Wednesday, 26 October 2016

On Our Lack of Self-Assurance

Recently my friends and I got caught in a deluge of life choices, each of their own. Big or small, they all feel as if our whole life is hanging by that one fragile thread. As if making a wrong turn will cost you your future, your dreams. But when words fail to encourage, when the answers to your questions are not what you want to hear, when the mind refuses to settle, what is there left to be done? Who is there to turn to?

Despite being far away from them, I noticed that the last few months more and more people I know from school or university were facing similar problems to me: uncertainties about our lives, jobs, ourselves... While each of us came across our own personal crossroads, I couldn't help but notice that we all felt the same way, we all had the same questions flooding our minds: What do I do?, What should I choose?, What's right for me?. It's part of the fearful transition to adulthood but it felt more like a plague of doubt, dilemmas, and fear of the future.

As we graduated from University last summer, we were thrown into real life. As we were all "forced" to join the adult community despite not feeling ready, leave our homes, cities, countries, get jobs, separate from people we love, see our childhood vanish in the distance, wave goodbye our student years and hesitantly accept that that chapter had ended, we came across personal demons of self-doubt, fear, loneliness, and, worse of all, reality. The classic early stages of adulthood, a road that inevitably everyone walks.

I see adulthood like a vast and depthless ocean. If the last years had us reluctantly wetting our feet at its shore, trying to get used its cold waters, this year pushed us right into the depths and we had to learn to swim while struggling to survive. It's a frightening feeling that makes you miss the old days, and while you drown in nostalgia you know you can't go back; just make the most of what's forward and swim until you find the next shore. And that's the only way, to be honest. We are never ready for adulthood. We figure out everything along the long way.

For a long time I got caught in weird circumstances. I began to question my life choices, where I was heading and where I wanted to be. I didn't know how to feel or what to do. I knew I wasn't happy but I was too scared to do anything about it. I knew I wanted something else, but that something else wasn't safe. I kept asking myself as well as others what should I do, what was right and wrong. I never seemed to get a clear answer though. I would always answer myself uncertainly and hesitantly. And everyone around me responded in pretty much the same manner: what you, yourself, see fit. Yeah, but what is that? I can't see. I was trapped in that maze for months, always postponing my decision further and further.

While facing my own troubles, I knew my friends were battling their own as well. Now, I don't like to brag, but I get asked for advice a lot. I don't necessarily enjoy this as I feel barely (if at all) adequate to help myself and take my own decisions, but I do appreciate the fact that someone trusts me and values my opinion. Therefore, I was able to discuss with several of them our problems and exchange opinions, try to help each other out.

Coming back to my own fight, I was lost in that labyrinth for a long time, running around, thinking I had finally chosen something until I faced the same dead end again, only to feel less and less likely to escape. Until a friend asked me for advice for his own problems. I didn't notice it back then but his situation and questions were pretty much the same as mine. I answered in all honesty and clearly stated my bold opinion. I knew it sucks to be given vague answers in times of desperation so I tried my best to provide him with a clear point of view - whether that was or not what he'd like to hear, it was my opinion. Then I thought to myself, if that's my opinion and I feel so strongly about it, why haven't I said that to myself all this time? Why did I have to wait for someone else to ask me the same questions I've been asking myself to figure out how I really feel. That was the first time I sounded so confident in my choices. And I managed to convince myself as well, through a conversation with another person. By giving advice to other people, I was able to see how I really feel. No personal issues filtering my answers and no self-esteem in the way making me doubt myself and my choices.

We are always so good at giving advice, but so bad at following them ourselves. We need to hear other people say it, people we trust, to reassure us that it's the right thing to do. If I was so ready to express my ideas to my friend about how it's okay to quit sometimes and take a step back to see things more clearly, why couldn't I see that myself before? I prompted people to take big decisions, I comforted people by saying that everything will be okay, I motivated people to take the step they've been willing to take for such a long time, I had the power to do all these, yet I wasn't able to do them for myself. Or rather, while those people trusted me, I couldn't trust myself, so I begun seeking the answers elsewhere.

Unfortunately, we tend to see ourselves in a different way than we see others and this doesn't apply just for life choices. We can be harsh on ourselves, doubt ourselves, talk bad about ourselves, shame ourselves, things we would never do to other people. We encourage other people to follow their dreams while convincing ourselves that we will fail, we compliment other people about how they look or think and constantly remind ourselves about our imperfections, bolstering our insecurities. Why are we doing this? We deserve the same love we give out.

Next time you have a conversation with yourself, don't forget that you are a unique person asking for assistance, a person who needs help. Treat yourself the way you would treat a friend or a relative. See yourself as a trustworthy individual. Our lives will always contain people calling us names, telling us that we are not enough. Don't let your own self be one of those voices. Trust and love yourself and don't be afraid to follow the advice that you wholeheartedly give to people you love. And don't forget to compliment and encourage yourself. You can be your own best friend, the friend you need. And the only person who knows what you really want, what you need.

Oh, and about those momentous life choices that distress us: don't overthink it. Truth is, there are no good and bad choices, nor right and wrong. When life presents you a fateful dilemma that the thought of making a decision freezes you, remember that the most important thing is to look deep inside of you and choose what feels right, right here and now. Either way, a part of you will always wonder what if, and make you question or even regret your decision. That same part of you will blame every single fallout to that choice. When it happens, look back and think that you did what felt right at the moment.

Forget the future. It doesn't exist yet. We will figure it out along the way.