Ah, it's been a hot minute since I unleashed a tirade on whatever capitalistic nonsense has been brewing on the side. I've got to stretch those muscles some time or another. I choose now. Sit yourself down and prepare for the onslaught. But don't worry, it's wholesome in the end!
I know how life gets. Seriously, I do. I know the ups and the downs and the hills and the valleys better than most. It's one of the pitfalls of being a chronic over-thinker and general 'spiraller'. We don't love that for me, frankly.
But if there is one thing I've noticed on all my multitudinous years on this earth, there is a golden rule to note.
Just as the pride comes before the fall, the breakdown comes right before the breakthrough.
I've found this on two occasions in the last month alone.
I like to think of it as the universe's illogical way of restoring justice and recalibrating the karma of some of the people around us. You know, when you were already stressed about money and work but then your friend stumbles upon a way to make easy money. Or gets promoted without even applying. And it makes you want to die just a little. It is super frustrating though because you always want to be happy for your friend because you genuinely love them. You want to have their interests at heart.
It is however natural – completely – to spare a few thoughts for yourself. It's okay to resent their success – just a little. You don't want it to consume you, and it can absolutely be toxic. However, it's just as toxic to attempt to police every thought that crosses your mind. As always, it's your actions that define you – we can forgive an intrusive or rogue thought here and there.
Life isn't a game that can be won or lost based on some arbitrary social markers.
More than that, you can't 'succeed' in life by living your life on someone else's terms. Or indeed, by living someone else's life. Simply doing what you think you ought to be doing won't always bring you satisfaction. In fact, it will rarely coincide with things that you yourself actually prioritize. Because of this, you will soon realize that the things around you that are offering the illusion of 'self-care' and 'self-improvement' are causing you undue stress. This is because the pressure that you put on yourself to achieve them isn't proportional or tempered by your emotional investment. As such, you are pushing yourself to do things that simply aren't worth your time, or are worthwhile endeavors in principle, just not necessarily for you, personally. Recognize something here?
It can be hard to step back and recognize the aspects of life that we have acclimatized to aren't always things that we deserve to experience. We are often faced with the startling discovery that there is more to life than we know in our current experiences. There are pancake houses that we didn't know existed. Friends that live around the corner who we never realized lived so close. Even going to the park in the afternoon on a dog walking day and seeing so many Chihuahuas that you thought you might die of cuteness.
Sometimes we live vicariously through our friends' lives.
We gratuitously watch them make mistakes from the sidelines and feel bad about it because we know we would never make ourselves vulnerable like that. Then we feel guilty for comparing each other. For holding each other up to the same standards, even though we're all unique. We all have different things going on and different standards for ourselves, we can't account for what other people are doing too. It's just too much. I know there is a habit or tendency to compare ourselves. That's what peer pressure is. It's not a teen druggie offering you weed in the school toilets. It's the implicit stress and understanding that everyone needs to be doing this one particular activity. And that people who don't, are on the outside. Not included.
We all have that one friend that is too successful for her own good. You know the type, there's always one in a friendship group. They have the best jobs, the most ambitious career prospects, the strongest relationships, and the most interesting hobbies. They give the illusion of effortlessness, but I have some news for you.
The privilege of effortlessness is wrought from pain and suffering and stress and anxiety just as much as on your end. Just because people put up facades and seem to be able to bear life easier, doesn't mean that you should believe them. Nothing worth having was ever easy, and in fact, life isn't easy. It shouldn't be, and if it was, the rewards we reap wouldn't be worth it.
I had a proper spiral at around 3 am a few weeks ago about money. It was something and nothing, but a series of little things that had accumulated over the entire summer before I'd realized it had happened. All my friends by and large got impressive paid internships or jobs in retail over summer, and in reality, probably they were just as stressed as I was about other things, but I didn't clock that. Despite my relaxing summer holiday and an unpaid internship that filled my time, I still found time to make myself anxious about the peer pressure of feeling like I was falling behind. Like my friends were more grown-up, independent, or well-off than me. That they were happier, more secure, and more adult in general than I could hope to be.
I found myself scrounging online ways to make money on the quick like I was some sort of junkie. In reality, I was a fairly comfortable 20 something who did not need to be panicking in the way that I did at all. It was just the threat that I was behind, or somehow failing – losing. But the thing with life is that it's so up and down and no emotion is permanent. Therefore, just as we know better than to expect to be happy all the time, it stands to reason that we won't always feel the same as we feel in a given moment. No matter how inescapable or bewildering or eternal it feels. Trust me on this. If you listen to nothing else from the article, then listen to that.
My letter to my anxiety, therefore, is short and simple:
I am stronger than you. Maybe not now, and maybe not always and forever. But I can learn about what makes you tick, and what keeps you healthy. I can also accept that I won't always be able to control you.
And finally, screw you to the consumerist society that wants to cash in on our insecurities.
You aren't welcome here anymore. No amount of fancy yoga mats or expensive books will cure us. Just time, patience, and whatever else our individual needs are. Mental health is not the latest fad or marketable demographic.
Shame on you.