For the sake of the argument, lets look at a metaphor that has been done to death: life as a journey. To take the road less travelled means that you’re forging your own path, an unexpected path, perhaps a path that people didn’t expect you to take, but is nonetheless thrilling to you. Taking a journey means that you will hit bumps in the road, maybe take a few falls, maybe venture off the path into the darkness of a wood where we are stumbling around without light. Maybe we take guesses or trust our intuition about whether to take this fork in the road or that fork in the road. Or we meet fellow travellers that walk with us for a while or spend an afternoon with us then never come back again; maybe even some of those travellers will stay with us for the whole journey. Nearing the end of the journey, we realise that the journey is the point, that the destination is always going to be there, but the journey is the thing that keeps us moving, that teaches us.
I’ve been reading a lot of self help books lately, because I’m reviewing them for Deaf Auntie. One self help book a week (any recommendations are appreciated!). Most of the books I’ve reviewed so far (you can find them on my Journalism page), have meant something to me, have helped me in some way – some of them, like Quiet, The Happiness Project and the next one I’m reviewing, Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, have actually spoken to me in a profound and unsettling way. I’m learning more about myself, the world around me, and the relationships in my life by reading books that have given me a greater understanding of human behaviour. They have taught me that we all share certain things, and sometimes these things are painful. I recognise that some of the things I say or have had said to me are underpinned by shame (which is what Daring Greatly talks about, along with vulnerability, blame and the culture of scarcity), and that some of the things I have previously thought about myself are also driven by shame. You can see Brené Brown’s talks on TED too, along with Susan Cain’s.
There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. – Leonard Cohen.
Along with learning these new things about myself and people in general, I’ve also been thinking a lot about how we compare ourselves to others, and how so much of our society is driven by achievement, and wanting/having more (the culture of scarcity). Gratitude has helped me here; appreciating the everyday, knowing that I’m enough, I have enough, and that the people in my life are beautiful, vulnerable and that I want them to know that they are enough. There is no ‘perfect’ ideal. Perfection is a fallacy, that makes us feel bad about ourselves and means that we are forever measuring ourselves up against other people and their successes. It has been so hard for me to understand and accept myself as I am now. I’ve written many times about struggling with body image and self acceptance – and have arrived at a place where I see myself as a whole person, even though some days are difficult, and I always have to work at it.
Yes, we can learn to listen to constructive criticism, and remember that constructive criticism doesn’t mean we’re not enough (note: there’s a difference between constructive criticism and cruelty – read this). I know that for a long time, I let fear hold me back, the idea that my writing wasn’t good enough, or that nobody would want to read my writing – because sometimes people equate their work and their creative efforts with self worth. It is not what we create that defines us. We are so much more than what we write or what we share with the world. For me, that is something I’ve had to work on – separating my self worth from my writing, and therefore learning not to take rejection personally.
Every single one of us has a story to tell. I find that exciting – what is your journey? Where have you come from? Where are you now? Where would you like to go next? We all struggle, we all learn hard and painful lessons, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get back up again and keep going. Being a journalist and blogging, reading other people’s stories – I feel privileged. It doesn’t matter how much of a struggle it has been for me to go for my dream of writing, or that I’ve done a lot of soul searching: I love the work of being a writer. Sometimes I lack inspiration and it takes time to find my mojo again, but that’s the beauty of the journey – I’m still learning. We’re all still learning.
“Though the road’s been rocky it sure feels good to me.” – Bob Marley.