I’ll get to the bit you’re interested in, but first please indulge me by reading my story.
One of Jordan Peterson’s Rules for Life is to ‘clean your room’, because you carry with you the state of the environment you woke up in (if it’s a mess, chances are that the other elements of life you have control over are also a mess…).
Frederick Taylor’s 1920s scientific management theories of motivation explored the effect of environment on an employee’s performance e.g. maintaining a comfortable temperature resulted in x increase in put over being too hot or too cold.
Well, those same principles apply to your mental environment.
If you’re not aligned mentally, physically and emotionally, you’ll never be 100% effective in life. In any competitive environment, the slightest limitation to achieving your potential can be infinitely damaging.
Just carrying round that one small defect in your game, in the person you’re presenting to the world, can mean the difference between success and failure.
I talked about this in my article – ‘Anxiety – The Tax On Your Success‘.
I wrote that over three years ago now, and it marked the closure of a 15 year battle I fought with severe social anxiety – a period in which I barely spoke to anyone outside of a handful of close friends and family; a period in which I was paralysed by fear and trepidation; a period in which I tormented myself with a never-ending sense of inadequacy, disappointment and hatred.
I’ve since felt the most overwhelming sense of closure and elation – with complete strangers reaching out to me to congratulate me on my strength, on a well written piece and, most importantly, for helping them to:
a) understand the experience of living with a social phobia or
b) reframe their own experiences.
Those three years have passed and I’m still far from perfect. I have, however, fiercely pursued self-development and been vigorous in sharing the journey – to try and help others in the same boat.
Don’t get me wrong, that was the real hurdle I needed to overcome to succeed. Massive success (by my standards at least) was to follow.
Two months after publishing that article, I committed to weekly LinkedIn posts, I transformed my financial health and I distanced myself from a plethora of emotional crutches I’d always relied on.
That was the easy part…
The hard part is staying on the new path I’d chosen for myself. Not giving into the fears, not allowing the old habits to creep back in. The resistance I have to maintain saps me of energy and focus.
Until about a year ago, I lived in denial of this. I got hooked on motivation videos telling me to ‘power through’, that working 12 hour days is the norm for high achievers (so, I’d do my day’s work, then spend most of the night working on myself and trying to pursue various ideas I had for books and products I could develop etc). Thing is, I never really produced anything…
You see, I’d created a whole new emotional crutch – I wanted to be motivational, inspirational and someone respected by those around me. I needed to feel validation in order to one day accept myself as adequate. Yet, I was tired most of the time and just producing ‘good enough’ results. I wasn’t pro-active, I didn’t have a handle on things. My output in most areas was still nowhere near my full potential – I still wasn’t bringing 100% to my pursuits and I was still living inside my head.
I’ve received a lot of love and support from my LinkedIn network in particular – it’s been a massive source of support for me these past three years. I’ve also met several kind and supportive people offline who have really helped me survive in this new life.
However, in most cases I knew they were displaying paternal/maternal instincts toward me – because I was putting out an image of an injured puppy looking for support. They knew I was still very emotionally fragile – despite my best intentions to convince them that I had it all together. They were humouring me, because they were nice and supportive people. I knew this, but I had no tools with which to overcome it – despite all the progress I’d made in every other area of my life…
Inevitably, this all blew up on me – and it was painful… It was then I had to look myself in the mirror again and accept that this wasn’t going to be a matter of ‘faking it until I made it’. I needed to humble myself and systemically change.
Now, why am I telling you all this?
Well, it wasn’t until I came across the studies of Codependency that I realised I was co-dependent on an image I’d developed of myself. An image of a lone wolf living life on my own terms: In reality:
- I struggled to build any meaningful relationships. I had few friends, I’ve had no meaningful romantic relationships. I’m a loser and I was simply running away from that fact…
- My one key success in life was that I consistently performed well enough academically, and then in my career, to survive – despite everything else that was going on. I’m genuinely proud of this, but I do feel disappointed that I never achieved anything amazing here. It wasn’t like I sacrificed everything to get straight As, to be the best in my field or to be a millionaire by age 30. I’d sacrificed so much, just to achieve mediocrity…
- Despite being a fairly large man with years of martial arts experience, I’m so damn scared of confrontation. Yes, I could kill someone with my bare hands – no biggie. Yet, I’m so afraid of engaging in violence that my capability to do so is rendered completely useless (that and the fact I’d never lay a finger on someone who didn’t present an immediate and unavoidable threat to me!). As such, I feel constantly vulnerable. In fact, I’ve come to believe that I’m living with a mild Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – based on the symptoms I experience almost every single day…
I came across the work of Dr Robert Glover, who helped me understand that the pain of concealing what I perceive to be shameful facts about myself was bleeding into every aspect of my life. It was impacting my confidence, my ability to communicate and, most importantly, my ability to bring 100% of myself to my relationships.
He helped me rationalise several things about myself that are perfectly fine – but that I myself had decided were unacceptable. This manifests in:
- A lack of confidence (confidence being the outward display of the degree to which you trust yourself).
- Feeling inadequate.
- Having a constant urge to overcompensate.
- Fearing failure and, actually, in avoiding situations in which I may be ‘found out’. In which the self-image I’d manufactured and attached myself to in my childhood, as a defence mechanism, would be revealed as the facade it was.
These qualities would show through in the was I behaved – struggling to inspire confidence in others, unable to convince people of my potential, being passive-aggressive and risk averse.
Yet, by being transparent, by trusting myself to cope with failure and by allowing myself to let go of self-image I’d created of myself, I could be free to enjoy my life, my relationships and my pursuits – my full potential.
So here I am, casting aside that facade – a weight off my mind!
If this makes you think differently of me/lose respect for me, that’s fine – thank you for at least hearing me out.
As always, I hope this encourages you to look inside yourself and to call out (perhaps not as publicly!) the things that make you feel ashamed/guilty, that you lie about and that cause you to betray yourself and therefore your confidence.
I hope this helps you to align yourself mentally, physically and emotionally – to be 100% effective in life.
Love you all.