I came into this self-isolation phase with some high expectations.
After I figured out how to keep myself focused while working my job remotely, I thought I would basically be unstoppable. Not having to commute to the office every day allowed me to have more time.
I had every intention to spend my time productively as possible. I’d write every morning before work, and every evening after work. I would work out twice a day, I would attend ‘virtual networking’ events, I would post several new stories and blog entries every single week.
These goals obviously did not last. My expectations were incredibly unrealistic, not just because of the emotional/mental toll of the pandemic, but because I was also planning a wedding amongst the chaos.
What Was Going On?
Truthfully, I had plenty of things to keep me busy already. Back in March I got engaged to my now husband, Shaquan. We knew we wanted the wedding soon, so wedding planning pretty much started immediately after the proposal. Along with this, I was fortunate enough to still be making an income through both my job and my business. The only real thing that changed was that I no longer had to commute to work, but I was also dealing with a sporadic work load.
I should also note that Shaquan and I were still in a long-distance relationship, and we would be up until July (the month of the wedding). But that’s another story for another day. That in itself came with its own set of stress and worries.
On top of work, wedding planning, and the pandemic, the nation has been experiencing high levels of civil unrest. The death of three names in particular–George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ellijah Mclain–have sparked nation-wide outrage and have re-awakened the Black Lives Matter movement. We’re experiencing an unrest unlike anything I’ve seen in my lifetime. Oh yeah, and it’s also election year.
A Drop in Confidence
It’s safe to say that over the past few months I’ve had a lot on my mind. Veering away from my writing habits happened a little too naturally and it was probably the one thing that I should have avoided happening. Writing can sometimes be the center of my frustrations, but at the very same time it is also what I love to do. I haven’t been able to find another activity that brings me the same type of joy.
What happens when we abandon things that we are good at or find ourselves engaging in them a lot less, is that we experience a drop in confidence. Even after the wedding in July there have been times where I would come to my computer or my notebooks and just draw a blank. It had been so long since I attempted my hand at writing that I somehow became afraid that whatever I would attempt to put out just wouldn’t be good enough.
Another way I had been ruining my confidence was by comparing myself to everyone around me, or at least the perception I had access to. Something in me felt so inferior, realizing that people were not only surviving during this time but absolutely thriving. Honing their crafts, running their businesses, becoming plant moms, achieving goals, staying sane during these crazy times, etc.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to see my friend and peers winning in life, but I can’t deny how bad it feels when I’m not doing the same. I wanted to push myself to be better and more productive. What I didn’t understand is that I already was being productive. The time outside of my work hours I was also trying to get a wedding together, work my business, make sure I could still fit in the wedding dress by the time my wedding took place, etc. With what I had going on, it did make sense that some of my writing projects would be on the back burner for a little while.
But at the time I didn’t see it that way. I saw myself being ’emotionally unstable’ because it felt like everybody was handling themselves a lot better than I was when it came to the societal unrest that we were (and still are) experiencing. Meanwhile, I found myself emotionally drained and downtrodden a lot of the time.
Giving Yourself Grace is Tough
Being able to cut myself some slack has never been my strong suit. And I’m not entirely sure where that hesitance comes from. I find it more common with people who are very ambitious and have plenty of lofty goals. I never wanted to come off as wishy washy, and I never wanted to seem like I was just making excuses. After all, people like that are supposed to be “excuse removers”.
One thing I’m realizing is that it doesn’t really take much for me to believe I’m a failure. I wish this was an exaggeration. I’m much more likely to take all of the blame even for things that aren’t necessarily under my control. When I lost my first job out of college there was likely nothing that I could do to change that; when a company wants to make staff changes and cut costs, then they’ll do that. But I still had it in my mind it was something that I did; what did I do wrong? How could I have done things better? How could I try so hard and still be told I’m not good enough? and so on.
There are things that I have to remind myself from time to time in order to get things back on track:
- I’m not a superhero – social media can sometimes make it look very feasible but we’re not superheroes. It’s definitely possible to get your work done, get your workout in, take care of home, work on your craft, work on your side business, etc. but rarely have I seen someone keep 100% consistency with anything. I might miss a day, I might miss two or three days. But what’s worse than ‘missing a day’ is believing that there’s no point in trying anymore because you missed a day.
- my worth is not determined by my level of productivity – I have a tendency to believe that if I have not done a certain level of activity throughout the day, then that day is wasted. It’s harder for me to accept, but not every single day is (or should be) about running on all cylinders non-stop. My husband has brought this to my attention, but I will literally fall into a sad slump after a really nice day because I start getting in my head ‘I haven’t done enough’. It didn’t occur to me this was a problem until I literally said aloud to myself: ‘I had too much fun today’.
- what I’m thinking of me in this moment is not what God thinks of me – When I don’t see myself living up to the potential that I think I should, I don’t have a very good inner self-talk. I call myself lazy and ungrateful. I have a voice message my friend sent to me years ago and one of the questions she asks is ‘Is what you’re saying about yourself what God says about you?’ If it’s a ‘no’, then I have to be mindful of what I’m telling myself on a daily basis.
How I’m Improving
I’ll admit that my goals coming into this were lofty. I didn’t take into account the emotional toll that would hit me when it came to what I had going on personally in addition to the world essentially being on fire.
I’m falling back into ‘SMART’ goals, tasks that are Specific Measurable Assignable Relevant and Time-based. This isn’t to say that I have low belief in my larger goals, but before I can get to them I need to create short-term goals that are attainable and can build up my confidence. It’s also a constant reminder that the things I want to accomplish in my life, my writing, my business, and my relationships will not happen over night.
I’m prone to become more anxious and shrink back, when really I need to be more mindful of my habits and reach out to people who I know will be there for support and to serve as a listening ear. However, in addition to this, I’ve been looking up different therapists that can serve as an objective third party for me as well. In situations in which we feel inadequate, the easiest thing to do is shrink back and shut others out. However, for the sake of our own well-being, it’s more important to move past that block and be willing to reach out to those who can help.
In any case, I’m very excited to get back into my daily writing habits like I did before the pandemic started. Writing and working out can be frustrating tasks at time, but for me they also give me peace.
I encourage people like myself to take some time to think about what brings you peace, and to figure out how to make time for those things.
For people who aren’t like me, but may have people in your life that tend to give themselves a hard time, why not check in on them? See if they’re willing to hop on a call or Facetime. Be a light for them, they may appreciate it more than you think.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Awkward Penguin,