There’s something about getting older that makes a person take stock of all the habits, shortcomings and skills in their repertoire, then decide what to keep and what to kick out. I call it the “garage sale years” – your “house” (mind) is cluttered with all the stuff you’ve accumulated over the years, sometimes stacked so high you can barely get any light in. You side step this, hop over that, or maybe you find yourself buried.
This is where I find myself – setting up piles of all the stuff that no longer suits me. In my case, it’s a list of habits that once made sense as I was struggling to regain control of my life and depression, but now I’m in a place that’s safe enough for me to abandon them. Being habits, they will be hard to let go of, which is why I have to work on clearing them out as they pop up. Here they are!
Apologizing for things I can’t change
Guilt and I are *very* well acquainted. I don’t like to inconvenience people and what feels more intrusive than depression and anxiety? I’ve convinced myself that if my mental health can be exhausting for me, it’s got to be a hassle for everyone else. But here’s the thing: people who love you want to help. They can’t be my therapists, but they can be my support. My husband has forbidden me from saying ‘sorry’ after every panic attack, or day I can’t get out of bed. I couldn’t me more thankful for him, because he’s gotten me to re-evaluate what’s my fault, and the answer is none of it is my fault. You can’t control what makes you unwell, or I would wager you wouldn’t be unwell. Ya dig?
Checking up on people who’ve hurt me
Literally why do we do this? I know this behavior isn’t something only I struggle with. It’s the pull that makes us slow down to gawk at car accidents or watch reality TV. Watching other people struggle is a validation of our own pain. I will admit that I used to go to the Facebook pages of people who belittled or abandoned me hoping to see they’d lost an eye or had been heartbroken, too. It’s ugly stuff, to say the least, which certainly does nothing for the health of my own heart. I stopped doing this a while ago (yesterday) and I already feel loads better about who I am.
Hiding my shine (self sabotage)
I used to think it was a sign of humility when I would hide my skills until someone stumbled upon them. Now, I realize I was scared to death people would laugh at me if I failed at something I said outright I could do. In my younger years, I couldn’t wait to show what I could do – singing loud, playing hard, and stepping up to lead because it felt so good – but somewhere along the way I was taught that boys don’t like girls who are too sure of themselves. Feel free to roll your eyes! Then, that seed grew into an ugly tree of self-doubt and fear of failure. Today, I’m ready to rediscover and share all the ways I kick ass.
Expecting perfection from others
Have you ever wanted more than a person could give? Maybe you wanted your grandfather who always criticized you to cheer when you got straight A’s, or you have a sister you can’t reason with about politics. I used to get so bent out of shape when people didn’t meet my standard – a standard I set for myself that was too lofty for someone without wings to meet. The truth is, we’re all limited. Limited by our education, experiences, opportunities, and willingness to be changed. Maya Angelou said we should believe people when they show us who they are – good or bad. To me that means I can’t expect someone who can barely add to suddenly do calculus.
Being afraid to knuck when others buck
I was a little it of a rabble-rouser during my early 20’s. When I wasn’t partying like a total fool, I was protesting, confronting and calling-out bigotry and injustice. I butted heads with a girl on my floor freshman year who was an Ann Coulter drone. I argued with and gave up on friends who wanted black folks to “get over” slavery. You didn’t get to say wild stuff and remain my friend for long. That’s who I was for most of my life, thanks to my parents. They always taught my brother and I to say something when we saw something, which I took to heart. After my breakdown, I was so afraid of losing the few people I had left in my life, that I started letting stuff slide. I stopped being the person who would tell the truth, because I was afraid I would be alone. But who wants a life of silence? What good is company that you can’t grow with? More importantly: how can I look at myself with a sense of dignity if I don’t honor a good quality? This habit is one that’s been around longer than it should have, and I am happy to let it go.
There you have it, folks! As you’ve probably gathered from this post, all of these habits are about comfort. I settled into a state of ease by giving up what made me LaKase, and made excuses to stay where I was instead of growing.
What habits are you ditching for a happier life?