By Susie Ekberg
Q: I used to be so sure of myself and where I was going, but lately I seem to have lost my way. I’m not so sure anymore, and nothing seems to be working anyway, no matter how hard I try. I feel like giving up? Am I okay?
A: Congratulations on being honest and interested in looking deeper into your current life situation. That’s not easy, and probably why you won’t find most people anxious to do a little soul spelunking. It’s easier to skim the surface and pretend to be asleep, even if you’re awake.
It looks like you’re a person who works really hard. You pay attention to detail, care about what others think, and always try to not only do a good job, but an exemplary job. You go not only the extra mile – you go the extra 123 miles, just to make sure. You are responsible, mature, loyal, and tired.
Ask yourself if everything you’ve been doing since you left high school has been worth it to you. In the long run, do you feel you are better off than you were when you were 18? Do you feel you are as far as you hoped you’d be by this age? What is your definition of living a successful life? It doesn’t look like you gauge success by how much money you have, or what position you hold, but rather by the amount of good you’ve done in the world.
Do you know that you probably ‘do’ 1000 things a day that involve other people? That includes thinking about other people (if you think a lot, that number could be even higher). You may see the results of 20 of those encounters. Why? Because there is so much more that goes on behind the scenes, and beyond the original encounter. It’s impossible to know the extent of your actions.
For example, I see that you’re a very helpful person. One day you hold open a door for a frazzled young mom. She thanks you. You think that’s it. But what you may not realize is that your simple act of kindness prompted her to let someone in front of her while driving, and be kinder to her child, and maybe call her mother later that day. All because of something you did.
The point is this: you simply have no idea how much good you’re doing in the world, so your ability to judge your life’s accomplishments is faulty if you only use human perceptions. Try expanding your awareness and see how active you are, even when you think you aren’t doing anything.
The reason I asked those previous questions about you judging your successes is that people tend either to not have a limit on what they expect from themselves (so they’ll never be able to achieve their goals) or to expect way too much (you may want to be a Pulitzer-prize winning novelist, an opera singer, an amateur chef and a movie critic on the weekends – probably isn’t going to happen).
When you take the time to really get to know yourself and explore your beliefs, wants, needs, and current living situation, you can get some valuable information as to what’s going on for you right now.
It looks like you’re in the midst of some huge transformations, all dealing with what we’ve been talking about – establishing priorities, foundations, and ideals that match who you are. Not what others may expect from you, or who you think you should be – who you really are.
Nothing’s wrong with you – you’re growing. Growing up, growing into a more mature, fuller you. If something isn’t working for you, it could be that it isn’t something that you need to be pursuing right now. Can you back off and just chill for a while?
Sure, it could mean that you need to prove to yourself that you really want whatever is eluding you – only you know which of the two scenarios is most accurate. Trust your instincts. Trust your body’s natural rhythm for your life.
Most people push too hard, thinking they need to keep up a frenetic pace so they can be productive. Productivity is overrated. It’s good, it’s necessary, but it’s not the whole picture.
Are you doing what you love? Are you doing what brings you joy? Are you happy? Are you around happy, supportive, loving, nurturing people?
Uh oh – I’m seeing someone close to you who looks like they’re draining their energy with their pessimism and negativity. You may want to ask yourself what you’re getting from this relationship. Do you think you can save them? Help them by staying with them? Do you think you can change them? Do you feel like you owe them? You are loyal, but also remember that it’s important to be loyal to yourself, and that requires a constant evaluation of the people and activities you surround yourself with, and what decisions you make.
I understand it’s difficult for you right now. I understand that you’re tired. But ask yourself what you mean by giving up. Surrender is not a bad word. Surrender can mean giving up your self-imposed control that is running you, or your unrealistic expectations you’ve placed on yourself. In the end, there’s little that you can control, so surrendering to the larger world of trust, patience, and peaceful joy may not be such a bad idea. You figure out what that means to you.
And yes, I think you’re normal, because you are you, so that’s normal for you. Don’t let anyone else define you. That’s your job. And it’s your job to be happy and to find your own way.
As Henry David Thoreau wrote, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”
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