Emotional obstacles

The biggest obstacles towards the way to your happiness are the ones that lie inside you. Sure you can have some real outside hinders such as lack of money, resources, support, but I have never seen anything as powerful as our belief system – even class binds are not as strong.

That is not to say that your happiness lies in the hands of yourself nor to shame people for not achieving great success. Quite the contrary, I think emotional obstacles are even more difficult to overcome than our material and social limitations. Furthermore, lets face it, overcoming them is usually not a cheap hobby either as it will quite often require outside help. The kind of outside help which is among other things also frequently stigmatized.

I have had many emotional obstacles in my life. For instance, I spent years with my ex being mortified of break-up and being alone in a foreign country. I still have emotional obstacles – I am still really scared of not finding a new job…scared to the degree that I almost forget that maybe with my CV and talents I could instead try to choose a job that I enjoy and where I feel appreciated.

It is surprising how much these emotional obstacles colour the way you see the world. Take the two personal examples I gave. I was completely sure that I would spend my life in loneliness after breaking up with my ex. I was also completely sure that everyone in my acquaintance circle will want to disown me or will just say – this is what we really expected from her….she can never really keep her relationships…must be something wrong with her.

Whereas I think my example is extreme, I do believe that most people have such emotional limitations which keep them from fulfilling their potential. We have fears, we have negative beliefs…and sometimes we don’t even know we have them. For the most part of my life I was completely convinced that everyone would celebrate upon my failures, simply because this was something I had experienced when young. This belief naturally also influenced the kind of people I hanged around with….you know the kind to whom you never dare to say you failed because they will just tell you that they told you so and that you should not have tried anyways.

Overcoming these emotional obstacles is a damn difficult job. In my experience it takes years. And lets face it, no one in the current world wants to be in repair for years. It is an immediate gratification society. All I can say is that if you do find it within yourself to work through some of these emotional obstacles, your life can change in unexpected and mostly positive ways.

What to do if you feel like you are not especially talented or good in anything

I grew up thinking that I was untalented. I mean I was mediocre in most fields that I could get my hands on. There were few sports where I really did not do well, but besides that, I was always at least mediocre if not above. But….I never had a feeling that I was extra talented in any field.

Welcome to the experience that most people have…..Lets face it, most of the humanity is not extra talented in one particular area nor are born geniuses. Not possessing extra-ordinary talents is normal. Our current problem is that we can pretty much compare ourselves with the whole world. Before it was enough if you were the best sportsman in your valley – you would already feel like superstar. Under these conditions almost everyone could find something they excelled in…not today.

A lot of people feel that this kind of mediocrity turns their existence into pointless ordeal. I mean if I am not super talented, why to bother? I will never make any splash in the world. I will never change anything. At times it might result in things like midlife crisis where you question the whole meaning of your life and get closer to your mortality all the while sensing that you still have not made relevant impact.

So from one mediocre person to another….I think there is a need for more systemic approach. I think looking at your mediocrity in a more wholesome manner might create openings and make you feel less insignificant. Let me give you an example…

As I said, I am not a superstar in anything…however I have discovered that I might have some skills and abilities which are rather uncommon to be found in the same person. I tend to be rather good presenter, plus I can keep everybody entertained at the party if I feel like it, I am not an elegant writer nor am I super good in languages, but I seem to have the ability to make a point and follow the logical structure in my texts, furthermore, I also dare to make points and create waves instead of producing texts which are very modest; in addition to that I was always rather good in math; I also seem to have knack on understanding people……etc etc…… Now find me an average math-oriented person that is also super entertaining. I bet it would take a while…. Or find me a person that is equally good in making their point in writing as well as in presentations. Again…people tend to be good in either or…

This post is not about me bathing in self-glory. It has taken me years of trying to make sense of my abilities and feeling okay about them. So, it is rather me using myself as tool for showing that if you feel you have no extraordinary talents, it is okay. You need to look at the combination of things in which you might be above average. This is your real roadmap. Analyze your different skills and see what you can make out of those combined. In my experience when you combine the uncommon skills – this is where real innovation lies. This is where you can make a splash.

Why do you get up in the morning?

About half a year ago I was going through an intense period of training and even took part in competitions. I did well. Other people wondered however, why I was not celebrating. One reason is probably because my mum always found a way to undermine my achievements whereby whatever I achieve, I always hear this critical voice telling me that this is not really something noteworthy. But there is another more personal and substantial reason.

I did not celebrate, because ultimately, I found these wins to be meaningless. The competitions were useful from the perspective of my personal development, but the wins….The occasions where others think you should be happy and celebrate but you really don’t feel like it are good markers for judging what your core motivators are. For me, winning this competition and celebrating feels like an act of ego tripping….it feels like making myself more important than I am.

I occasionally teach as an extra job. Now people teach for different reasons. One of my friends always was this person that likes to lecture. He truly feels he has plenty of knowledge to share with the world and he truly does. He is a true performer, students love him and he really enjoys being in the spotlight. For him student’s admiration and the chance to perform make teaching worthwhile.

I was never like this. I don’t think I have his star quality. What I do have, however, is the ability to relate to people quickly…to read their body language and to engage them. So whereas in my friends classes, he would be talking probably 80% of the time, in my classes it might be 50% or less. We have completely different teaching styles.

Our teaching styles are related to the fact that what motivates us is different. For him, he is a true politician and public speaker. He could probably impact masses and get them to follow him. In my case I am this person students come to, when they need understanding. It makes me happy to be able to connect to the students and to support them. At the point where I feel I have managed to give a good class and encourage students, I can come home and celebrate. Granted for most people this seems much less significant than winning a sports competition.

Motivation and a sense of significance is personal. But so many people let others to tell them what they should aspire for and what should be significant for them. No wonder we have so many people that are dependent on Prozac or anti-depressants. Let me tell you, getting up from bed and going about to fulfil someone else’s dreams and following someone else’s values is tiresome as hell. It will eventually make you depressed because it is not what you care about. So I urge everyone to take a closer look to what gets them going.

Why you might not feel proud of your achievements

When I started the university, I had hard time choosing a specialty. Looking back, I probably would have never gotten it right on a longer perspective, simply because I lacked the life experience, but I could have gotten it right at the time. There was a great quote I stumbled upon lately – are you striving to be happy in your life or are you striving just not to be unhappy. These two goals can take us down the surprisingly different paths.

So, I made my initial choice of specialty at the university out of fear. I was afraid of insecure career and I was afraid of societal opinions. Well, guess what, three years later, after finishing the studies I was less than passionate about with honours, I still struggled to find work. I went for interviews and got denied…probably because I never wanted to work in that field. Such things shine through, even if we are not conscious. That career, even though stable, was never really for me.

The issue I have always had is that I have an iron self-discipline. I can push myself through things. But to what end? I pushed myself through my initial university studies not because I liked what I was doing, but because I thought I needed to finish. The funny thing, as I mentioned, was that I even graduated with honours and was the best in our course with about 80 people. This kind of achievement was also more related to my fears rather than true enjoyment. If someone asks me if I am proud over this achievement, then honestly, I could care less.

To be honest, my experience shows that one is truly proud of achievements which matter to one personally. I spent last half a year competing in some sports and even got some wins. Again, others were puzzled by my indifference. But…I guess for me the sports were just a means to an end and my true desire was to challenge myself. If I was winning or not was not of crucial importance, although of course winning feels nice. But…the sports itself was never part of my calling either.

If I think long and hard, I have only ever felt proud and happy about achievements which aligned with things that made me happy. Things that actually mattered to me. I have achieved enough things in other areas to know the difference. I have pushed myself hard enough to achieve things in other areas to know the difference.

As much as there is a bigger reward achieving things on areas that matter to you, there is also more fear. What if I don’t succeed? Maybe it is better to go for something else, because then not succeeding will not hurt that much? Maybe I am terrible, and everyone will laugh over me. If I truly want something and still fail, it will be much more embarrassing than failing on something I never wanted the first place. In my case me succeeding in my bachelor meant that I got to quite casually just ignore my achievement of graduating with honours while others still admired me. I did not really have to face the fear of failing in something I truly desired….because I never really desired to be successful in that area. Let me tell you, living like this feels much safer. But is this really what we want?

The courage to be yourself

I grew up with a mother that criticized my every move. In addition, I had to endure bullying and nasty comments in kindergarten and school and have a foreign experience with local kids telling me how I was awkward and different and did not fit. So being myself was really not something I was comfortable with, liked very much or even at some point knew how to be….

It is my experience that the more negative events you have in your life, the more you cover up who you really are. My experiences with constant criticism and being always the one that was left out made me desperately want to be like others. I wanted to be better at being like others than others were. Not to mention that I also wanted to desperately please my always critical mother.

Enjoying thing I do was not really something that was high on my priority list. My life was more about endless circles of avoiding the disapproval of others or trying to smooth over occasions when I felt I had annoyed someone. I really did not have much time to think about what I wanted. I mean was it even important?

I met my high school friends couple of months ago. Some looked happier with their life than others, but in general people had done well for themselves. But I think others had done better for themselves than me. Looking at them in hindsight I can see how they had more courage to follow things they wanted in life, instead of trying to constantly please someone else. There is certain peace and calmness about people that have taken the road towards things they want.

I am finally starting to value my own happiness over societies approval, but the process is slow…..I still have ways to go and mountains to climb. I have spent so much of my life trying to make everyone else happy with my life choices….But I am starting to feel a certain kind of maturity which is giving me better clarity about my particular lifepath.

Finding your life passion

So I have recently been delving more into the whole business of finding what I am passionate about. I am not sure if I have changed so much or if I was never really super passionate about things that I used to do, but somehow, I find myself thinking – not really that inspiring. I am suspecting that in my case it was self-suggestive. Since I have quite good self-discipline, I managed to make myself passionate about things I needed to be passionate about.

Another more complicating factor is that I don’t hate my job. I know it sounds funny in this context, but people who hate their job in a sense have an opportunity. They can be sure that what they are doing is not really their passion. I don’t hate my job, in fact I think I am pretty well suited for it and actually better than a lot of people around me. It is just that…..whereas I can get passionate about it at times, I find less and less satisfaction about the end result. I think this is actually one of the moments which is not discussed enough. If you do your job, do you in the end of the day feel like you have done something meaningful? I can motivate for myself the use of my job, there is no problem, but it is more rational than emotional. I think the real satisfaction comes with not having to motivate the use of your job.

The interesting thing is that what I have discovered in my own case is at least that my passion has been staring me this whole time. It has been present in my life experiences and it has been present in my relaxation moments. Ask yourself what do you do when you want to have this little moment of enjoyment in the middle of your job. What truly satisfies you when you come home after work, tired of the day? I mean surely for me part of it is wine, so I guess alcoholic is my destiny….

Jokes aside, I discovered today that I read relationship forums. Suddenly it hit me. I notice myself thinking – oh lord, how do people do these stupid things in relationships. I could totally understand why their partner would be upset about it etc….Then I looked at myself and realized that I do this all the time. I analyze human interactions. I don’t analyze them from the point of observer, I analyze them from the point of ideal outcome. This means, as ironic as it sounds, as I am currently single, that I assume I could solve the situations others go through in their relationships.

I think that this is usually the case with your life passion….It feels so automatic and so natural that it really does not feel like a passion. We are told that passion has to feel extraordinary, somehow truly ecstatic. My experience is that passion is actually really mundane. It is because is part of you. I mean can you really be passionate about yourself? As far as I know, narcissists aside, most people don’t feel particularly passionate about themselves. Instead, I suggest that your life passion is something you do when you relax. You know these guilty pleasure moments like chocolate or something like this….- that is your life passion. Furthermore, it feels so natural that it is hard to call it a passion.

The pain of Freeing ourselves from social constraints

So, I had a friend who once said that cycling never gets easier. It is just that you start riding faster and then the old speed seems ridiculous. At this point I was a little bit disappointed because I mean who wants do some physical activity if it is still a constant challenge. I mean many other sports sure become easier….

Now I feel that self-development is a little bit the same. The bastard (pardon my language) never really gets easier, it is just that the lessons become more difficult. It is weird that at my work I don’t really expect one day to experience everything as easy, but for some reason, with therapy, I think we all imagine this miraculous day where we will be fixed.

Let me ruin it for all of you right now. We will never be fixed. We will never arrive to our destination. If anything then the questions become more difficult and life changing. Couple of years ago I thought if I only could find ‘true love’ I would be forever happy. This whole idea of personal purpose has stroke me. Let me tell you, if you have based most of your life on the idea that once you have this special someone, finding out that you actually need to put in extra work and find your own purpose….well it does not feel exactly like a picnic in the park.

I find that where once the purpose was to be liked by people – and I have been awfully socially conscious my whole life; a whole new universe is opening up. I have built a lot of my life in socially acceptable manner so far and for the first time I am playing with the ideas of ‘going to the dark side’….doing things which my birth environment would not really approve. And no these things do not include drugs and rock’n’roll.

I find that the idea of self-development is not only to free yourself from the past sufferings but also liberate you from social constraints. I think in this respect most of us are the prisoners of the past. There is a reason why social class is reproduced so strongly. It is not only the opportunities, for instance working class students at the university often need to say good bye to their home environment that now thinks they are uptight, think they are better than them etc….The same happens reverse as well…try become a hairdresser if you family is engineers. This is class, but there are so many other limiting thought patterns we bring with us from our environment. Breaking free from those is painful. It is not only like loosing your support system, it is partially morning the loss of the future that never happened. It is also confusion about who you are if you are not the person you were raised to be.

This is kind of where I am right now. I know I am about to slowly go through some major life changing developments. Currently it does not make me happy, instead it makes me mourn everything I thought I was for all these years. Everything I thought I would be in the future. It is kind of like a death of its own.

How to make your suffering count

So, there has been one experience which I think has tremendously colored most of my life. Actually, it is not even an experience but more a theme. This theme has partially been the result of actual events in my life, but also the result of how I have chosen to interpret some of them. This theme has been the feeling of being unloved or not good enough.

I have somehow dealt with this topic again recently as I have gone through some article on what love should feel like and how people express love. This has made me realize that none of my ex partners actually loved me really deeply. Somehow it was however good enough for me because at the time it felt even much better than my mum. I distinctly remember thinking that even though my ex was critical and at times even cruel to me, during his good times he was actually warm and supportive. My mum was not warm and supportive during any times.

However, I am starting to inspect my previous experiences and I am starting to understand how unfairly I was being treated on some occasions by people who should have been closest to me. Now it would be easy to fall into depression and think that my life sucks, but today I am starting to look at it differently.

One of the things I really like about myself is my persistence and my dedication to constant growth. It shows itself in most areas of my life. I might not be the most talented one, but I am often the one that is willing to go through adversity. It is weird because going through adversity does not really feel like much of a challenge for me. Compared to a lot of my life going through being unappreciated, disregarded or just struggling emotionally and physically really does not feel like much a hassle. I have developed an amazing ability to pull myself through some of the real difficulties with grace. I make struggles seem easy for the people around me.

You might maybe already realize where I am getting to. The point is, the struggles, the hurts we have gotten through are unchangeable. We cannot rewrite our childhoods, but what we can do is take a hard look at the potential wonderful capabilities we developed through these challenges. In my case my mother’s constant criticism and disapproval made me very resilient. I learned to continue with very little recognition and support. For instance, I was always good at long distance running because most of my classmates would just not want to continue when it became inconvenient. I pushed myself through.

I have a suspicion that some of our greatest talents often lie in areas which are the most sensitive. There is a point in inspecting our suffering and it is not only in order to empathize and heal ourselves. The point is also in order to discover our strengths.

Reaching your potential is a hard work

I would make a bold statement that most people do not truly live up to their potential. One might question what is the purpose of naming something that is by definition unreachable for most, but…I truly think that this is what should be all of our main goal. To ask how can I potentially be useful in this world and what do I need for this.

I feel that even though I still have some past issues left to work with, I am now faced with the fact that my period of fixing my past is about to run its course. Unfortunately or fortunately that does not really mean that self-development work is over however. Quite the contrary. I feel like I am starting the new phase and this new phase is expansion. If my current self-development work has mostly been about myself; about fixing me – pretty much like taking a car to repairs, then now I am faced with the question about my function in the outside world. Let me tell you facing this question feel hard..

Therapy has become oddly familiar and comforting for me. I know how it works. I know where I am supposed to go, but this new phase, figuring out how to expand, how to give to the world – it feels like a whole new mess again.

For years I have subconsciously felt like there was something missing in my life which I now realize has been creativity but also sense of service. There are essentially two questions to be asked when reaching your potential. Lets start with the first one.

I think everyone has at least once in their life wondered what their particular talents are. Whereas I might have some idea where my natural genius lies, I mostly still feel like I am wondering in the dark. I have been so busy with just surviving that I have not really had enough time to focus on this question.

Now the second question is perhaps even more complicated. Namely having discovered your talents, you need to wonder how you can use those to expand; to offer service to the world.

Granted there are plenty more questions to ask such as – what do I need in order to support me in this mission? What is currently wrong in my life that is hindering me? All these questions. And these are just questions, I am not even talking about the actual actions.

However since I have deemed this to be my next aim, I will probably be writing more about it in the future and hopefully becoming more skilled in the topic.

Delusional or wishful thinking

I used to and still to a degree do, engage in a lot of delusional thinking. Basically what it means is the inability to accept the reality of your life through creating some parallel nicer version. This nicer version can involve either a picture of yourself which is far flattering than the current state of the art or some other external aspects of your life. And yes, it can also involve convincing yourself that this guy is totally into you or that you are the smartest person in the room although all the evidence confirms the opposite.

The book *Seven pillars of self-esteem* quite accurately points out that one of the signs of a person with high self esteem is the fact that they do not avoid facing reality. This definition is more revealing than it seems at first. It also namely points out why we engage in wishful thinking – because we deem reality too hard to accept.

I am constantly being faced with the reality that most of my friends at this point have families. Family was always something I wanted, albeit for questionable reasons, I admit. Engaging in some made-up relationships made it easier to accept this reality, because…soon I would be in a relationship that was far greater than anything else…

Wishful thinking is a coping mechanism and I don’t necessarily think it is a bad thing. In fact I think it has helped me to survive one of the toughest therapy years. Giving it up at this point is in fact as if I was giving up this comfort blanket. It is almost like letting go of a parent as you mature. I think in a way since I never really felt like I had the kind of home I wanted, wishful thinking became my way to experience the kind of reality I desired. So whenever life went bad, I would use the same strategy…I would just imagine that I had a perfect life, like I once imagined I had a perfect family…

The problem is if your wishful thinking also involves some serious denial of reality and unwillingness to improve your situation. For instance do you refuse to engage in real life relationships because you still hold on to this one guy who you never went in a date with? Because maybe a dream of him is much safer and also much grander than this rather flawed guy that actually wants to date you. Or do you still dream of this grand career and paint your current job as a space filler once you finally get the job you truly desire….but you are actually too afraid of doing anything for getting this dream job?

Facing reality is hard and ungrateful job. No one even gives you an award for daring to do this. However if you are lucky you can finally take small steps to improve the actual situation.