Love, Self

“Baby, don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more…”

So, what is love, anyway?

When someone talks about self-love, how does it reconcile with not being self-absorbed?

I find it funny that in this day and age, Love could be equated to “not being cruel to <object>”. Or at least it is when the <object> is yourself.

Suppose that you have gotten yourself into a situation where you are not getting your needs met, be it physical existential needs or social needs. At some point, you will run out of fuel and you will be digesting yourself in order to continue producing the output that makes yourself a so-called valuable member of society.

Too general? Let’s say you are in a job that you love, but it doesn’t pay enough to give you at least 2 decent meals a day on top of the rent. At some point, your body will tire itself out and what was merely unsustainable in the long run becomes “My body is dying of hunger, please save me.” And this is because food wasn’t met. Hence if you love yourself, you would then look for a job that actually feeds you. This one is simple.

What about the opposite problem that Gen Y keeps harping on about? Your job pays very decently, but it is so odious that you resort to using the extra money to buy things and/or experiences to justify the occupation. At some point, when the Ego depletes, the urge to take and use an Uzi on your co-workers would be too damned high. Hence, if you love yourself, you would then look for a job that feeds your soul as well as it feeds your stomach. This one is also simple.

But what about other things that occupy your time and attention? Such as social relationships like a romantic relationship?

Perhaps we should remember that we are responsible first to ourselves and as such, should always seek out situations and circumstances that taxes us less.

That, I believe is the first step to self-love.

Blessings and Curses (that are actually Blessings)

Be careful of what you wish for, the saying goes. Once upon a time, in a fit of emotions that included disgust, hope, and perhaps desperation, I wrote the following affirmation:

“The rate at which I grow and learn accelerates day by day.”

The reason it was there was because I’ve suffered from Precocious Kid syndrome. On top of being an insufferable know-it-all, it stopped me from learning some important lessons, some of which plagued me for as long as I could remember. Having clung to the victim mindset for a little over 26 years (like eating bad food and taking bad drugs), that affirmation (and the concept of affirmations, for that matter) changed my life.

It started a sea change in my perception. Over time, my perception changed from “This fucking sucks!” to “How do we change so that it would no longer fucking suck?”

Make no mistake, learning and growing still hurts. Especially for someone as averse to humble pie (another perception I am working to change) as yours truly, every time a valuable lesson appears, it nearly always challenged my Ego (“YOU WERE WRONG, MORON!” Said the Ego to himself) and therefore I hurt every single person who had ever had the bad fortune to care just a little too much about what my actions represented in their world. Sometimes, they cared about me as a person and these are the people I hurt the most.

Dear God, family, friends, enemies, and acquaintances, as I wrote that, I am suddenly overcome by immense remorse for my thoughtless reactions and actions even as I am overcome by gratitude for all the attention and lessons I have ever received. I recognise that you are all my teachers and I would love nothing more than to make all of you, yes, all of you proud. If you were ever in my life, do know that even if I were ever snarky to you because it wasn’t what I wanted to hear at the time, I am grateful now that you braved my negative demeanour to deliver me from ignorance. For that, I wish nothing but the best things in life to you and that I will take what I got from you to make this world a better place.

Anyway, did the rate of growth accelerate indeed. Few are the days that go by where I feel at peace and I am on top of things. Even now, there’s a mix of emotions consisting of a little gratitude, unworthiness, excitement, guilt, anxiety, ungratefulness (Yes, entitlement is an emotion), heartbreak, happiness, and those other feelings that defy articulation. Even as I am grokking what my soul wants right now, I am learning how to make the results of my actions entirely beneficial to the people who, like it or not, depend on me.

It is apparent that I do not fully consider the full ramifications of my actions before I execute them. In fact, that is exactly the reason I am wracked with guilt and remorse every time I am faced with the less desirable fruits of my actions, which I then have to remind myself that this is another lesson that I have to take or become extremely unpleasant to the people around me.

Rambling aside, this is what I meant by curses: I asked for faster growth, and now I get to experience the constant emotional challenges that come with it.

And here’s the thing about self-awareness: Even if you know that the hurt and feels serve a greater purpose, it doesn’t change the fact that it hurts and is extremely unpleasant. And while it is possible to change our perception so that the old triggers do not trigger the emotional responses anymore, there is still the transition period to endure.

Change is instant, yes, but habits take a little longer to break out of.

So, if you are in the middle of your own personal development project and are finding it extremely tough, I salute you because I am also in the middle of my struggle and I can understand your pain. I wish I could say something like “It’ll get better, soon,” or “This too, shall pass,”  But we know that those are smug platitudes told by people who either do not know our struggles or have already reached the better place, so I won’t.

Instead, try to enjoy the pain. Exult in the bitterness of humble pie. Take heart for all the times when you tried to break an unpleasant habit but have it reappear and make you feel guilty as fuck for indulging. You are going in the right direction. Eventually, if it is your lesson to learn, you will get through to the other side and when that happens, you might wonder why did it hurt you so in the past.

And if it isn’t, then it is okay too. At least you paid your dues and nothing can take that away from you.

Burning the Candle on Both Ends

Perhaps some of us work in a startup with a small team. And you find that it’s everything that you dreamt of, right down to the awesome colleagues, tight deadlines, and meaningful contributions.

Perhaps, some of you might also find that your skill (like mine) is not where you want it to be to create the giant slaying product or service that you envisioned (or perhaps you don’t know what you don’t know). And so you have two choices: learn it up, or fuck off.

The very nature of deadlines and cashflow goes against the need for a learning curve and since we know that time isn’t fungible by default, you would have to find a way to make it so. In my case, I turned to the less legal form of ritalin.

What followed was a 30 hour spree of extreme focus and unshakable faith in my own abilities to comprehend new methods. Not only that, because my focus was on learning and improvement, even when I received perceived destructive criticism (You see, criticism is criticism, and what is constructive to one person is destructive to another), I could focus on the feedback and ignore how I feel about it.

In short, it was 30 hours of nothing but super-man productivity.

But at what cost? You ask. Well, apart from the direct physical effects of amphetamines which is its own ballgame altogether, the indirect effect of dopamine flooding and interrupted sleep cycles and extreme usage of brain-food (glucose) lead directly to, you guessed it, burn out.

Ostensibly, the plan was to start the spree on Thursday and have Friday evening and the rest of the weekend off to recover. What I realised is that two and a half days is only enough to work the rest of the stuff out of my system, and now I am dealing with the emo-ness that comes from suddenly having less dopamine than I am now used to.

It is not sustainable, even in the short term. And given that I have easy access to it (It’s cheaper than you think), I type these words largely for myself.

And yet, given the path that I have chosen, the temptation to make use of God mode will be strong indeed.

Deserve What You Want

Futher along the lines of deserving, I also discovered that ironically, the “nicer” we are, the less we deserve the things that we want. Simply because “reality” loves it some homeostasis and when you exert some power over it, it will do what it can to stay in its current state.

What this means is that if what you want encompasses people, they will get upset because you are now attempting to change their world. And if you are “nice”, you will do anything to not feel like you are responsible for upsetting them. Of course, this is pretty low level thinking because there are books and people whose very message is about getting what you want without making people upset.

Herein lies the problem: People being what they are, there will be people who will get upset regardless of how much benefit you are going to give them and if niceness is the overriding directive, then you are in for a fucking bad time.

Perhaps this is all bad logic and I am merely uncranking some crank I have been working up these past few months. Perhaps the only world I need to change is my own and I am a little too attached to its current state.

On the Nature of Getting Things

So there’s a prevalent theory about deservedness when it comes to actually getting stuff that you want. Everyone, as it turns out, gets exactly what they deserve in the end.

But who gets to decide what you deserve? That is the question, isn’t it?

For most of us in privileged Gen Y (There’s also underprivileged Gen Y as well), it would seem that our parents are the ultimate decider, like yours truly. Since we grew up in the good graces and providence of our parents, we only get what they allow us to get and God forbid when we rebel and attempt to get what we want but they disapprove.

And then there are those of us who didn’t have a central provider for our nice things in life. I have met some of you, and you seem to be able to just “get” your blessings under your own power, much to my envy, even as you envied the seemingly easy life of the privileged.

For years, I grew up feeling that I did not deserve the things I got simply because they were handed to me and all I had to do was to enjoy them. Except that I didn’t really, or rather, I didn’t want to, because I didn’t have to work as hard as the rest did, see?

And so I always came across as some sort of ingrate because I never valued my blessings, because I never worked hard for them, etcetera.

But I suppose vertical social mobility being what it is (Extremely hard, no matter where you are), all we could do is be grateful for our lot in life, yes?

Honour Your Truth

Mortality keeps popping up in my life recently. Both symbolic and literal death. And whenever death is mentioned, there’s just one theme that matters:

Regret

Did you do all the things you wanted to do?
Did you love?

And the list goes on. I think there’s a whole lot of truth when people exhort putting 100% of yourself into your “work” or “life” every day. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you exert a lot of physical or mental effort into your life.

What it does mean, however, is:
Did you pay all your attention to what you truly love?
Did you take concrete steps to that end?

I can’t say that I do all that all the time. But when I did, it feels good. As though you know that at the end, you’d be accountable to your most authentic self, whatever label you may want to put on it.

And when you’ve done everything, at least you could say to yourself: “Well, at least I tried.”

And you can then move on.