How to Comfortably Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

The adage of “getting out of your comfort” zone is far too common in self-help and personal development circles, for better or for worse. It is for the better because there is no denying that life does begin at the end of the comfort zone. However, it can also be for the worse when the practice is advertised as intentionally getting yourself in the danger zone.

As I’ve posited in Movie Montage Motivation, growth comes from a constant daily grind toward mastery. It takes time to learn and train in something you’re interested in, it doesn’t all happen in the matter of three minutes to the tune of Eye of the Tiger. In fact, it probably takes listening to Survivor’s entire discography several times over before you can deservedly run to the top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s stairs and throw your hands up in triumph.

And if you pay close attention to Rocky’s facial expressions during that monumental montage, you could read the clear discomfort in his disposition that speaks volumes of how hard it actually is to get out your comfort zone. In today’s Meaningful Monday post, here are three things you can do get out of your comfort zone comfortably with little to no impact other than surprising yourself with what you could accomplish if you just applied yourself properly:

  1. Being clear about your motivations.
  2. Taking tiny steps.
  3. Committing past the resistance.

He Who Has a ‘Why’ to Live Can Bear Almost Any ‘How’ – Nietzsche

If you have a specific interest you want to become familiar with and master, it is important to evaluate what it would mean to you commit to it, as well as why you’re engaging with it in the first place. What is motivating you to learn about something beyond mere fascination with it? Maybe it’s learning about real estate investing, learning how to paint, or even in my case, learning how to play a certain genre of video game.

Whatever your motivation is, be clear as to why you want to gain some mastery in something and you will inevitably gravitate towards the methods in which you can achieve the aforementioned mastery. Or at the very least, something close to mastery; a level you’re comfortable with reaching and staying in, with the option to grow further down the line if you so choose.

Take for example my recent fascination with First Person Shooters, a genre of video game that I used to detest throughout my life. I’d seldom play them here and there and overall preferred games in third person because it is easier to see what my character is doing, as well as measuring the distance between my attacks and the positioning of my opponents.

One FPS I really want to “git gud” at is Overwatch because I am enamored by the lore, the character design, and overall gameplay. Despite my aversion to FPS games, I did play it for a while last year and got somewhat decent at it while using a Steam Controller to play it, but often felt stumped with how bad my aim was. So inevitably I figured that maybe I should switch over to playing with keyboard and mouse to have better control over my aim.

At first it felt like I sacrificed my movement skills from the Steam Controller for the sake of a very tiny improvement in my aim, but I’ve been at it for weeks now, along with playing a whole slew of other FPS games and have been in love since. I cannot believe that after all these years I have missed out on such a great genre because I wasn’t good enough at them to enjoy them, let alone garner any interest in them to begin with.

But you might be asking at this point, what is my why, and what is the how I’ve come to because of my motivations?

The simple answer is that I want to get good at FPS games so I can enjoy them better. After all, constantly getting rekt can get tiring fast, and it is gratifying to be able to avoid attacks and concoct strategies to outsmart either the AI in single player games or the human opponents in online competitive games. The deeper answer, I suppose, is wanting to be able to contribute to my team and help them achieve victory.

So how do I get good? Constant practice and playing, as well as some self reflection as to how I use the abilities of my chosen character in conjunction with the abilities of my teammates, and learning the beautiful balance between calling certain shots and letting others lead the team when they have better ideas than me. Couple that with video tutorials geared toward specific characters and how to use them effectively, as well as other general tips that can be universalized across FPS games.

Now hopefully I haven’t lost any sophisticated folks who are too good for video games–because I’ll admit this wasn’t the most meaningful example possible–but the principle is to take stock of why you want something and figure out how to get it. Sometimes you’ll stumble around blindly and trip over yourself, other times you’ll learn from cold hard experience. While this is fine for the most part, we do live in an age where there are resources for just about any interest out there with people who are more than happy to help others expand their awareness and proficiency, so seek those out as well.

Aim High, but Don’t Break Your Neck

The next thing you need to consider is how reasonable your goals are. You want to aim high enough so that there would be a noticeable difference between you right now and the you you will become as a result of your practice and dedication. But you also don’t want to aim too high that your intended goal is constantly out of reach and only serves to discourage you from ever moving forward.

This is the importance of taking it slow and taking small steps toward your goals, especially when you’re just starting out. It’s already hard enough stepping out of your comfort zone so why make things even harder for yourself, right?

What helps you digest big goals is to cut them up into tinier bite sized portions. Think about your favorite meal and what it takes to eat it. Let’s say you like burgers. While you could stuff your entire mouth with a burger, I wouldn’t recommend it. Big juicy burgers take several tiny (or a few giant 😉 bites to finish. It’s the same thing with achieving a goal.

I would even argue that you shouldn’t see the end result as your goal, rather treat that tiny chunk of the goal as the most important thing in your life. You know that clichĂ©; life’s all about the journey and not the destination. So maybe instead of constantly looking toward who you would be as a master at something, maybe approach every tiny step toward that mastery as if it’s the most important thing and only thing in the world.

Own Your Interests, but Don’t Let Them Own You

Having interests in anything like art, sports, and any other hobbies you can think of is a way to enrich our lives and add meaning to them. As humans with a limited lifespan, we need things to preoccupy our minds with or we risk staring straight into the abyss, filled with the inherent anxiety that comes with mortality.

What interests you the most? Are these hobbies you engage with alone and/or with others? Has anyone ever given you any trouble for having these interests? And on the flip side, have you ever been so dumbfounded by someone else’s interests that you couldn’t wrap your head around how one could be so obsessed with something you simply don’t understand?

Interests and You

Having interests in anything like art, sports, and any other hobbies you can think of is a way to enrich our lives and add meaning to them. As humans with a limited lifespan, we need things to preoccupy our minds with or we risk staring straight into the abyss, filled with the inherent anxiety that comes with mortality.

I don’t mean to sound so bleak, but when you stop to really think about it, we really are just distracting ourselves before death, and in my humble opinion, there is a right way to distract yourself and a wrong way to distract yourself. The right way to engage in these distractions is to be so immersed in the experience that the concept of time becomes irrelevant, while the wrong way is using interests to fill your ego and avoid connection with yourself and others.

Interests are a highly personal thing and may mean different things to one person than it does for another. For example, my lifelong interest in video games holds with different motives than it does for others. For a lot of people it’s just a way to relax, turn their brains off, and have a good time. And that’s perfectly fine, I won’t judge them for it.

It’s just that for me, on top of those things I mentioned above, video games are also experienced I like immersing myself in to appreciate the amalgamation of art that they contain. From the graphical aesthetics, the mechanical design, and right down to the music and writing all add up to a cacophony of pleasure, meaning, and inspiration for me. Additionally, I also enjoy them because they are a way to test my capacity for skill development.

Now while there is an argument to be made that skills learned in video games are not transferable to real life, I would normally beg to differ, but for the sake of brevity I want to emphasize the more meta concept of skill development. If not the development of skills, it’s the accumulation of knowledge that comes with learning and researching different interests.

For you it might be a TV show that you’re in love with for a myriad of reasons. Maybe it hits all the right emotional beats you like or it has all the interesting concepts that fire up your imagination. Whatever it is, it is through your interests that you learn a lot about yourself. You learn what matters to you based on what aspects you pay attention to. You also end up sharpening different aspects of yourself through these interests depending on what kind of skills they require to become proficient in.

Sharing Your Interests With Others

The beauty of having your own personal reasons for liking something is finding people with similar interests to share your passions with. If they have different reasons than you, then it only enriches your experience further because they can point you toward other aspects of that interest that you wouldn’t have noticed on your own.

Taking another example from my life, I also like to make music and while I can humbly admit that I’m an adept songwriter, I can even more humbly admit that I have 0 clue what I’m doing production wise. I can write songs with diverse song structures, catchy hooks, and meaningful lyrics, but when I recorded my first EP this past summer, I literally had no clue how to sound engineer it to make it sound professional.

I shared a song with a music producer friend of mine and gave me some pretty good feedback on how to improve it. Little things like recording a second take for my vocals and rhythm guitar could thicken the sound of the production and make it sound less empty in terms of its sonic spacing. Couple that with another friend of mine who has insights on how to equalize the different instruments to make them pop more in the mix, these were all things I didn’t pay much mind to because I’m so hyper focused on the songwriting itself.

For those of you who don’t know much about music, I am hoping I still retained your interest because another beautiful thing about having your own unique approach to your interests is sharing it with others who don’t initially have much knowledge on your interests until you share it with them.

As a friend to diverse group of people, one of my mantras is “your pleasure is my pleasure.” If you have an interest I have no clue about like gardening or bodybuilding, because you are my friend, you can share the things you are passionate about with me because I’m interested in learning more about what inspires you and what matters to you. I’m always equipped with an endless array of questions to get a better understanding of how other hobbies function that I may or may not get into myself.

Likewise when you share you interests with friends who support your divergent passions, sharing those interests with them also helps you understand your interests better because you are forced to describe things to people who are not “in the know” about them. Not only does it help them feel more connected to you–because they get a better understanding of what matters to you and the details you are attuned to–but you also end up developing a greater understanding of your interests because you may not have initially been conscious of what you like about them until you’ve conceptualized them in conversation.

Your Interests vs the Disinterest of Others

Unfortunately not everybody is willing to understand you to the fullest and may even find reason to dissuade you from your interests. Or worse, some people have interests that are so esoteric that it’s almost as if they have them just to affirm that no one understands them. This is quite the pickle because my focus is uniting people of similar and divergent interests, and sometimes there are just people out there who will either hate on you for liking a certain thing, or regard their own interests as something that makes them better than you.

This is where today’s title comes in handy: own your interests, but don’t let them own you.

What I mean by this is while it’s good to have interests your passionate about, you can’t let them consume you and turn into your entire identity. Because otherwise you risk losing yourself in a heap of unnecessary opposition.

For instance, I love listening to Metal and K-Pop. They are the top two genres I listen to and while the music itself is fun and enjoyable, there is something to be said about fans on either spectrum that rubs me the wrong way. I’m talking, of course, about metal elitists and die hard K-Poppers. They are basically two sides of the same coin for me. Metal elitists have it in their heads that only certain types of metal and certain bands can be considered “metal,” and for die hard K-Poppers, you’re not a true fan unless you have nothing but unconditional love for your “idols.”

In either case, it’s unnecessary gatekeeping that can prevent people from the outside get into either genre, let alone accept them as things that people enjoy. Throughout my life I’ve been bashed for liking bands that weren’t heavy enough to others, as well as being called a fake fan because I don’t like a few songs by one of my favorite K-Pop groups.

It’s basic tribalism at its core. So while it is nice to find a group of people who share your interests, be wary of those who might put up certain barriers as to how and why you’re a “real fan” or not because this could be dangerous. This could cost you that interest if you’re around people who soil it with their hyper criticism and self appointed authority on that interest. Some people may know more than you and have more experience than you, and can put forth how and why you should like something, but in the end it is always entirely up to you how you engage in an interest.

If anything, avoid these people at all costs.

Avoid the kind of people who think you’re weird and unacceptable because people from your fandom, so to speak, generally give that interest a negative impression to those on the outside. Avoid the kind of people who are on the “inside” as well, if they are the type to try and dissuade you from liking something the way you want to. They may have more knowledge and experience as to what makes that hobby fun and interesting, but in the end it’s entirely up to you how and why you engage in it in the first place.

And last but not least, avoid the people who have esoteric interests that either have a high bar for entry and/or the people who have simple interests that they approach in a very esoteric way. Like art snobs, basically. People who approach their interests in the most abstract and esoteric way that even they can’t comprehend or conceptualize what they enjoy in a way that entices you.

I have the nagging suspicion that a lot of people out there have “unique” interests not because of their genuine enjoyment of them, but rather the sense of individuality it gives them above others. The kind of people who if you ask them about their interests, they can’t even give you a straight answer to your questions or describe them to you in a way that intentionally alienates either of you from feeling any sense of connection.


How Many Times Did I Say Interest in This Post?

In conclusion, hobbies and interests are a good way to learn about ourselves and connect with others. If you’re not developing your skills or expanding your knowledge with them–or at bare minimum feeling a sense of immersion with them–then be wary of whether you’re taking up a certain hobby to feel like you belong or feel better than others. And likewise be wary of those who may show signs of this intentional misunderstanding that could lead from sharing divergent interests with others.

But all in all, our passions should be the result of our genuine fascination with them, not a desire to be a certain kind of person because that’s seeking a false sense of status and superiority over others. These are things that can give us insights on how we operate and how others operate, and in turn make the world a better place.

To harken back to my seemingly bleak outlook at the beginning of this post, being interested in a variety of things throughout our lives is one of the many ways to stave off the abyss. Have your interests, but be careful not to let them accelerate your descent into the abyss. They are meant to strengthen and unite individuals, not alienate and demean them.

What is your relationship to your interests?

Have you benefited from connecting with individuals who share the same interests as you?

Make sure to like this post, follow Your Write to Live, and answer these questions and more in the comments below!

2018’s Newest Linkin Park Fan

Hey, everybody, I just discovered a really cool band lately!

They’re called Linkin Park, and they’re really really good.

Wait, what? You’ve heard of them before? Same with everyone else?!

Yes, yes, I know. I am highly aware of how they debuted 18 years ago with the smash hit In the End an dominated the early 2000’s with several other hit singles. They were among the most popular bands at the time getting a ton of radio and TV time. But somehow I have only started to listen to their music and truly appreciate them now in the year 2018.

When I was your typical teen, faced with the growing of age pains, I listened to a whole lot of nu-metal with Korn being my top favourite band above them all. Metal was and still is a pretty cool gebre and all, but nu-metal felt more experimentive in terms of instrumentation, and the lyrical content is usually more personal and direct. So naturally, I felt like I could relate to lyrics expressing all shades of angst and anger, all the while headbanging the stress away. (In the air, not against solid objects, of course.)

So how in the hell did I miss out on Linkin Park when their music was ripe with the most authentic and direct lyrics possible?


The Egos of Elitists

When I was 14, I had a best friend who was a passionate metalhead and together we really enjoyed Korn and all the other nu-metal bands coming out on the scene at the time, like Limp Bizkit and System of a Down. Back then, and probably even now, nu-metal was a pretty niche genre. It was indeed popular, but still paled in comparison to pop and hip-hop which continues to dominate the charts even today.

So because of how we were in a small minority of people who loved this kind of music that others deemed as too loud and aggressive, we kind of felt special. Though at times it went a little too far as to denounce all other genres of music, especially if it was mainstream, and even going insofar as to denounce other metal bands if they weren’t heavy enough by our elitist standards.

Yeah, I cringe just writing about it right now.

Now I don’t think this former best friend of mine intentionally conspired to keep me from enjoying Linkin Park, but his elitist mentality sure as hell rubbed off on me and I ended up developing my own ego around music. And since I can’t remember with any certainty if he ever said anything against Linkin Park, I’m going to have to take full responsibility for shooting myself in the back and actively choosing not to like Linkin Park.

Especially since they were so popular, maybe too popular a really ignorant part of me wanted to maintain some sense of true individualism by going against what everybody else liked. Even if I did have moments of enjoying some of Linkin Park’s songs, I wanted to vehemently divide myself from other people in high school that loved them. Because I had this really strange notion that liking Korn made me cooler than all these other people who “fit in.” Being a misfit was like a badge of arbitrary honour, just as arbitrary as some non-existent force in the universe that made it impossible for my teenage self to simply like two rock bands,

Man, I’m really embarassed just writing this…

The Ego Will Always Resist What Can Make It Desist

In those aforementioned moments in which I enjoyed their songs, I particularly remember catching the music videos for Somewhere I Belong and Breaking the Habit on two separate occasions. On both occasions, I got lost in their lyrics and felt like I could relate to the desire to heal from pain both songs express. Not to mention, the intensity of Chester’s power vocals drove that feeling home for me.

They were strange experiences because of course the sonic signature of their music in the early days naturally resonated with me, but instead of having pure rage in their lyrics as I preferred in Korn at the time, some of Linkin Park’s lyrics also expressed a desire to actually be happy.

Which is something my teenage self didn’t want because being a cynical nihilist was just soooo much cooler.

Yeah, no, not really.

But I definitely thought that way at the time.

Listening to Linkin Park now as a 31 year old man as opposed to a 14 year old boy, I can see how much I could have loved them back then. They could have easily been included to my library of nu-metal with more of a push toward a positive direction rather than always focusing on the negative. And that’s not to say nu-metal is nothing but negativity, but when it came to a desire for positivity, I think Linkin Park took the cake.

Unfortunately, as a teen, I actively wanted to remain angry and resentful so I actively ignored anything that could have helped me out of my rut. I truly do feel like if I did listen to Linkin Park back then, I would be influenced to sort myself out earlier in life. Not just because of their lyrics, but also because of the friends I could have made if I had only let myself like them. The band, and the people.

I grew up with the strange notion that popular were all pricks (thanks American high school media), but as I opened up slowly throughout my teen years, I came to realize that some people were popular at school because they were legitimately cool people. And likewise, Linkin Park was so popular because they too were legit cool.

Of course they were!

While there are definitely other factors that affected my capacity to make and maintain friends in high school, I think choosing not to like Linkin Park was a huge component to it, along with what it represents: my close mindedness at the time. Along with my own ego gratification thinking that it was a wise mode of being to elevate myself above others by arbitrary means like music preference.

Which of course is why nowadays I try to keep an open mind to all genres.

I mean for crap’s sake, I’m in love with K-Pop these days!

Oh, if my 14 year old self only knew. Live and learn, right?

Novelty vs Nostalgia

So after getting the first three Linkin Albums a couple weeks ago, it has been an uphill battle in the way I’ve experienced their music. At first, it was a huge slap in the face to find that not only were their singles are incredible, but so are the album tracks. I can listen to them all from start to finish and not get bored for even a second because of how easy it is to listen to them, they really knew how to structure these songs and the song order for the full album experience.

At first it made regret how I wish I didn’t sleep on them after all these years, along with regretting how I closed myself to friends I could have had, or did have, but drifted from due to my elitist ego that had a lot to do with music preference among other things. And of course how their music was exactly what I needed back then, and I missed out.

But did I really miss out?

After all, I am listening to them now.

It all feels so new and refreshing to me even though so many others have already enjoyed their music long before I did.

After a whole lot of listening back and forth, I think I’m finally at a place where I can just enjoy the novelty of listening to Linkin Park and enjoying them as if they’re a new up and coming band only coming out today. Even if they have been around for quite a long time, in my mind new music is always welcome.

Besides, their music seems to have a timeless quality to it. Even if I heard all of their singles before, within the context of accompanying album tracks, they too still feel fresh and new to me because now I’m finally deliberately listening to them and enjoying them fully with high quality headphones and many many repetitions.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get into any of their other albums after Minutes to Midnight, but whatever the case may be, and as it stands now, I’m gonna enjoy the hell out of Minutes to Minutes to Midnight along with Hybrid Theory and Meteora for what I feel is going to be a really really long time.

Who knew letting go of my egoic illusions could reap such great benefits?

 

Trifecta of Tribulations 2: The 60:40 Principle

Welcome back to Part 2 of my Trifecta of Tribulations series! If you haven’t already, make sure to read Part 1 here to catch yourself up on the hefty history that has gone behind my recent revelation.

So in questioning whether or not my optimism was a complete ruse or not, I’ve come to learn something vital about it and its counterpart pessimism:

They’re both real and authentic expressions of myself, and that they are both valuable when one of them is needed more than the other.


Optimism in the Underworld

Ever since I read Awakening the Giant Within by Tony Robbins, I’ve been on a journey of self-discovery. It sounds so bloody obvious now, but back when I first read his book, I was surprised by one section challenging me to try and think positively for a week and see what difference it makes.

As a teen, once again, pessimism was my default mode of operation, so to read this idea of “try to think positively for a week and start over again if you catch yourself thinking negatively,” was actually quite the life changer for me.

And so now for 10 years I’ve read a long list or self-help and personal development books, have gone to workshops, and journalled extensively to get a better sense of myself. For a long time I would write in my journal about how great life is or how great it could be so I can comfort that part of me that has long been withering and toiling away within me.

It took some work, but I think I’m in a place now where my optimism can bring hope in even the bleakest of situations. Whenever I am confronted with personal struggles whether with others or within myself, I try to see what the situation is trying to teach me and how I can grow from it, even when the situation is at its most painful.

Like the friends I mentioned in part 1–my creative accountability buddy and my lovely study buddy–having my disagreements with them were highly charged with emotion. Even though I was having such difficult conversations with them that drained me throughout the week, I stood firm trying to keep myself open to what they had to say.

One of my favourite rules from Jordan Peterson’s best selling book 12 Rules For Life: an Antidote For Chaos is “always assume that the person you’re listening to knows something you don’t.”

So despite of how painful it was and how tempting it was to hold onto my positions, these two friends of mine revealed some glaring flaws in the way I was thinking, speaking, and behaving that I had to improve on. I could get into detail about those in a later post since they’re too complex to fit in within the context of this post–but that’s an example of how my 60:40 principle helped me survive.

These were difficult conversations that could have easily gone sour if I were to fight back and tell them off. But then I would be refusing to listen to anything what they had to say, thus missing out on what changed I needed to make within myself. Likewise, if I didn’t meet them in the middle, I wouldn’t have been able to return the favour to carefully show them where they could improve as well.

No matter how hard things get, I always try to keep a 60:40 ratio of Optimism over Pessimism so that I don’t lose my head, and so that I can focus on creating a more beneficial outcome than what seems possible at the present moment.

Pessimism in Heaven

Now by that same token though, I think it’s also important to engage a little bit of pessimism since it can also be helpful as I briefly touched upon in Part 1 of this series.

While it is easy to write off Pessimism for the obvious evil that is and how it can dibilitate you from taking any action in life, excess of optimism can also be a problem.

The way I see it is that Optimism and Pessimism are two sides of the same coin, or better yet two, sides of a pendulum constantly swaying side by side. The more you swing in one direction, the more you swing back in the other.

What happened to me a couple weeks ago was that I set my sights way too high and had an excess of optimism. I wanted to ignore all the challenges I’d be met with in navigating the writing of my novel and of course navigating some romantic feelings I was developing for a woman I’ve been studying Korean with and teaching English to.

Most pessimists will write off Optimism as childish naivety, and to some degree they would be right, but only when it is excessive and ignores possible roadblocks along the way.

So due to setting my optimistic sights too high I plunged even harder and deeper into the ground. I expected myself to start writing 5000 words a day like I was doing in March, even though realistically it took a few days to work up toward having that kind of resilience. And by then I had been struggling between 300-1000 words so how could I expect to make that jump?

Coupled with that I was expecting myself to become fluent in Korean to understand K-Pop lyrics and my language exchange friends, but then got upset seeing so many of my poorly constructed sentences corrected. And even though the whole point of language exchange was to help correct and improve each other, I started feeling down on myself for still not being as good as I could be.

Then of course there’s also the confusion around the feelings I was developing over the one study buddy I’ve been talking to day and night for about a month now, so there was the added challenge of us trying to express our feelings to and for each other in each other’s languages all despite our limited understanding of each others languages. Like dear God, what did I expect? In regular relationships between people who speak the same language sometimes kind of not speak the same language as they are prone to miscommunications and misunderstandings.

So what the hell kind of romantic relationship did I expect when the both of us still have to rely on translators most of the time to understand each other? Not to mention how poorly translators are in their word choice accuracy which can sometimes cause some hilarious moments, but in our case it caused some serious harm to our relationship due to just two words that were poorly translated from English to Korean.

Again, that’s a whole story for another time and I would only share a few more details about it if I got her permission first as to how much I could share. But in the context of this post, the way I see it is this: it felt like Heaven to have someone to talk and flirt with on a daily basis, and I ended up taking it too seriously than I should have.

Realizing how hard I was falling for her, it actually helped to engage a bit of my Pessimism. It reminded that we live in different time zones, we barely understand each other’s languages, and aside from all the teasing we do, there’s still a huge gap between that and simply having small talk for language practice. It’s a cold harsh truth that the chances of us meeting anytime soon or if she would even want to are pretty slim and again, I’m practicing the necessary humiliation that comes with listening to views that don’t align with what’s convenient to me.


The 60:40 Principle

So thanks to all this I have developed a principle for myself to live by, which is to carefully swing between 60:40 Optimism over Pessimism and 60:40 Pessimism over Optimism whenever either one is necessary.

This means that if things are going horribly, it helps to have 60% Optimism so that I can see the positive outcomes possible for myself. The number 60% is a reasonable median above 50% so that I have just enough of a push forward to seek a positive outcome, while also not being too optimistic as to put all my eggs in one basket. The 40% Pessimism is to remind me that things can take a worse turn and I need to be prepared if it has to come to that. This way I don’t get too disappointed if my first few attempts at solving a problem don’t go the way I plan.

Then on the flipside, whenever things are going too well, I learned to maintain 60% Pessimism to truly appreciate whatever happiness comes my way since it’s ever fleeting. This could be seen as possible self sabotage which is why I try to keep it at 60% as opposed to 70% or 50%. Any higher than 60%, then I would self sabotage, and any lower, then I’m just stagnant. For me 60% is just right. The 40% Optimism is what allows me to maintain the positivity flowing in the present moment, and the 60% Pessimism is what helps me accept that it can be gone at any moment so I don’t get too hurt if it comes to that. This way I don’t get too comfortable when things are going well because I know I will always have more ways in which I can grow and that’s only possible if I allow challenges into my life.

To Be Continued…

Alright, these posts are getting longer than I expected, after all these years of trying to keep them down to 1000 words or below for more digestable experiences.

To take the principle in this post 60% of me is Optimistic that my writing is engaging enough to continue reading and glean value from, but for 40% of my Pessimism is also considering the possibility that I may have bored you with how long winded this was.

Either way, as always, I do hope you have gained some value from reading today’s Meaningful Monday post!

Let me know what you think as I’m always open to any compliments and criticisms, and I’ll see you next time in Part 3 of my Trifecta of Tribulations series…

Trifecta of Tribulations 1: My Shadow Side

Introduction to My Trifecta of Tribulations

I’ve been having a difficult time recently, and admittedly, most of it has been self induced.

It all started with a dream I had a couple weeks ago where I was watching a Simpsons movie centered around the loveable goofball Ralph Wiggum.

At one point in the movie he said, “I hate being happy because I’m emotionally sad.”

My dream self proceeded to ugly cry at this confession of Ralph’s, so much so that I can remember feeling my dream (or real?) heart begin to hurt a little. I don’t recall if there was anything else before or after this one scene, but when I woke up I was perfectly fine. No tears, no sadness in my heart; just confusion and curiousity.

As you know, I love interpreting my dreams to see what meaning I can extract from them. I even suggest to people that they should keep a Dream Journal so they can retain their dreams in the best memory they can possibly manage. In turn, they can pick their dreams apart and see how any of those nonsensical events and elements relate to their lives in the waking world.

Exploring the dream alone and with a friend, I managed to formulate a few theories as to what this dream meant to me. For the next little while I will be sharing the Top 3 Things I’ve Learned during my Trifecta of Tribulations. So buckle up and be prepared as it might be a very emotional experience as I bleed this out for you in the vain hope that you, too, can walk away from this blog series with some value.

My Mind Over Matter and the Matter Under My Mind

As a teen, and basically for most of my life, I have been a very pessimistic person. I had 0 hope or joy for a long time until I started this journey of self knowledge throughout my 20’s that still continues to this day at the ripe old age of 30.

Ralph’s words, “I hate being happy because I’m emotionally sad,” hit me really hard. It made me realize just how much of an effort I need to expend in order to remain happy and sane. And this is no joke, as I am prone to depression and often feeling exhausted in life. I’ve been diagnosed with depression and ADHD at a young age, and I’m still skeptical about their existence in reality, let alone within myself–but that’s a whole other story for another day.

The point is that despite these diagnoses on me, I refused to take any medication for them. In turn, I have developed a ton of pride for being able to function the best I can in spite of these diagnoses. I basically try to operate as if I don’t have depression or ADD, and I can usually get away with succeeding at it.

Until I can’t.

And that’s where my self assurance morphs into tremendous self doubt.

There ends up being so much self doubt that it edges on turning into self hatred.

It usually only edges to self hatred until I snap myself back to reality, but this time around, it turned into complete self hatred and extrenal hatred.


Self Deception and External Reception

When discussing this dream with my friend, she suggested that maybe I should dial back on my optimism if I feel like I may be trying hard. The issue I think I had was the possibility that my optimism is as overbearing as Joy’s forceful optimism in one of my all time favourite movies Inside Out.

While it was a reasonable suggestion from my friend, in accepting it, I ended up overshooting it by completely engaging my shadow side.

To make a very long story short, a friend of mine was going through some internal conflict and I had helped out, but had been left feeling drained because of how much worse his usual pessimism has gotten over a specific topic.

Now, while I do try to listen to people and not give advice, knowing that they just want to be heard and understood, there comes a point where I feel that their pessimism gets a bit much and that’s where I tend to come in with my excess optimism to try and make up for it.

Coupled with the energy it took to help this friend out and even take a break from their presence, I was also dealing with some self doubt over the completion of It Starts: at Home’s fourth draft, and my progress in learning the Korean language. I was having a difficult time even after I made a post about Taking Stock When You Feel Stuck.

When I realized I could barely take my own advice, I began to wonder if my all of my optimism was a complete ruse.

Have I been lying to everyone?

Have I been lying to myself?

Am I actually clinically depressed, and have I been deluding myself about how happy and capable I am this whole time?

Plunging Into the Underworld

That same friend I helped out reached out to me a few days after my Ralph Wiggum dream, and for a while it seemed like our friendship was back to normal. And since we helped each other out tremendously two years ago by keeping each other accountable for 75 days straight (to make sure the other works on their respective craft), I thought that maybe it would be a good time to request that he kept me accountable again with completing my fourth draft.

When the day and time came he was supposed to keep me accountable, I felt disappointed with the lack of engagement and encouragement he offered. I had expressed this disappointment very harshly and even though I knew how bad I was being, I chose not to care and went full force. I really let him have it, and while it felt good in the moment, I feel horrible in retrospect.

At the same time all of this happened, I was also conflicted about how I felt toward a certain study buddy that I have. Her and I share a passion for learning each other’s languages, and sometimes in praising each other’s efforts, we get a little playful and flirty.

This had lead to some confusion for me in regards to what our relationship is supposed to mean and how difficult it would be to evolve toward anything romantic since we only know each other online.

It’s silly, I know.

But it’s 2018 and the stigma toward online dating has lessened since the catfishing days of yesteryear.

Yes, I know it still happens, but moving along!

Feeling disappointed in my friend and feeling confused about my #1 study buddy, I felt all twisted inside. I felt lost about what I was doing with my life and how to proceed if I have been completely full of crap all these years. I took it as a shot at my pride to be so fickle as to depend on someone else to motivate me to write, and to feel stung by having some of my affections ignored from someone I admire.

Engaging My Shadow Side

“This is it.

The end of the road.

Everything I worked for was all a lie.

I hate being happy because I’m emotionally sad. I am so full of shit. How dare I try to help anyone else if I can’t even help myself?

My book sucks and it will never be published because I’m a shitty writer. I’ve wasted thousands of dollars taking courses and studying writing guides the past 10 years. Even worse, I’ve wasted thousands of hours writing a bunch of crap that no one has read, and no one ever will read because it’s too crappy to share with anyone anyway.

I don’t deserve to be published.

I don’t deserve a readership.

I don’t even deserve to write.

Who do I think I am trying to write a book about family issues and child abuse when I haven’t even solved my own familial issues? Or worse, when I barely have any patience these days for my God-daughter who I peacefully parented through her formative years? Did I really care about her or did I go this peaceful route to spite her parents and mine for their more abusive mindsets toward child rearing? Because let’s be honest, there are sometimes where even you wanna smack her, right?

Oh, but you don’t because you’re too much of a pussy to betray your values, is that it?

Pathetic.

As for learning Korean…what the hell am I doing? I still can’t understand K-Pop lyrics, K-Dramas, let alone my foreign friends without heavily relying on translations. After one year, you would think I’d get some amount of fluency, right? Well where the hell is it?

Furthermore, am I out of my mind to narrow my romantic choices down to a single ethnicity of people? What am I, a racist asshole? Clearly I’ve been watching too many K-Pop groups and going gaga over these girls like a stupid horny 14 year old.

What a waste of time and money all this study material has been. For both writing and learning Korean. Childhood development and peaceful parenting? You’re never gonna get married and have kids, so you’d better get your head out of your ass, you stupid piece of shit.”

All these harsh words and phrases?

This the abridged and slightly censored version of what I was telling myself.

After all these years of learning how to reassure myself that things will be okay, and everything I go through is all just growing pain.

“No,” I still hear my pessimism say. “It’s not growing pain. It’s the pain you feel for realizing how full of shit you really are!”


Conclusion: Share to Shed Your Shadow Side

Even as I read back these semi censored and semi editted words, I begin to cry. My self talk was much much worse and much much longer when I recorded a lengthy audio journal to verbally beat myself up with. When I was finished, I couldn’t believe how horribly I was denouncing all the things in my life that I held dear: my writing career, my Korean studies, and worst of all my relationships with with friends and family.

After 10 long years of readjusting my mindset and mode of operation, I felt like I lost it all in a single night with how naturally and powerfully I denounced all of my progress in life.

The friend that helped me interpret my Ralph Wiggum dream pointed out that I may be putting too many expectations on myself and it’s no wonder I get devastatingly disappointed with the results when I don’t follow through with my own plans, or whenever things don’t turn out the way I prefer.

In true perfectionist fashion I over compensated for the optimism I’ve developed by plunging right back into the pessimism that felt like a natural way of behaving in my teen years.

In retrospect, no matter how painful it was to denounce everything I loved, I think I have come out stronger and smarter because of it. I’ve been suppressing my shadow side for so long, trying my best to remain the most positive version of myself possible, and sometimes more for public appearance than my for my own actual benefit.

Engaging my shadow side, as nasty as it was, taught me to have a healthier detachment from the things I value in my life.

It’s good to hold certain things as ultimate value structures that keep your life in order, but you can not depend on them to fulfill you or keep you happy. Things are always in a constant flux of repair and disrepair, there is no end to it. Sometimes they take you to greater heights while sometimes taking you to the Underworld as it has for me.

I’ve put so much pressure on myself to complete my fourth draft faster than I completed the third draft.

I’ve put so much pressure on myself to become fluent in Korean so I can understand K-Pop lyrics, K-Dramas, and my foreign friends.

I’ve put so much pressure on myself to be a good friend and member of the family by selflessly staking my own well being to be there for others.

All of this had lead toward resentment and self disgust, and knowing that I was going to fail at all three things in my life fed the negativity even more.

But now I think I get it.

Love the things you love, but don’t expect too much out of them.

So listen to your shadow side with a grain of salt. It may be a horrifying and grating voice that makes you want to do you own head in from time to time, but give it a chance to speak before it develops the desperate desire to scream at you. It has valuable lessons to teach you in regards to having healthy detachments to your desires and intended outcomes, which ironically make you feel much freerer to fail and eventually succeed in what you want to accomplish.

To Be Continued…

This might be the longest blog post I’ve ever written and I’m sorry to those who didn’t have the patience to go through all of it for whatever reasons they had. Maybe my writing sucks that bad as my shadow side says. Maybe it’s too good for those who can’t introspect. Or maybe there’s nothing personal and that’s okay.

For those of you who have read it this all, I want to extend my tremendous thanks for hearing me out. This is the kind of thinking I often wrestle with and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this as I’ve met several other people who I once thought as immortal and powerful that so happen to go through such phases of their own.

I can’t wait to continue writing about my little trip to the Underworld as I have learned two more valuable things I will share in part 2 and 3 of this blog series.

Stayed tuned for Trifecta of Tribulations Part 2: The 60/40 Principle…