Other people are (just) people

 Keeping perspective, Relationships  Comments Off on Other people are (just) people
Nov 262013

As someone prone to self-consciousness and social anxiety, I find it useful to remind myself that the people out there, the people around me, are simply that: people. They are human beings with issues, worries, stress, fears and hopes – in essence, no different from me. This is not intended to be some sort of hippy point about the Brotherhood of Man (or whatever the non-gender-specific equivalent is) but a handy reality check for those times when interacting with people is causing problems, one way or another.

When I feel let down by someone, I always try to look at what’s happened from their perspective. This is not about being saintly (although there’s no harm in attempting saintliness!); I do it because I feel better if I can reduce the size of the insult I have instinctively felt – or even eradicate it – by rationalising the perceived slight.

We all have a tendency to slide back into our old patterns when the going gets tough. The more depressed and vulnerable I feel, the more demanding I become, as my perfectionism kicks in and the standards to which I hold myself and others get more and more stringent. In this state, I hide from the world and brood on how hard done-by I am, how nobody cares about me. Transgressions committed, particularly by my nearest and dearest, get blown up out of all proportion when viewed through the prism of my insecurities. In these cases, I find it both normalising and comforting to remind myself: I don’t have to be perfect and neither does anyone else. Look at the big picture: this person likes (or even loves) me and, OK, they have failed to answer my text/declined my invitation/forgotten my birthday, but they’re allowed to make a mistake without it compromising our relationship. If I did whatever it is to them, it wouldn’t mean I didn’t care, just that I was embroiled in something heavy, got distracted and made a mistake. Cut them some slack, let it go, it doesn’t matter.

Another context where I find it very helpful to remember I’m not the only one with stuff to contend with is when I’m out in the world and feeling tested. At an interview, for example, it’s ridiculously easy to assume the interviewer is the one in control, the one with all the power, but this is not true. A friend of mine was on the other side of the fence recently and told me she felt really flustered: she had never interviewed anyone before and didn’t completely know what she was doing. She made what she considered to be some glaring errors and blushed several times, assuming the interviewee took her to be an incompetent fool. What an interesting piece of role reversal – and yet there is every bit as much pressure on the interviewer to get it right as there is on the interviewee. This is another thing I find it normalising and comforting to remind myself: I may be feeling insecure but that doesn’t mean nobody else is. Once I start thinking about what their worries might be, I soon relax and remember that we’re all just people, doing the best we can in an imperfect world.

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Does housework matter?

 Keeping perspective  Comments Off on Does housework matter?
Jul 302013

For me, how I feel about housework is a good barometer for how I’m feeling in general. If I can’t cope with it, keep putting it off and would rather live on takeaway than have to confront the kitchen, I know there’s something wrong. When I was depressed, my inability to tidy, clean or cook lasted for months at a time and caused me a whole layer of additional problems. These days, if I’ve got time to wash up, iron or put stuff away but find myself resisting, it generally just signals exhaustion, and once I’ve caught up on my sleep I get on with the chores perfectly cheerfully.

Success depends on finding the happy medium in one’s attitude to housework. Obsessing about it is a waste of life: it is by its nature never-ending and there’s no point in worrying about it. Housework is a background activity that supports a happy lifestyle; it is not an end or a lifestyle in itself. It’s an area in which, particularly if you have a lot of visitors, it can be easy to feel a lot of pressure to be perfect, but don’t be sucked into this. You have other priorities and it really doesn’t matter if there’s a bit of dust around and everything is not in apple-pie order.

On the other hand, it is important that your home be kept in a state that everyone who lives there is comfortable with. Once it descends beyond a certain point and you find yourself constantly tripping over things and unable to locate stuff you want because it’s all such a muddle, when things start going mouldy and getting disgusting, you’ve let it slide too far. Living like this is not only potentially dangerous for the body, it’s degrading and depressing for the soul. If you live alone, you owe yourself the respect and love to look after yourself properly and live in a decent environment. If you share your home, you need to work out how to maintain a healthy living space that you can both/all enjoy.

Where we draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable in terms of mess, dirt and falling behind with the admin is a matter of individual preference, influenced by our upbringing, life experience and (let’s face it) gender. There is no right or wrong answer to this but it’s important to thrash out an agreement amongst all members of the household as to where the line will be drawn in this abode. And the line must not be breached unless in exceptional circumstances.

The issue of division of labour is a huge and thorny one and not the subject of this post. The point I’m trying to make here is a slightly different one and that is how valuable it can be to give some serious thought to how much housework matters. If you feel it matters more than it merits, work on loosening up a bit. If you feel it doesn’t matter at all, think about how much better life might be if your home was clean and tidy, everything broken was fixed or replaced, you were up to date with your paperwork. Whichever side you’re approaching from, finding the right perspective on housework saves a great deal of stress.

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A change is as good as a rest

 Keeping perspective  Comments Off on A change is as good as a rest
Apr 022013

We’ve had quite a long run of deep introspection in these posts and I think it’s time to remind ourselves that there’s a big, wide world out there, beyond our issues and concerns. The reason it’s useful to do this is to help us keep our worries in perspective. If you’re anything like me, you spend a vast amount of time thinking, weighing things up, calculating… Just living can be exhausting and it’s vital we give our overheated brain a rest sometimes.

Productivity gurus emphasise the importance of taking regular time off to recharge your batteries and the same principle applies to personal development. Time spent concentrating on something completely different refreshes us, if nothing else, and makes it easier to keep our feet on the ground.

Here are a few suggestions for ways you can shift your focus away from yourself and all the stuff you’re dealing with:

Do some strenuous exercise (obviously, only if you’re physically able to without causing yourself harm). The endorphins generated by even just going for a brisk half-hour walk or swim will lift your mood, but if you really want to rest your mind you may need to push a bit harder than this. For me, running eclipses all other thoughts.

Discuss the news or some other subject of intellectual, rather than emotional, interest to you. If you find the interaction with other people sucks you back into your issues, perhaps write an article instead. You don’t have to show it to anybody – the point is simply to fix your attention on something external to you. If this doesn’t appeal to you, what about a puzzle, or even a computer game? Whatever it is, it’s got to be utterly absorbing, so there is no space for niggles at the back of your mind.

Go shopping. You don’t have to buy anything, just be aware of what’s around you. I find getting out into the mêlée of a shopping centre makes me feel I’m taking part in society (as opposed to hiding), while also allowing me to be anonymous, with nothing expected of me.

I also recommend you take time out on a frequent basis to count your blessings and fully appreciate the good things in your life. Being positive brings its own benefits and in this context it’s all part of breaking the cycles and patterns of introspective thought that can, if we’re not careful, weigh us down.

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