TWENTY: Say Noes to Squashed Toes

I never used to enjoy peer pressure. But then my friends got me into it

Albert Einstein (probably)(not)

My psychologist asked only one thing of me when we first started our sessions together.

“This is a place where we can discuss anything and everything you feel you need to. The only thing I ask, for the sake of being able to help walk you through the challenges that you might be facing, is that you be transparent, that you be honest. You can choose not to discuss certain things any further if that’s what you need to do, but for your own sake, keep things honest”

It was the most reasonable thing anyone in her position could ask of someone in my position. If I am going to the effort to go to seek her advice, the least I could do for myself, more than anything, is be straight with how I conduct myself in that room.

What I found interesting as I recounted the various challenges of my life was the unique perspective my therapist offered me. And once she did, it became so blaringly obvious that I almost felt foolish for not seeing it myself. Almost, but I didn’t. Because that’s what makes talking to someone so productive. It doesn’t always happen, but sometimes when someone else tries the shoe on our foot, even for a moment, they can suddenly see things in a way that we can’t.

Which brings me to one of our most recent sessions. After a few visits to get to know each other, which allowed me to tell my story, my therapist pointed out something I’d never considered.

“You’ve painted me a very clear picture of the kind of person you are. But I do wonder, let’s discuss some behaviours you’ve recounted to me that seem to contradict that personality. For example, what urges you to drink too much when you socialise with friends?”

To which I responded with an inquisitive frown and a “huh”. One of those “huh”s you make when something has just dawned on you.

Very rarely have I ever gone out with friends, gotten drunk and woken up the next morning and thought to myself “aw man, what a great night!”. And yet, despite how shitty I usually felt the next day, because the something silly I said or did, sometimes small, sometimes big, I’d eventually come back around and do it again. But at no point throughout my late teens or early twenties did I ever take a second to think about the times I’d been out drinking and actually thought about what I was doing at the time. Like really thought about it. I just switched my brain off for the evening, without ever stopping for a moment to consider, “Am I actually enjoying this?”. What is great about perspective, is that it opened my eyes. I suddenly realised that every time, I would reach a point where my enjoyment levels plummeted.

I started to wonder, why the hell do I reach that point in the night where I go that one step too far. And I realised it came down to a few things;

  1. Anxiety – while I’ve learned to manage my panic attacks over the years, anxiety takes oh so many forms. It had gone unnoticed to me, but a big part of my behaviour was a desire to feel like I could “hold my weight” to “fit in”. If this year has taught me anything, it’s that if you have to go outside of your comfort zone to fit in with your friends, are they really your friends? Truth be told, once I relaxed and started saying no to certain things, I felt like I was respected even more for my honesty.
  2. Letting my guard down – you could almost say that sounds contradictory, but when I would be out drinking, I would subconsciously say to myself “it’s a night out, blow off some steam, there’s no consequence to that”. Oh Tim, you muppet *sigh*
  3. Conformity – I wanted to be a part of the crowd, which, as my therapist told me, contradicts how much I tried to break those prejudices and social norms.

What did I learn this week? I learned a lot about peer pressure, and the sub-conscious need to conform in various aspects of life. For me, drinking had become one that had flown under my radar for a long time. Not to the extent that I identify having a drinking problem, especially considering how infrequently I would partake, but I did find myself considering; what else am I doing that clashes with this picture I paint of myself?

Behaviours in a lot of ways are like clothes. Sometimes we put them on and they don’t fit, but you feel great in it and try to brave the discomfort anyway. But eventually, you realise that your squashed toes aren’t worth it. Sometimes it takes us a little longer to realise those shoes are not worth our time, but eventually, much like a behaviour that doesn’t fit us, we discard it. On the flip side, sometimes a behaviour fits perfectly, and you spend your days stylishly and comfortably rocking that look.

More than ever, I’ve started to feel like I could express myself in a way that felt better to my very core. Throughout the year I started doing things I used to screw up my face at, and challenged those stereotypes I’d foolishly grown to adopt.

“Non-alcoholic beer? That’s not very masculine”

“What do you mean you don’t eat meat? That’s weird”

And yet, I’ve flipped those self-judgements on their head, and challenged myself to open my mind to new opportunities and possibilities. So here I am, 60 days since I last ate meat, and 60 days since I was last drunk on a night out.

So here’s the weekly wisdom. Don’t be set in your ways, because closing your mind to new perspectives, new habits and new opportunities impedes on your own ability to grow and discover new sides of yourself. They say you can’t teach a new dog new tricks. Wellllll bullshit, if I change how I view something, I’ll stand by it, no matter how old I am.

Challenge yourself when your behaviours contradict the kind of person you want to be. And for god sake, don’t wear a shoe at the expense of your toes.

**I’d love to hear your thoughts friends! Feel free to leave a comment, or flick me a discussion suggestion at my Contact Page!**

We are limited, but we can push back the borders of our limitations

Stephen R. Covey

Mental Health

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