‘Happiness does not depend on what you have or who you are. It solely relies on what you think.’ – Buddha
Sitting in a simmering, tense bundle, about to gauge my own eyes out, I chose to re- evaluate how my current thought processes and reactions were working out for me!
I have been (by choice) out of work for 3 months, after choosing to leave a toxic new job which turned out to be very different to what they’d sold me at interview. Whilst I am incredibly lucky to be in a place where I can take the time to find something, it isn’t all licking ice-lollies, summer walks and lunch with friends.
You know what, it’s boring. Not because I don’t have anything to do, but because spending 5-7 hours a day researching job vacancies and filling out applications, is exactly as fun as it sounds. So whilst I struggle with my middle-class guilt of not working for the first stretch in 18 years, I’m trying to appreciate what it gives me.
I’ve realised over the last 3 months, just how much of my self-worth I had tied into my work. My image, my sense of satisfaction, my development and my control over myself and my role. I’ve felt utterly lost, ashamed and pathetic.
A career I have chosen to step away from because of the demanding 12-14 hour days, the physical and emotional demands that places on myself and those around me. It became selfish and unsustainable. Yet without it, I feel anchor-less.
Choosing- and it is a choice- how you react to your inner dialogue is tough. Mine is spiteful, judgemental, unappreciative and defeatist. I’m not saying that you can ‘choose’ your automatic responses, you can’t, those who live with mental health challenges know this more than most. However you can choose how you react to them.
Ok, an example, this morning I had an incredibly soul-destroying telephone interview with a recruitment agency. My natural response to this, is that I am not good enough. They don’t like me, I’m not intelligent enough, don’t have the right skills, when is this going to stop? How long will I be out of work? Yet my choice in the face of a tearful, fairly dramatic me, is to accept that I feel pretty shit. I will, it’s tough. To see that in order to move forward, with the plans I’ve already made, which I believe in, I need to keep doing what I’m doing. This isn’t about my value, but that value being seen by the right people at the right time. It doesn’t make that dialogue disappear, but it does add rational thought.
Look, I’m not here to tell you that you can ‘positive think’ your way out of everything, because I’m an intelligent adult, and that would be condescending and ludicrous of me. What I am saying, is that accepting your internal dialogue and considering it’s ‘stories’ and how you respond to that is valuable. This morning, my response was to cry, then do something different and go back to it!
Let me tell you, my inner dialogue can be a bit of a dick. It is incredibly unhelpful, inappropriate and oh my goodness the guilt! The guilt and martyrdom and doubt and and and….
But actually, in a perverse way, I’m ok with that. You see, the art of surviving a heathen inner dialogue is to appreciate it for it’s slutty, self-serving, yet surprisingly motivational benefits.
While painful and frustrating, bouts of inner-angst can be a great catalyst for determination, resolve and doing something totally different. As someone much wiser and poetically versed than me said: it’s always darkest before the dawn.1