The other day I found myself feeling a lot of anxiety. It was even manifesting itself in the form of physical symptoms like a slight headache and uneasy stomach. It took sitting with myself in introspection to realize that part of the anxiety I was feeling came from me taking things too seriously and not allowing myself to relax and have fun.
These things included situations in both my personal and professional lives. I wanted everything to be so perfect, afraid of making any mistakes, that I wasn’t truly enjoying what should be great and nurturing experiences.
I had become rigid and so critical of myself that I was feeling trapped and suffocated in the same way I have seen many people who are so afraid of making a mistake, looking like a fool, taking a chance or letting people see them vulnerable that they walk around stoic and detached or anxious and miserable. I was afraid to turn left or right, to get out of my lane, so I just kept moving forward even when I didn’t like or care for the direction I was headed.
I’ve never been the adventurous type, I’ve always been afraid of taking risks, big or small. I always felt like I had to do the right thing, even if that right thing meant living a boring, safe, unfulfilled life. I’ve never been spontaneous and have always admired people who are.
I’ve always been afraid of what other people may think or say if I did something unexpected or that put me first.
In many ways those other-imposed and self-imposed rigid boundaries were preventing me from living my best life, a full life, something I am always advocating for in the people I work with.
Last night I was watching the final episodes of season two of In Treatment, a show about a therapist and his clients that used to come on HBO. In one of the episodes, one of the therapist’s clients, Walter, a 68 year old man who had spent his whole life caring for and worrying about everyone else while maintaining rigid parameters while putting himself last, discovered that despite everything he had done his whole life, he had never truly lived or been happy. It was a depressing discovery and he felt like he was too old to start living, but his therapist, Paul, assured him that it was never too old to start focusing on himself and living a full live, but it had to start now.
I don’t want to be that way. I don’t want to discover one day at the age of 48, 58 or 68 that I have never truly lived because I have been so busy worrying about other people, what they think about me and not living the life I was meant to live, never truly being happy.
So many of us are living, but aren’t truly living. We aren’t fully participating in life. We are too afraid of making a mistake. We have to allow ourselves to be spontaneous, take risk and to not always worry about being appropriate or what other people may say or think.
We were not meant to be this rigid, this repressed and afraid of living the life we have been given. We have to find away to relax, enjoy life and have fun, to stop taking ourselves and everything so seriously so that we can see the true beauty of life. Many of us live with guilt and shame that has been placed on us by others or ourselves that keep us from moving forward and enjoying life. We have to let that go. We have to get out and enjoy life, experience life so that we can live a full life in touch with our whole self.
Sure there will be mistakes we make, lessons learned, but those will only serve to help us discover our boundaries and learn discipline, but for us to discover those parts of ourselves we have to loosen up, stop punishing ourselves and allowing others to punish us.
Life is meant to be lived, to be fully experienced, not to be so inhibited and rigid that we are just going through the day to day motions until the day we die.
Today, do something different, step out side of your comfort zone, of the boundaries that have been set for you by yourself and others. Live life and trust yourself that you won’t fall off the deep in, but will discover what life was meant to be. Start today and hopefully you and I both will continue to make really enjoying life and having fun with less inhabitions and fear, an essential part of our existence.