Ego says, ‘Once everything falls into place, I’ll feel peace.’ Spirit says, ‘Find your peace, and then everything will fall into place.’” ~Marianne Williamson
I have exhausted myself with my own expectations. The pressure I have put on myself to be a particular person is consuming my thoughts and eating away at my soul. I imagine a point in my life when I’ll have it all together, and I feel a sting in my chest that this has not happened yet.
I think about the milestones that might get me there and the things that have led me astray. I think about degrees, jobs, relationships, finances—the things that I have been conditioned to believe will guarantee my happiness—and wonder why it hasn’t turned out that way.
There are so many ways to live, and I feel overwhelmed by all of them, confounded by the endless possibilities. Do I want to take this path or that one, or start somewhere else? New Job? Change careers? Travel? Another degree? Buy a car? I feel like I’m trying to decorate myself with achievements and using stuff that indicates, somewhat frantically, to the world, “Don’t worry, I’m alright! Look at what I’m doing!”
People tell me what I should be doing, predetermining the best path to a life that is full and whole. It’s like there are certain checkpoints I need to pass to ‘get there,’ presumably to be at peace and content, in the eyes of the world. If I take this career path or have this relationship, I’m told, everything will be okay. I take these on and feel like I’m reading someone else’s lines, no longer in my own story, or in my own mind, and I can’t hear myself think.
There was a nagging voice telling me I needed to get out of my comfort zone. I needed to explore the impractical and indulgent part of myself that wanted to be free, to write, meet new people, and gain new insights.
I’m learning to filter out the white noise and listen to myself. So, I decided to pay attention to me. I’m filtering out what the world has been telling me and deciphering and reconstructing the elements that constitute the sort of life that I—not others—want to live.
Now, instead of berating myself unproductively, I accept my own experience and remind myself there is no such thing as the “right” way. How can one route possibly be suitable for everyone? How can I compare myself to others, with different hopes, dreams, experiences, expectations, talents, and instincts? “I can’t“. There is no right way; there is just this way—now—which I can amend or shift if or when I need to.
If you’re going through something similar, feeling pressured and overwhelmed by possibilities, STOP and be with yourself. Don’t run away and hide; instead, face yourself and your fears, and listen. You know what is best for you, not anyone else.
Don’t listen too much to others. Worrying about what others might think of getting their validation is draining. If you use too much time and energy to focus on these things, you may be heading down a pretty dangerous road. And the thing is, most people aren’t thinking about you, what you do and your problems as much as you may fear anyway. They are busy with being focused on their own lives and challenges. An essential part of this is not to see yourself through the eyes of others. Doing that can build a self-image and expectations that become very hard to live up to and can cause a negative out turn on you.
Allow yourself to feel what you need to. We spend a lot of time-fighting our emotions instead of sitting with them and recognizing them for what they are. The world is now blissfully quiet, and I allow myself to feel the doubt, confusion, and other uncomfortable feelings that are perhaps residual effects of such a significant change. Only then do these feelings settle and I can hear myself.
Stop focusing on what could or should happen. I’m re-training my brain to relinquish control over what might happen or what could be a future possibility, and instead focus on what is currently happening in my life. I notice that if I focus on current experiences, on being more accepting of myself and the moment, my entire mentality and experience shifts.
Remember that self-worth starts with you. We often rely on external things to fuel our self-esteem; we use material goods, careers, or relationships to feel good about ourselves.What we don’t always realize is that nothing will fulfill us if we don’t first develop self-love. When we look to ourselves with compassion, understanding, and kindness, we see our experiences in a whole new light. As a wise person once reminded me: “If I took away everything—your house, your job, the people you know—all you’re left with is you.” You are far important than anyone or anything else.
Let go. Once we surrender control over the future and stop believing, we will be happy if or when something occurs. We allow ourselves to enjoy the present without frantically grasping at external things to validate our self-worth—be either relationships, career achievements, or other milestones we have set for ourselves. The shift is enjoying these should they occur (if that is what you, not others, truly desire), without being dependent on them for happiness.
Find an Outlet. If you have no one to talk to about your family/job/world pressure, there are many avenues to release your feelings and frustrations. One is through exercise. Instead of releasing your frustrations out on people, sweat it out or run until it no longer occupies your mind. Who knows, you might even be able to think of solutions while you’re at it. Others choose to write them down on pen and paper. Documenting and letting loose your negative and worrisome thoughts prove to have a calming effect. Meditation can help you relax your mind and body. Being with oneself is a wonderful inner medicine. You can also search a group on line that will listen to you release the pressure. Find an outlet that works best for you and your needs.
“The only pressure I’m under is the pressure I’ve put on myself.” – Mark Messier
If we remember that there is no rulebook for living our life and accept that we are on our own journey, we will be liberated.