working on yourself

Working on yourself is hard and feels unnecessary when a bit of temporary reprieve or comfort comes your way. 

It’s hard to stay disciplined and focused, especially when things seem to suddenly turn back in your favor.

You can ride the high, but truth be told, you’ll find yourself crashing harder than before when you start to come down from the trip.

Suddenly you’re back at square one, as though you haven’t learned anything. Then you spiral further into believing you’re hopeless to finding the change in yourself you wanted to find. 

Trusting the process is a lonely and frightening experience. There’s no sugarcoating it. You will unknowingly use every worst fear you have against you. Protecting yourself and restoring what you’ve established as normal will always be the main priority for these fears, unless of course you break them.

Breaking fear is a matter of accepting it. Ride out the fear. Not running from it. Let the sickness run its course.

There are no epiphanies or trumpets that blare when you finally do break them and start to feel that your best self is the majority of yourself. But quiet moments do occur when you realize how happy you are for no explainable reason. This is your new normal. Never take it for granted. 

That’s when you know you’ve caught on to this whole idea of working on yourself. There aren’t any mind games and you no longer need validation from others.

There’s just you and it’s enough.

communicate

This is delicate territory for someone like myself. Communicating what you want or need but trying to remain open and receptive to others’ desires and perspectives is an area I’m still not the most comfortable. Bending to others’ viewpoint has been my standard default because I’d rather not argue and fight. Where some crave it, I find it taxing and exhausting. However, I’ve learned the dangers about compromising my own needs and wants to keep some sort of collective harmony. Even worse, I assume both sides are working towards satisfying each other to find some middle ground. What I forget is that there is no middle ground if it hinders what you need or want. Not to say finding some middle ground isn’t beneficial, but it needs to be on terms that works for you. You have to do what you want for you in the end, and fearless communication is the only way to see that you’re getting there. It’s no longer worth getting frustrated waiting for someone to “meet me halfway”. This is a long winded way of saying to stick to your values I suppose. I need to learn that communicating yourself is everything, whether it leads to an agreement or argument. I’ve been so quick and dismissive of others when they are willing to fight against me. Maybe I’ve trained myself to believe that one single attack by them is equivalent to permanently dismissing me. I’m so easy to open myself to the many different outlooks of others that it often surprises me when people quickly and sharply disagree with me. What I forget is that they have a right to stand up for what they see as truth, as do I. I’ll keep an appreciation for my ability to listen, but this so called balanced scale must always tip in favor of my direction first and foremost. Communication can’t be effective if both sides just blindly accept what the other offers.

let people “use” you

It sounds self-deprecating. It sounds like preparing yourself to become the world’s greatest doormat. What it really is is letting go of your own ideas about how you are received. To know ourselves is not a matter of being able to recite amazing qualities or flaws about ourselves. Knowing yourself is living in peace by being ourselves. Knowing this peace is the only thing we need to remember. People will take what they want or need out of us. Lovers and friends alike seek this, as we do from them. All we need to remain aware of in this sense is whether their “use” of us is disturbing our peace. If we keep this on the front line of thinking, then we’re less susceptible to judging others. I may know or never know what people get out of me. But to demand to know or try to control what I want others to get from me is an egotistical fear tactic. It all comes down to accepting that the world is out of your control sans the boundaries of your own being.

no more self

no more self

Waking up in the morning and clearing the slate  has been the most real experience I’ve had in awhile. Meditating on nothing more than a white blank canvas while I let any other thoughts fade to ash has been hypnotic. I hate moving and starting the day. The loops of thoughts are waiting there, ready to drag me back down into my anxiety, my self-doubt, and my inadequacies. I’ve grown tired and weak allowing myself to feel unworthy, inexperienced, and naive. I wrap myself in shame and guilt for things I’ve done and things I’ve failed to do. 

I’m tired of this version of myself. This “self” needs to die. I want to capture the imagination that I paint on this white canvas and run with it. I’m tired of allowing myself to believe that I’m not good enough. That the people I encounter on a daily basis also believe I’m not worthy. 

The easiest deceptions in the world to see are the most trigger sensitive. I removed myself from social media because a constant reminder remained that everyone else is extremely content where they are – they know what makes them happy and they know how to move on. I can barely watch TV – another medium projecting a life you don’t have. 

Even now, I ponder my guilt. So am I content to be alone in my apartment, quietly writing music and harmonies for the next several months? What about the life I’m missing? The bumps and bruises I’m supposed to get along the way? For some reason I develop the belief that I’m missing out on all the sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll that everyone waltzes right into. I’m nothing without it because everyone else is in it. Outside looking in again. The noise is otherworldly. It’s hard not to get ushered into what other people perceive as important. 

People tend to be loud, boisterous, critical, and supposedly experienced. All this peacocking makes me feel like an innocent church boy again. Go home kid, the grown ups are doing blow and lamenting their existence. You just don’t get it because you’re not brave enough to get it. 

When meditating, these thoughts dissipate. I feel good because this version of me is not present. The second I step out into the world, the innocent dreamer kid with not an inch of callous skin returns. I constantly ask ‘what if’ and dread over decisions I made months or even years ago. I want these thoughts to die. I want to be me with my white canvas. I don’t want to give a shit about other people’s opinions. I want to allow myself the ability to forgive myself, find my own happiness, and look forward. That’s the only experiences I want to aspire to. 

by ty miller

middle ground

middle ground

Of the many people I’ve met in my life, two types of people tend to hug the fringes of life’s spectrum.

  1. The person who sees life as responsibility. You get up everyday, go to work, save up for retirement, start a family, provide for them, come home, and then find happiness in small pockets. You die thinking “I did my best to take care of business while maintaining integrity and abiding by my ethical or moral code”. 
  2. The existential who seeks happiness with a sense of carelessness. Someone who completely buys into the core principles of postmodernist thinking. Life will only cause you pain, knock you down, then curb stomp you for the hell of it. So why bother getting up? Live pleasurably and bask in the cynicism and irony that is our existence.

This isn’t necessarily a critique of how these types of people see life. It does seem though that the middle ground they want to stay clear of is tied to a sense of safety in certain identity. 

Number 1 is your classic idea of a conformist. Society has been built a certain way, and we are obliged to fit into the puzzle to keep the machine functioning smoothly. We are a product of a past success. Keep the status quo. 

Number 2 thinks they are the rebels, because in the traditional sense they are. Where society began to form an identity and began to conform to it, this group decided to reject the idea that the past defined them. Furthermore, they saw the pointlessness of putting in everything to conform when more than likely losers would come out the other end. 

This isn’t a sociological history lesson. This is a lesson about fear of accepting anything other than what their trauma has put in place for them. Their flexibility has been hardened. Do you happen to find yourself starting to lean into one of these groups? I definitely have at times. 

I dare you to challenge the belief in the following statements in the minds of these groups:

Number 1 : Life is work.

Number 2 : Life is pain. 

Here’s a simple practice of language that could help someone be brave enough to wander into the middle ground and out of the shadows of the polar fringes:

Life is work, but…

Life is pain, but…

When you allow an exception to the rule, especially when it comes to life, all it takes is a simple acknowledgement that it can exist. We’re all scared of something, but life is best spent in the middle ground in sunshine, even if you do get sunburnt from time to time. 

by ty miller

 

chopping wood

chopping wood

You’ve heard of discipline training – the first picture that comes to mind with chopping wood is some sort of mental exercise ‘wax on wax off’ Mr. Miyagi simulation, right? I don’t want to dispel the fact that becoming disciplined in something will spill over into other areas of your life that needs similar fine tuning, but it also represents something much more powerful: defining the driving acts that fill the void of expectations. 

I’ve struggled with this immensely over the past months. I want to slave away at my passions, but I have difficulty continuing without greater impact or reception from others. The fires I desire never come to fruition the way I anticipate, so should I keep chopping wood? Why bother pushing your already fragile mental fortitude just to keep missing the mark? 

Here’s an easy solution. When you think you’re ready to stop chopping wood to start a fire, keep chopping. Don’t concern yourself with the fire. It’s not yours to start. You know that people will be able to start a fire using your wood, but only concern yourself with making more and more wood available for potential fires. When you sit and wait for people to start the fire, you’ve gone astray. Doing isn’t defined by results, it just is. If your act is only validated by if or how others receive it, then can you honestly say this is something that drives you? 

I don’t mean this abstractly. Literally keep doing. If you’re a musician, keep getting out there to play shows or open mics. If you’re an athlete, keep training everyday. If you’re a writer, write constantly. If you want to cook, cook for everyone all the time. DO DON’T WAIT FOR A RESPONSE . 

Imagine a world where you’re received exactly as your expectations dreamt it. Then what? Do you stop doing? Are you dead? I doubt it. Your drive lives on it because it is you. The fire keeps others warm, but chopping wood keeps you strong and alive. 

by ty miller

trust your gut

trust your gut

Do you have trouble trusting your own feelings? Do you find yourself inclined to only make decisions with third-party approval to look back anyway to wonder if you missed something? At the beginning of the summer, I began a journey of self-reflection. I wanted to learn how to be better at being myself while trying to let go of egotistical tendencies and other identity issues. 

I began dating someone around this time. I liked her a lot. She was weird, talented, and beautiful, but she had underlying issues that I could never get a full read on. She seemed like she turned to certain things to give herself identity, but I knew from one-on-one moments that she was a kind, considerate, and overall a genuine human being despite having a mixed opinion of herself. 

I quickly found juggling my own journey and trying to pursue a new relationship to be difficult and anxiety inducing. I can’t help but make relationships my entire world. I stress constantly over details out of my control, and I’ve never quite come to accept the fact that it’s a leap of faith. This situation felt too delicate to learn and balance casually on the fly. 

Whether they want it or not, I tend to prioritize those I care deeply about above my own values. Putting myself on this journey was a game changer, and I decided to not let myself tightrope between listening to my own internal values and fighting old habits. So I ended it.

Nearly three months have passed, but not a day passes without feeling some sense of selfishness, guilt, regret, or all three at once. The idea of her moving on and finding happiness while I spend time alone reflecting makes my time seem like a waste. I try to remind myself that I deserve this positive change even though growth takes time.

Trusting your decisions and your gut values is one thing. The ability to put it above other people’s feelings is the hardest thing for me. This is my most important lesson. Understanding that loving, understanding, and being present for others is an amazing trait to blessed with; but also knowing that you owe yourself the exact same treatment. 

Finding validation from others is a painful game that never quite gives you what you seek. Even in looking for their approval, I never once felt insincere about wanting to put others before me. Still I know I have to selfishly take care of myself right now, but muscle memory is hard to break and it gets lonely. I want to be proud of my decision and understand that letting go of this sought out approval is the first step in learning how to treat myself as I’ve treated others. 

by ty miller