Becoming aware of the neurotic mind and overwriting it for a happier self

Let’s imagine that you grow up in an environment where your parents engaged in negative self-talk in front of you, self-punishing behaviours, call you stupid or brainless when you do something wrong, or continue bring up the past mistakes you made every time they are not happy about something you did today.

Then as you got older, you engaged in similar activities without being consciously aware of what you did.

And that’s all because of nurture. After all, you were just a child and your only true role models are your parents. Even when you have friends, they won’t be there to influence your life every hour of your life. So you will just learn that what your parents do is normal, therefore correct.

As a result, you don’t question all these learned behaviours. Until someone pointed them out or came to realise it one day because of what you’ve read or heard people talk about.

And you know what?

Those activities I mentioned earlier actually examples of being neurotic. And it actually leads to poor quality of life. You are never happy. And it can actually contribute to the development of “perfectionism mindset” in a person.

I know because that’s the kind of environment I grew up in. I seek perfection in my work. Was never happy, constantly depressed. Hated the world. And it was during my research to understand myself better that I came upon various psychology articles and essays about being neurotic and the neuroticism personality traits. It was then I realised I’ve got a problem.

So over the past few months, I have actually pushed myself to engage in self-compassion and self-care. It was hard at first since it was unnatural for me. But if you keep doing it,  practising those skills for a while, it’ll become easier. Just like training yourself to be able to lift certain weights or to run a marathon.

And it took me a while before I was able to catch myself before I engage in such behaviours. And these days, I can see my mind doing all the weird negative self-talks and punishment-type thinkings. But I will myself not to act on them. I simply acknowledge those thoughts and then push myself to focus on the present. Because at the end of it, you can’t control the events that happened but you can control how you react or respond to those events.

So I actually feel happier compared to when I was in my early twenties and late teens. I also recognised it’s still a work in progress because those negative thinkings and self-talks hadn’t been completely eliminated from my mind.

The other thing that I also realise is, I was actually able to focus more of my attention to creating the kind of life I want because my mind isn’t cluttered with all those bad thoughts. With that, the friction to complete the micro-goals that will put my closer to my destination is much lesser.

Inclusive Team

The ability to work in team is key to whether a project, a task or a mission is completed successfully. And it’s so much more than throwing a bunch of people together to work on something. The people in it have to put in the effort to find ways to work with each other and compromise on an individual wants to achieve a common goal.

However, it can show that the team is discriminating if the team consists of people from different races who speak different languages but the predominant language used during a meeting or gathering is not a lingua franca. For example, speaking in mandarin 90% of the time when there is an Indian in the team who doesn’t know the language.

And the fact that the remaining members of the team are Chinese is no excuse.

You just don’t leave someone out during a project discussion by using non-lingua franca and then proceed to waste that one person’s time on topics that has zero relation to his or her job role for the sake of showing it’s a “inclusive team”.

This kind of sensitivity is something we all should learn and remember.

Knowing when to take a break

If you are a creator, there will be days when you know you just isn’t feeling it. No matter how much you push yourself and force yourself, you can’t seem to make that piece of work you desperately needed to get out.

And one of the biggest reason is pressure. You are forcing yourself to create something because you feel obligated to do so. I know because I am forcing myself to write at least one essay or post per day. I didn’t want my blog to die off for one day without new content. So I went and try to write a horror fiction. There was this idea that was stuck in my head for the past few days and I thought why not find a way to churn out a short story based on that idea. After nearly an hour, I only managed to get two hundred words out and started to feel so frustrated. So I stopped.

After that, I was thinking to myself: It’s fiction writing. It’s supposed to be my thing. The one thing I’m good at.

And that was how I killed my own writing. By pressuring myself.

Then a funny thing happened.

The idea to write this particular piece came to life. I just feel like I should share it.

And you know what’s the other thing that could just as easy kill your writing? It is your Input. An article written by Annie Mueller on Medium titled, “What’s Blocking Your Creative Output?“, talks about how the wrong kind of input actually kills your creativity.

And I’ll admit, these last few days, I have been feeding myself junk by reading a whole bunch of articles on Medium ranging from productivity to self improvement to business. And what the hell? Business? I actually have no intention of running my own business. At least not yet. So you see, reading junk actually stopped my mind from thinking about new stuff to write about.

So if you realise you are somehow stuck and don’t have any more creative juices flowing, maybe it’s time to ask yourself if there’s something wrong with your input. Maybe it’s time for you to purge those junks out of the creativity pipes.

But, I suspect you must be wondering how the hell I wrote the article, “Singapore, not as green as you think” if I’m out of ideas. Well, environment is something I cared about and it was stuck in my head for the last two weeks. I finally took the leap to write that piece yesterday and challenge myself to write an essay about Singapore. After all, I’m born and raised here so I thought I would know it better and not sound pretentious but it didn’t stop me from experiencing some kind of anxiety attack when I hit published.

And now I know, it’s time for me to take a quick break from writing and do something new. However, it doesn’t mean I stop completely. My mind is always churning out ideas. As soon as I encounter something novel during my day, it will send a spark to start the engine.

Let go and move on

Throughout one’s life, depending on personality, there will be something that upset him or her. It can be easily boil down to either pet peeves, perfectionism or both.

And there’s nothing wrong with those since often times they are part of the person’s core. It’s what make each of us unique.

However, it’s never good for one’s health if he or she remains upset for the whole day over that one thing. Anger raise cortisol in your body and leads to inflammation. Not only that, it can ruin a potentially great day and be infectious.

As what people much more mature and smarter have said, it’s important for one to put things in perspective. Life is short and you only that one. There’s a possibility that you were never born should your parents never meet at the right time or right place. And now that you are here, you want to waste time being angry at trivial things? For every minute you spend in anger, you are saying no to the other great things that had or could happen.

And I’m not saying I won’t get angry. I’m only human and utterly flawed. But anger is an emotion. You are allowed to feel it. However, you should let it go as soon as possible. It was a lesson that I didn’t learn in time and allow myself to suffer needlessly over the years.

But it’s never too late.

Over the past few weeks, letting things go became a part of my life. Yes, it’s definitely a work in progress but I’m aware of how far I have come. Though I have this suspicion that it could be because I have grown apathetic when it comes to work.

I stopped being so uptight about how my colleagues write their codes. I have also become more nonchalant about mistakes made. We are only human. Mistakes happen. And that’s something that I have come to acknowledge.  The more important thing is how are you moving forward. And last Friday as well as today, my colleague keep pointing out the mistakes made in the design of a specific module and now we need to rework. And I went, “It’s done. Now let’s move on.”

And the power of letting go and moving on feels liberating. But one should be aware that he or she could slip up and fall back to old habits. So it’s important to be mindful of your feelings and constantly practice the new habits. By practicing letting go and moving on, your brain will soon default into that mode. Once that happen, everything will be easy. Then you will wonder why you didn’t do that in the past.

The company don’t own you

You found a job with a company that you love. Or maybe you found a job that bring you joy majority of the time. When you go to work, you are always happy because of your colleagues and probably the culture. And you are paid what you deserved.

And because of that, you put in most of your waking hours into your work. You show up everyday, never missing a day. When there’s a crisis, you are always first to respond because you are professional and very responsible.

If you do it out of your own freewill, that’s great. At least you are intentional about it.

Then come a day when something happened in your personal life that required your immediate attention. And it’s a weekend. It’s your much deserved rest day. At the same time, because of your “constant” showing up at work, your bosses want you to work over the weekends to prepare for a proposal for an upcoming contract that the company desparately needs.

Now, because you are so responsible and professional, you choose to do what your bosses asked and put the personal situation aside. The situation could be anything. It could be something as simple as your best friend’s birthday, or as tragic as someone you love died, or something as joyous as your wife is giving birth to your first child.

Maybe you don’t think it’s wrong. Maybe you think that there’s always another time.

But life is unpredictable. By putting your work and the company your work for front and center of everything, you risk creating a massive discontent and imbalance in your life. Who knows one day, the company decides to lay you off because of lack of funds in its banks. Then you finally realise you sacrifice your life, energy, and relationships for the wrong reason.

I’m not saying not to be irresponsible or be unprofessional. But there has to be a line between you taking care of your tasks and you putting yourself, your life, your relationship first. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more important than your family, your friends and your health. After all, the company is not going to cry when you die. Maybe your friends who are also your colleagues will. The company is not going to miss you when you leave. They will just hire another to replace you. You are there to add value to the company’s bottom line and in return you are paid for the effort. If you can’t add value, you are let go.

So if you think or feel that you should take a day off from work, do it. And if the company decides to force you to go back for a team building event on a weekend and it’s a non-working day, it doesn’t mean you should go for it unless, well, you really love hanging out with your colleagues. Then, by all means go. I for one only have my weekends to catch up on my sleep and rest. So I draw a line there.

Always remember that, the company doesn’t own you even though the company usually has a bigger negotiating power. At the end of the day, both of you are in a service contract that can be terminated anytime. When the contract is terminated, you don’t own the company anything unless, well, you stole something that doesn’t belong to you.