Do you procrastinate? I know that I do.
After all, it’s the one universal solution to all of life’s problems. Sure, it comes with consequences down the road, but at least it’s not difficult now, am I right?
The problem, however, arises when the consequences do catch up with us. When we start noticing that our jeans are getting tight because we found it easier to get takeout (again) instead of cooking dinner. When we realize that our relationship has become stale from failing to spend quality time with our partner. When we find ourselves disillusioned with life because we had been too scared to make difficult decisions.
And the thing is, avoidance is so often spoken about as something that influences productivity. Yet it rarely gets the attention it deserves when it comes to mental health and personal growth.
Because, when all things are said and done, we’re not going to care about how much work we got done on that rainy November afternoon. But we might just find ourselves regretting the fact that we’ve spent months or years running away from our problems.
How I realized I had been avoiding my problems
I’ve always been an anxious person. Susceptible to getting worked up over self-imposed pressures, I’ve found myself on the brink of burnout more than once.
Whether I was rushing to meet a deadline at work or just having to figure out what I wanted to buy as a birthday present for my friend, I would get overwhelmed. I couldn’t concentrate, I would often lose my appetite, and I had trouble falling asleep at night, despite feeling exhausted.
But the tipping point to realizing there was something much more serious behind my anxiety was when it all started spinning out of control.
Suddenly, spending a whole weekend at home binge-watching Netflix, treating myself to a new pair of shoes, or getting brand new stationery wasn’t helping anymore. And it wasn’t just failing to make me feel better. If it was in any way possible, I was feeling worse, because all my favorite ways of avoiding were failing me.
So, I decided to talk to someone. Starting with my friends, I slowly worked up the courage to see a therapist, and what I found out wasn’t that there was something terribly wrong with me.
It was just the fact that I was trying to mold myself into someone I, ultimately, was not.
The overwhelming pressure to conform
From a young age, most of us are pressured into accepting societal norms as things we should strive for. And the truth is, it’s not rare for us to adopt these imposed values and goals as our own.
There’s no better way to look at this issue than through children’s toys and clothing. Before babies are even born, society tends to shape their identities with small but significant details. Blue for boys, pink for girls. Soccer vs. ballet. Barbie dolls vs. Hot Wheelz. We’re told what’s acceptable in absolutely every sphere of life, from appearances to hobbies, careers, and sadly, skin color.
So, it’s no surprise that we find ourselves at a crossroads when our desires differ from what’s “right.” Do we follow our heart and go after our dreams? Or do we do what’s expected?
In my therapy sessions, I realized I was guilty of the second. Eager to please, I had, at some point in life, started to measure success not by the way it made me feel, but by how it caused others to react.
Society had taught me that I had to be in a leadership position at a successful company if I wanted to be valued for my contribution to society.
Media convinced me that I wasn’t worthy of love because my body wasn’t a certain shape.
And I had allowed myself to fall back on distractions, instead of searching for solutions during difficult times.
Working towards acceptance
Once I realized that my anxiety, tendency towards procrastination, bouts of depression, and the neglecting of my negative feelings were, in part, the result of being dishonest with myself, I knew that it was time to face the music.
Instead of running away from my feelings, I chose to work through them instead. With the help of my therapist, I asked the difficult questions and gave myself the space to give honest answers.
Some of the things I found out about myself, I didn’t like. But throughout the process, I also made room for positive change and growth.
I allowed myself to question the issues I was really avoiding. I took the time to rethink my career path. And, I started to seek out a lifestyle that was more in line with my internal values.
What I realized was that the courage to go after what I truly wanted to be wasn’t just making me happy. It was liberating.
In truth, I know that my journey to self-acceptance and self-love isn’t over. To be honest, it’s still going on and will continue to do so far into the future. After all, we can’t keep running away from our shadows. We’re permanently attached to them.
But what we can do is try and understand that our shadows are significant parts of ourselves.
They’re what makes us uniquely us. And by taking a pause and a good look into those dark parts, we can find the strength and drive to move towards the light.
All it takes is one small step.
Sarah Kaminski is a life enjoyer, positivity seeker, and a curiosity enthusiast. She is passionate about an eco-friendly lifestyle and adores her cats. She is an avid reader who loves to travel when time allows.
Image courtesy of Pragyan Bezbaruah.