Feeling Anxious? Being Kind Can Change That

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“Walking around and offering kindness to others in the world reduces anxiety and increases happiness and feelings of social connection,” says Douglas Gentile, professor of psychology at Iowa State University. “It’s a simple strategy that doesn’t take a lot of time that you can incorporate into your daily activities.”

Researchers tested the benefits of three different techniques intended to reduce anxiety and increase happiness or well-being. They did this by having college students walk around a building for 12 minutes and practice one of the following strategies:

  • Loving-kindness: Looking at the people they see and thinking to themselves, “I wish for this person to be happy.” Students were encouraged to really mean it as they were thinking it.
  • Interconnectedness: Looking at the people they see and thinking about how they are connected to each other. It was suggested that students think about the hopes and feelings they may share or that they might take a similar class.
  • Downward social comparison: Looking at the people they see and thinking about how they may be better off than each of the people they encountered.

The study, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, also included a control group in which researchers instructed students to look at people and focus on what they see on the outside, such as their clothing, the combination of colors, textures, as well as makeup and accessories. Researchers surveyed all students before and after the walk to measure anxiety, happiness, stress, empathy, and connectedness.

WHICH TECHNIQUE IS BEST?

The researchers compared each technique with the control group and found those who practiced loving-kindness or wished others well felt happier, more connected, caring, and empathetic, as well as less anxious. The interconnectedness group was more empathetic and connected. Downward social comparison showed no benefit, and was significantly worse than the loving-kindness technique.

Students who compared themselves to others felt less empathetic, caring, and connected than students who extended well wishes to others. Previous studies have shown downward social comparison has a buffering effect when we are feeling bad about ourselves. The researchers found the opposite.

“At its core, downward social comparison is a competitive strategy,” says coauthor Dawn Sweet, a senior lecturer in psychology. “That’s not to say it can’t have some benefit, but competitive mindsets have been linked to stress, anxiety, and depression.”

The researchers also examined how different types of people reacted to each technique. They expected people who were naturally mindful might benefit more from the loving-kindness strategy, or narcissistic people might have a hard time wishing for others to be happy. The results surprised them somewhat.

“This simple practice is valuable regardless of your personality type,” says coauthor Lanmiao He, a graduate student in psychology. “Extending loving-kindness to others worked equally well to reduce anxiety, increase happiness, empathy, and feelings of social connection.”

US VS. THEM

Social media is like a playground for comparisons: he makes more money than I do; she has a nicer car. While the study did not look specifically at social media, Gentile says the results demonstrate that comparison is a risky strategy.

“It is almost impossible not to make comparisons on social media,” Gentile says.

“Our study didn’t test this, but we often feel envy, jealousy, anger, or disappointment in response to what we see on social media, and those emotions disrupt our sense of well-being.”

Comparison works well when we are learning something or making a choice, Gentile says. For example, as children we learn by watching others and comparing their results to ours. However, when it comes to well-being, comparison is not as effective as loving-kindness, which consistently improves happiness.

Source: Iowa State University

3 Things Self-Compassionate People Always Do (and 3 Things They Don’t)

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CREDIT: Getty Images

Being mean to others isn’t going to win you any leadership points, guaranteed. But self-compassion is a key factor for success too. Without it, as you hit the inevitable failuresthat come with experimenting and learning, both the confidence and energy you need to interact, generate ideas, and overcome difficulties fade fast. So it’s worth hitting pause for a second and assessing if your kindness to yourself needs a level up.

In The New York Times, Tara Parker-Pope offers a quick, no-fuss version of a self-compassion test adapted from the Self-Compassion Scale. The 12 statements used for that test that you’re supposed to consider are as follows:

  1.  I try to be understanding and patient toward those aspects of my personality I don’t like.
  2. When something painful happens, I try to take a balanced view of the situation.
  3. I try to see my failings as part of the human condition.
  4. When I’m going through a very hard time, I give myself the caring and tenderness I need.
  5. When something upsets me, I try to keep my emotions in balance.
  6. When I feel inadequate in some way, I try to remind myself that feelings of inadequacy are shared by most people.
  7. When I fail at something important to me, I become consumed by feelings of inadequacy.
  8. When I’m feeling down, I tend to feel like most other people are probably happier than I am.
  9. When I fail at something that’s important to me, I tend to feel alone in my failure.
  10. When I’m feeling down, I tend to obsess and fixate on everything that’s wrong.
  11. I’m disapproving and judgmental about my own flaws and inadequacies.
  12. I’m intolerant and impatient toward those aspects of my personality I don’t like.

I recommend that you take the NYT quiz to get your custom self-compassion score and have a better sense of how much personal work you might have to do. But simply looking at the questions themselves, you can see that, while they’re related, self-compassion isn’t the same as self-care. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re self-compassionate just because you took the time yesterday to indulge in a bubble bath or bought yourself that reward you wanted last week.

Self-compassion, as defined by Dr. Kristin Neff of the University of Texas at Austin, has three key elements. These are

  • Self-kindness vs. self-judgment
  • Common humanity vs. isolation
  • Mindfulness vs. over-identification

These elements mean that, if you practice self-compassion, you recognize that perfection isn’t possible. Subsequently, you don’t criticize yourself if you fall short. You do try to understand what it is that held you back and what you need. And if something goes wrong, you don’t egotistically think that there’s something magical about you that’s pinned you for more imperfection, suffering, or vulnerability than anybody else. You realize that you’re not an exception to the rule and that it’s the human condition to sometimes screw up and not get what we want. And, finally, you stay aware of how you feel in a balanced way. You acknowledge your emotions for what they are without getting lost in or judging them, and as both a participant and a more objective observer to those feelings, you have the clarity and larger perspective necessary to figure out the best way to move forward.

 

If you find that it’s difficult for you to do any of these three things, think hard about what negative implicit biases you’ve learned about yourself and where they might come from. When thoughts based on those biases crop up, every single time, flood yourself with positive messages to teach yourself of a new bias, one that’s true. Then surround yourself with encouraging people. As they see the best in you and offer compassion, it will be easier for you to see the best in you and be kind to yourself too.

What Happens When You Embrace Dark Emotions

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When I was 15, my mother died in a car accident. Not knowing how to deal with the enormity of my loss and grief, I threw myself into homework and activities. I never missed a day of school and tried to control everything in my life. This strategy succeeded in some ways—I was able to get good grades, for example. But the inner cost of pushing away my grief and sadness showed up in other ways. I became anxious around things I couldn’t control, like unexpected changes in plans and minor injuries. And as I grew older, I started to harbor irrational worries, such as the fear of exposing my baby in utero to toxic fumes when walking past a strange smell. It was not until later, after my first child was born, that I was able to fully grieve the loss of my mother with the help of a therapist and feel all of the emotions I had spent so many years trying to ward off. As I write in my new book, “Dancing on the Tightrope,” the desire to avoid what’s unpleasant and seek what’s pleasant is part of human nature. But avoiding unpleasant emotions—rather than accepting them—only increases our psychological distress, inflexibility, anxiety, and depression, diminishing our well-being.

Dancing on the Tightrope: Transcending the Habits of Your Mind and Awakening to Your Fullest Life” (Wellbridge Books, 2018, 172 pages)

Research suggests that when we turn toward our cravings, we’re less likely to engage in addictive behaviors. When we turn toward our physical pain, we’re less likely to be trapped in cycles of chronic pain. When we turn toward our sadness, we’re less likely to be stuck in depression. And, when we turn toward our anxiety, we’re less likely to be paralyzed by it and can find it easier to bear.

Learning to embrace dark emotions not only reduced my anxiety but also gave me the ability to experience the joys of life more fully and trust in my ability to handle life’s challenges. As a therapist, I have also seen tremendous healing with my patients as they have learned to embrace their difficult emotions.

If we want to live more fully and be our most authentic selves, we need to turn toward our pain, not try to suppress it. But what can help us get there? The tools of mindful attention, self-compassion, and acceptance—which all come together in a practice I call “The Door.”

To do this practice yourself, make sure to start with emotions that aren’t too intense. You might want to work with a skilled therapist, especially for more intense emotions. Here’s what The Door involves.

Step 1: Develop a Willingness to Open the Door

Imagine that you’re opening the door and welcoming your emotions to come and have a seat somewhere in the room. You can picture this seat as close to or as far away from you as you like. From this perspective, you can take a gentle and curious look at what is there.

Often people will picture their emotions as having some kind of color, shape, or form. Sometimes they envision their emotions as cartoon characters or as younger parts of themselves. Part of the practice is simply to accept whatever arrives.

This is a new experience for most people. Who wants to let anxiety in the door? Who wants to welcome in sadness or anger? But when we let in whatever arrives and see it from a bit of a distance, we can take a curious look and explore what is there.

Step 2: Take a Curious Look at Whatever Walks in the Door

Mindfully observing what we’re feeling can help us cope with whatever is before us. It can be useful to name our feelings—”Oh, that’s hurt; that’s jealousy; that’s anger”—because, as simple as this sounds, we often don’t pay attention to the nuances of what we’re feeling. Consequently, important information gets lost along the way. Labeling our distressing emotions gives us a way of validating our inner experience, but it has the added benefit of dialing down their intensity.

It can also be beneficial to see our emotional “visitors” as temporary guests. Adding the phrase “in this moment” to a statement like “I am feeling stress, anger, or hurt” can help us be with what is there without feeling overwhelmed. Other things you might say to yourself include:

  • Can I allow myself to notice how this is showing up in my body and in my thoughts?
  • If this feeling or part of me could talk, what might it say?
  • What might it want or need?

Being curious rather than fearful or rejecting your emotions provides a better lens for understanding them.

Step 3: Give Yourself the Gift of Compassion

Besides pushing away uncomfortable feelings, many of us have been conditioned to judge our emotions in negative ways. We’ve learned that if we show sadness, it’s a sign of weakness, that we’re a bad person if we feel anger or jealousy, and that we should “move on” when we experience loss. When we come face-to-face with difficult emotions, we often tell ourselves to buck up and stop being silly or that there’s something wrong with us.

When we practice mindfulness in combination with self-kindness and a recognition of our common humanity—the fact that we all suffer as human beings—we cultivate self-compassion, a quality that’s been linked to psychological well-being.

To practice self-compassion, imagine sitting with a good friend who is suffering and think about how you might extend a gesture of compassion. What would your body language be like? How might you listen? What sensations would you feel around your heart?

Now picture that person extending compassion towards you. What might they say or do? What words would you find comforting or soothing?

Chances are, they wouldn’t be telling you to cut it out or that you shouldn’t be feeling this way. They might say, “That sounds really hard. I’m here for you.” Or perhaps they would simply extend a hand.

When we can learn to sit mindfully with our own emotions and bring compassion to whatever we’re experiencing, it’s as if we have become that caring friend, sitting with ourselves. Learning to be there for ourselves, through the positive moments—and the painful ones—can be tremendously healing.

While embracing our dark emotions takes courage and practice, using The Door technique allows us to open to a gift on the other side. Each time we practice being with our difficult emotions, we grow inner resources, learn to trust in our capacity to handle our experiences, develop resilience to move through life’s challenges, and find ways to pursue what truly matters. Each of us has the power to face what is hard if we only open the door.

Beth Kurland is a clinical psychologist, public speaker, and author of three books, including “Dancing on the Tightrope: Transcending the Habits of Your Mind and Awakening to Your Fullest Life,” from which this essay was adapted. This article was republished from Healthline.com

Unselfish People Are Higher Earners, So Start Being More Generous Now

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According to the Journal of Personality and Psychology, it’s actually fiscally viable to be altruistic.Researchers at the University of Stockholm, The University of South Carolina and The Institute for Future Studies recently observed 6,000 Europeans and Americans in an attempt to better understand prosociality and its effect on income.

Prosociality is defined as behavior that is positive, helpful and intended to promote social acceptance and friendship (things like volunteering, sharing and donating for example).

The team has previously established a positive correlation between prosociality and psychological well-being but they had yet to explore the potential economic benefits.

Unselfish people are higher earners

Despite conventional wisdom, the five studies conducted by the three organizations repeatedly disclosed “selfish people” as the lower earners when compared to altruistic ones.  More specifically they found that people that we’re “moderately prosocial” but not completely giving or selfish earned the most, in four out of the five studies.

“The result is clear in both the American and the European data. The most unselfish people receive the highest salaries. And we also find this result over time – the people who are most generous at one point in time have the largest salary increases when researchers revisit them later in time,” summates Kimmo Eriksson, a researcher at the Centre for Cultural Evolution at Stockholm University.

The reasoning can only be guessed at, though some experts have attempted. The authors of the study for one, believe the selflessness, wealth correlation is due to overall social health. Those that are giving also tend to excel in other areas important to establishing bonds which, in turn, has been independently proven to promote wealth.

Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take, corroborates with the warning that we let our altruism be attended by prudence: “Being Generous without sacrificing yourself.”

Grant also makes the important distinction that having a stake in the well being of others isn’t strictly defined by monetary terms. Giving good advice, providing mentorship, and imparting knowledge” are all valid and integral parts of prosociality.

Showing Yourself Compassion Can Have Mental and Physical Benefits

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Expressing love for your nearest and dearest is a hallmark of Valentine’s Day, but research suggests that you may want to save some of that love and compassion for yourself.

A study published in Clinical Psychological Science shows that university students who engaged in exercises focused on self-compassion had lower physiological arousal relative to peers who engaged in other exercises.

“These findings suggest that being kind to oneself switches off the threat response and puts the body in a state of safety and relaxation that is important for regeneration and healing,” says Hans Kirschner of the University of Exeter, first author on the research.

“Previous research has found that self-compassion was related to higher levels of well-being and better mental health, but we didn’t know why,” explains lead researcher Anke Karl, also of the University of Exeter.

“Our study is helping us understand the mechanism of how being kind to yourself when things go wrong could be beneficial in psychological treatments,” Karl says. “By switching off our threat response, we boost our immune systems and give ourselves the best chance of healing. We hope future research can use our method to investigate this in people with mental health problems such as recurrent depression.”

For the study, the researchers recruited 135 university students and assigned them to one of five experimental groups. Each group completed an exercise in which they listened to an 11-minute audio recording and engaged with a specific scenario.

The researchers monitored participants’ physiological arousal during the exercise, measuring their heart rate and sweat response. Participants also answered questions about how safe they felt, how likely they were to be kind to themselves, and how connected they felt to others.

As expected, the two groups that engaged in self-compassion exercises — either a body scan meditation or a loving-kindness meditation — reported feeling more self-compassion and connection with others as a result of the exercises. And they also showed reduced physiological arousal, with a drop in heart rate and diminished sweat response. They also showed an increase in heart rate variability, a sign of being able to flexibly adapt to different situations.

Importantly, participants who engaged in positive thinking by focusing on an event or situation that was going well also reported increased self-compassion and decreased self-criticism, but they did not show the same physiological response.

In contrast, the group that engaged in self-critical thinking, contemplating something they hadn’t managed or achieved as they had hoped, showed an increase in heart rate and sweat response — physiological signs consistent with feelings of stress.

“These findings help us to further understand some of our clinical trials research findings, where we show that individuals with recurrent depression benefit particularly from mindfulness-based cognitive therapy when they learn to become more self-compassionate,” says coauthor Willem Kuyken of the University of Oxford.

Future research will need to explore whether the one-time self-compassion exercises used in this study have similar effects for people with depression.

Overall, the findings suggest that showing yourself a little love and compassion may help you feel more connected and less stressed.

Reference

Kirschner, H., Kuyken, W., Wright, K., Roberts, H., Brejcha, & Karl, A. (2019). Soothing your heart and feeling connected: A new experimental paradigm to study the benefits of self-compassion. Psychological Science. doi:10.1177/2167702618812438

How Self-Help Can Help The World

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Many meditators, yogis, and other spiritual practitioners will answer this question with a resounding yes. Critics – ranging from religious studies and management scholars to serious Buddhist practitioners – may disagree.

Mindfulness meditation, which has grown exponentially in popularity in recent years, is commonly associated with a wide-ranging set of contemplative practices aimed at training oneself to pay “attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally,” as defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society.

Early leaders in the mindfulness movement, many of whom came of age in the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s, had a more activist bent; they hoped that mindfulness would lead to a wave of self-actualization, increased compassion for others, and democratic decision-making. With these tools, humanity would be able to collectively address the many complex social problems we collectively face, such as racism, overconsumption, economic inequality, and environmental degradation.

To investigate the spread of mindfulness across powerful social institutions in science, healthcare, education, business, and the military, I travelled around the country from 2010-2012, and again in 2015, talking with leaders of the mindfulness movement. The passionate, inspiring mindfulness advocates at top Ivy League and flagship universities, at Fortune 500 companies like Google and General Mills, at K-12 schools, and the U.S. military had personally benefited from meditating and felt bolstered by a wave of scientific evidence which has supported the practices’ beneficial effects on well-being, memory, attention, meta-awareness, cognitive flexibility, and emotional regulation. Above all, by sharing mindfulness, meditators believed they not only transformed themselves, but the world around them.

Yet, most meditators I spoke with revealed more self-centered effects from spending time in quiet contemplation. This was not surprising to some of mindfulness’ leaders.

Sitting in his office at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society in January of 2015 in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, Executive Director Saki Santorelli told me that people loved to do mindfulness because they learned about who they were, and through the practice, they transcended who they previously were, and who they had thought they were. This process was intrinsically rewarding and exhilarating.

People come to their mindfulness program, he said, because they have “a Real. Life. Problem. Something is just not right,” he said. “And what keeps people engaged is . . . the most interesting topic in the world.” He paused and turned toward me.

“What is this most interesting topic in the world?” He paused again, waiting.

“The most interesting topic in the world,” he responded, “is me.” He continued, “People come here because they are interested in me. Meaning themselves. And something’s not quite right about me or I want to learn more about me including “how am I going to live with this condition for the next 20 or 30 or 40 years?”
In teaching mindfulness at the Center, they seek to “draw out,” rather than “pour in” knowledge. They seek to ignite “a fire with people to know more about ‘who’ or ‘what’ I actually am,” he said. He explained:

They start with practice. Practice reveals not because I say so, but because they discover it. They discover that they have a breath, they discover that it feels a particular way, they discover something about the relative present moment, whatever that is. They discover something about what happens in their viscera when they have a particular thought or a particular emotion . . . They discover the ways that they’re conditioned or limiting themselves or living today out of yesterday’s memory, about whom or what I am or what I’m capable of. And they love it. . . . And whenever people discover a little bit more about who they are, they transcend. And ultimately, I think that’s what’s transformative—is that sense of transcending. Transcend some idea about who you think they are, even if it’s a tiny little idea, and then you feel more room.

Others found meditation useful for different reasons. Neuroscientist Ravi Chaudhary (pseudonym used upon request) thought mindfulness practice provided him with a critical cognitive distance that enabled him to pause, reflect, and ultimately, have greater self-control in facing the challenges that arose in his life. He has learned “not be super reactive to unpleasant situations,” he said. “There’s difficult situations no matter what,” but with mindfulness, he now can take “a moment, sit back and accept that . . . I am not part of it, but rather it is there and I am here.” This helps him make decisions “as if it’s a presumed situation,” and he feels less entangled with difficult situations.

These effects of mindfulness meditation are no doubt important: they help people learn about themselves and, hopefully, engage in more thoughtful decision-making. Mindfulness meditation can also have a therapeutic effect for many people, helping them de-stress, calm themselves and provide openings to experience a sense of peace.

However, mindfulness’s impact off the cushion of the larger organizations and communities where it is practiced largely remains to be seen. Most mindfulness programs have never gotten around to confronting the many larger-scale social problems we face as a society; in fact many newer practitioners might be surprised to learn that founders of early mindfulness programs had sought out such activist-minded ends. In speaking with dozens of program leaders and mindfulness teachers, only a handful had any evidence at all that their programs’ impacts extended beyond the program’s direct participants and into the larger organizations they were a part of.

The impact of mindfulness practice, even among top CEOs and corporate leaders, is largely not trickling down into their larger companies and causing them to cut down expected work hours or loads or increase wages, which are the fundamental causes of the stress many Americans face today. While meditation practices may individually improve the lives of practitioners, and perhaps even those they regularly interact with, it is less clear how the practices lead to the collective action needed to address the complex social problems we face daily in our workplaces and in our democracy.

Yet, the myth that mindfulness will lead to a more progressive, utopian world continues to linger, as a mirage, that might appear just around the bend.

Featured image credit: “Take a seat photo” by Simon Wilkes. Public Domain via Unsplash.

Positive Thinking Can Help Your Health Later In Life, According To A Recent Study

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Life sure can have its ups and downs, but it looks like maintaining a strong sense of optimism could actually benefit your health in the longterm. According to a recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), positive thinking can help your health in your later years. Who knows — positive thinking could just be the key to immortality. I’m kidding, of course (or am I?)

The study, conducted by Professor Andrew Steptoe and Dr Daisy Fancourt, analysed data collated between 2012 and 2016 from over 7,000 adults over the age of 50 as part of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), as described by University College London.

When asked “to what extent they felt the things they did in their life were worthwhile,” participants were instructed to rate their answer on a scale from one to ten. Researchers found that those who rated higher lived life significantly better. From walking faster to sleeping well, those with a positive attitude exuded it in both mind and body.

Having an optimistic outlook on life has plenty of other benefits too, including an improvement on your ability to cope with stress, can boost your immunity, and can even lead to an increased lifespan, according to Verywell Mind.

Lucas Ottone/Stocksy

Taking other aspects of a participants life into account, the study was also able to determine that those who had higher ratings kept their lives pretty busy, surrounding themselves with strong relationships, socialising, and exercising. Participants who rated lower were “twice as likely to develop depressive symptoms,” and were also linked with living on their own and feeling overwhelmingly lonely.

“As more and more men and women live longer, we need to understand better what factors lead to healthier and happier older age,” Steptoe explained. “This is a two-way process. Not only do good social relationships and better health contribute to our sense that we are living meaningful lives, but this sense of meaning sustains social and cultural activity, health and wellbeing in the future.”

Jovo Jovanovic/Stocksy

Even though this study focuses on those aged over 50, that doesn’t mean that those in their thirties, twenties, or even teens can’t adopt a more positive outlook on life. I mean, starting early is always the best thing in my book, especially if it can improve your health and mental wellbeing.

And even if you’re introverted or have mental health issues like depression, you can gain positivity from literally anything. For me, it’s always the little things like immersing myself in video games or just spending time with my family.

Jayme Burrows/Stocksy

“We do not know what activities the participants in this study thought were worthwhile,” Fancourt explained. “For some it might be supporting their families, for others a particular accomplishment in their work or hobby, enjoying nature or perhaps following a favourite sports team. What is important is that the individual finds these activities worthwhile and feels like they give a sense of meaning to life.”

If you want to start living your life to the optimistic full, here’s some advice. Pick one thing your absolutely passionate about, and fit it into your daily routine. Even if you’re having a rough day, it’ll be there to pick you up and spin your mind back into the positive.

Some Things To Remember When You Think You’re Not Doing Well Enough

See ThoughtCatalog Article Here
By Kovie Biakolo

What do you measure yourself by? Your bank account? Your job? Your “stuff”? The number of people you know and/or know you? Your accomplishments? Whether you’re meeting and checking the timeline and timetable of society’s social requirements for who you should be? All of the above?

It’s hard not to feel like life is some sort of race. After all, if there is one thing all of us can agree is a limited resource, it’s time. And because of our uncertain relationship with how much time we have, we can feel that what we want, what we aspire to do or own or be, can only be achieved within the frame of this limited resource – time.

There’s a pressure in being cognizant of time. A pressure that causes us to look at ourselves and compare our lives to others’ – even with limited information. A pressure that at times makes us resent our circumstances, present or past. A pressure that can feel crippling and infuriating and unjust. And sometimes it can feel that no matter how hard we try, how hard we fight, how much we work, and how badly we want it – we’re just not there.

And sometimes it can feel that no matter how hard we try, how hard we fight, how much we work, and how badly we want it – we’re just not there.

There is a place, that though mostly is a figment of our imagination, it feels as real as anything tangible. There is the place that we dream of, the place we tell ourselves that our happiness and desires can finally be realized. There is the place, we think, we will be satisfied and full and accomplished.

The reality of there, however, is that it always seems to change. The more success you have, the more you’ll likely want. The closer you are to the life of your fantasies, the greater those fantasies become. It’s human nature but it’s also simple economics: human wants are insatiable. And especially when you’re young and privileged and bright and have been told the world is at your feet, you work for and hope for and want all those things the world said you could be.

But experience hits you. The reality of what it takes to be those things in spite of your talent or hard work or circumstance, hits you. And it hits you over and over again, each time chipping away at those dreams and desires. But you resist, after all you’re young, and you’re resilient. Still, no matter how much hope you hold onto, you question: Can I really do this? Is it really worth it? Am I just not good enough?

That question can be crippling – “Am I just not good enough?” But I wonder, good enough for what? Good enough for the societal standards we are all meant to live by? Good enough for the aspirations you have set your heart on? Good enough to be the person that you’d always said you were meant to become?

That question can be crippling – “Am I just not good enough?”

The truth is maybe you are and maybe you aren’t. Especially when it comes to society’s arbitrary rules on who you should be and what you should want, and how your dreams fit into all of this. It’s difficult to know whether to call it quits and find a new dream, or whether to keep fighting the good fight. It’s difficult when you know the odds are against you, or that “the rules” are designed to make winners and losers, or that luck exists, or that life is unfair and unevenly cruel. It’s difficult, in spite of the words of poets and artists and intellectuals, to believe that your dreams can really come true. Instead it feels more than anything else, that all dreams have done, is made you crippled with anxiety and dissatisfied with life. What does one do in these moments?

One thing that helps me in such moments is to focus on the task at hand. I’ve learned to focus on what I can do today every time I feel crippled by fear and anxiety and the unrelenting desire to be more than I am. Because the truth is that we must put in the work, but we must never be so pompous as to believe that the work in and of itself is enough to get us where we want to be. We are not in charge of it all, and that’s not superstition, that’s fact. We might need someone to take a chance on us, someone to believe in us, a stroke of luck, or the intervention of divine providence. And knowing this can be freeing, it can be the liberty you need to do your very best, while knowing that the world too must do its part.

Above all, the thing I find the most helpful when I feel defeated is to remember the previous time I felt like this. The last time I thought I wasn’t good enough, the last time I felt crippled by fear and anxiety of not being good enough – did I not survive it? Is it just not a temporary feeling like anything else? Indeed it was, indeed it is.

Chances are, as I realized in those times, when you think of time andthere and experience, and the reality of how much is in your hands, and how much is not, you need to remember that even in those moments of what feels like crippling defeat or failure or the feeling that you are not enough – you’re probably doing much better than you think. And should you ever forget that, close your eyes, and listen to the sound of yourself breathing; that reminder of your life force. My dear friend, that is hope, and as long as that remains, you are enough.

“This Is Water” -David Foster Wallace: lovelymorningsseries.

“It is unimaginably hard to do this, to stay conscious and alive, day in and day out.”

This is Water is a keynote speech written by David Foster Wallace about living a compassionate life & since I first listened to it in 2011, whenever I need to put things into perspective it is one of the first resources I return to.

“If you worship money and things — if they are where you tap real meaning in life — then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already — it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. “

“This is Water” Keynote Speech Video

“This is Water” Transcript

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