaneity,” because they’re the only things that can sustainably make someone happy.
So for your own sake, how can you engage in random, scary, and positive action in your life?
One of My Favorite Things About Life
This is big, but after some reflection, I realized something about life—all of our lives—that I’m absolutely in love with.
And it is the fact that everything moves so miserably slow. Often, we feel stuck in our bodies. We want to be someone else and we want desperately to change. And it sometimes feels impossible to do so. It feels like we try and fail to improve ourselves, and we just run in circles.
I can prove to you in about 30 seconds that that isn’t true: that even the things we think we fail change us. This is proof that “failure” is a subjective construct, because even it will spark positive change within you.
So here’s how to prove that you’re not a failure at all, nor are you “stuck” and without progress.
Think of yourself a year ago. If you need, look at a calendar or your phone or just come up with a “day” between 1 and 2 years ago. Imagine yourself in that time, imagine the thoughts going through your head.
The fact that it feels foreign, and not like you means that you’ve changed.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve tried a whole lot and feel you’ve somehow failed mote. Maybe you tried yoga, vegetarianism, losing weight, building muscle, improving your grades, or becoming more assertive by watching a 3-hour course on youtube.
And maybe in hindsight it seems pitifully useless. But it’s not.
Change is a process, and a very slow one, so recognize how different you are from the person you were a year ago. You’ve succeeded. And by performing actions that scare you, whether alone or with an accountability partner, you ramp that process up.
As you read these words and those of other mental health bloggers, you’re changing. Oh, by such a small amount, but any change is good: enjoy the process.
It’s still incredibly slow, but the most you can ask is that in a year from now and in 5, you are happier and more comfortable than you are now. So all you have to do is think about the minute actions you can perform now.
Create a List
I understand that I enjoy writing and listing and crossing out much more than the average person. It is within my personal philosophy that “paper is progress.” (Just made that up, what do you think?)
Anyway, paper makes me happy, as does ink, as does seeing a corner of my thoughts represented on paper.
Try to list “spontaneous” things you can do. And don’t be shy: if you think of something that makes your stomach turn, treat the fear like a compass pointing you in the right direction for positive change and be sure to write it down.
Some of the things on my list include:
Tell Kara I like her (y’all don’t know who that is, but we all have crushes sometimes)
No social media for two weeks
Practice a sect of Buddhism for a few months (I added this one after reading about Zen)
Ask for someone’s phone number in public
Compete with other people whenever you can
Stop biting nails
It’s nice to be reminded of ways I can become braver as a person, and it makes taking the action seem less far away.
How to Approach Accomplishing Your List
I will always suggest that when you’re in doubt, to go slowly. I believe a lot of my frustration with myself regarding anxiety in the past has come from the fact that I expect change so quickly.
Wanting change so badly and then being unable to deliver is a cycle that looks like this:
Whereas, by setting smaller and more realistic goals, you lower the possible benefit you gain from accomplishing each, but you also remove the risk and consequences of failure. That’s just simple tortoise and the hare stuff, baby.
So we get ourselves in quite a predicament by wanting to change. Taking on an additional activity can be frustrating—the more you expect of yourself, the higher your potential for dejection as a result of failure.
So go slowly. Take my blog posts one at a time. Learn from them but incorporate them into your life with ease—I promise that slow progress is much more sure and safe than rapid progress.
It’s better to feel 20% happier after 6 months of work than to shift between extreme highs and severe lows dozens of times within those 6 months.
Also, in the same vein, be sure to not make any one thing your sole resource for your mental health. It’s a holistic, slow, and all-encompassing path to betterment, and the best you can do is start now. Take as long as you need, because we’re all different.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have questions—comment, message, or leave a voicemail. One frightening decision at a time will change your life for the better; don’t blow it up to make it more daunting than it has to be. You can do whatever you want.