What I am learning...about myself

I want to start a short series of posts beginning with this one to talk about things I’ve learnt. That sounds ambiguous and a tad boring perhaps, but I feel it’s good for me to take a moment to reflect in a positive way with what I have experienced lately.

I will follow on from Monkey Mind Part One by talking about myself. What a douche! By that I mean what I have learnt about myself and how I handle stress (or don’t) as well as the tools I’ve found useful for coping with anxiety (namely Cheetos and Dare ice coffee).

My work has been challenging my mind over the last four weeks as I get to grips with a vastly different work life. For my personality it is difficult not having some structure, so the move from Apple to Luxmy has been harder than I imagined, and I have a pretty vivid imagination. One of my weaknesses is not saying no, trying to do too much and wanting things to be perfect. Ok well maybe that’s a trifecta, but they change from being a dodgy three wheel car into a huge evil Transformer a.k.a a Decepticon. Deceptive is what these traits are because many would see them as a positive. “Tom it’s great to be a perfectionist, you have such high standards” said no perfectionist ever. “Tom you are achieving so much here, everybody loves you.” A clear sign of a yes man? Hmm an interesting point.

But in honesty the only people benefitting from these traits are my bosses because I don’t derive pleasure from them. Most days I am just happy to get through to the end because it means I can rest, or at least try to when anxiety keeps my heart beating at a thousand miles an hour. There is never, no that’s extreme, there is rarely a day in the week when I am truly satisfied with how things have worked out. That is the reality of a so called perfectionist, with a monkey mind and an eagerness to please others.

The reasons for these developed traits could be many; a perfectionist father, satisfaction gained from pleasing others, equating success in part to working hard, long hours. The latter often means I do too much for my mind to cope and then don’t balance it out with mental health tools or talk enough. Invariably I end up quitting work because my mind takes over. Let’s just say that reading my job history requires a comfortable chair and a pot of tea to get through it.

Perhaps this is the reason that for much of my life I have “bummed around” working for myself as a PT, a handyman and a bus driver. Ha! Only joking on that last one, I prefer vans. There is safety and comfort in working part time, not being stressed by others and only having yourself to answer to. In this work setup I had time for depression to creep in and lay it’s statement of “you should be doing more” at my door. That would have me in a right state because I felt as though I was cruising and not working hard enough, but I didn’t know what I should be working hard at, round and round I went.

This is vastly different to my current situation. I am now earning good regular money (working full time and overtime can do that!) and with that comes a different responsibility, perhaps added pressure to be my best. That’s ok, I always try and do my best, even when I feel like shit inside, because it’s a welcome break from my brain. But now I have a workload that has added pressure to the mix and a feeling that I need to “own” more tasks because others around me don’t have the same high standards. It’s a self made anxiety really that has my heart racing when I lie down at night, a tightness in my stomach when I am not at work and headaches from upper trapezius tension. Ridiculous because I can’t win either way.

But it’s not all bad. Aside from learning these traits of mine and becoming more aware of when they cause a problem I have also found tools to manage my monkey mind. I can see now what I need to aim for having tried, won and failed at so many things. I understand where the balance lies and what it takes to keep my mind in check, how to exercise the chimp and get stronger as a person. Admittedly this is a long process as some of this bollocks I learnt a long time ago, but it’s a worthwhile plan as I prefer being in control than feeling like I’m going to have a heart attack.

So what next? Well the old me, or rather the Chimp inside my head would have jacked it all in now. To be honest I almost did on numerous occasions and I’m not going to rule it out happening. But I am trying to train that Chimp and learn to control my anxiety, to use the things I have learnt over the last two years. Otherwise I won’t have made any change and my Monkey Mind will always win. That leads down a dark path that I hope I’ve left behind me for good. I have a plan in my head that I am going to write out for my eyes only, a path that will help others and fulfil my potential, without being a perfectionist.

If you are keen I would recommend the book The Chimp Paradox. It has helped me a great deal recently and I am about to read it for the second time to instil the advice it provides.

Tom :)