Sleepless nights have re-emerged. Once again, I lie awake feeling I have not done enough don’t want the day to end. So I don’t sleep, mistakenly thinking that that equates to the day not ending. And I realise this isn’t true but it’s where I have found myself. So I shall try to introspect and figure out why I feel this way. Because I can’t be the only one who does. #relatable #seekingvalidation
Part 1: The Issue
On Friday, I made breakfast, studied for an exam, drew things, wrote things, published a blog post, researched some potential flats/houses to buy, did yoga, discussed next year’s finances with my husband at excruciating length and read some sewing articles.
For a day off that should be enough right?
On Thursday, I spent most of the day planning lessons, sending emails, marking homework etc and after work I edited a different blog post. It’s this one. Please read it. I worked hard on it. I also did some drawing, called my mother, made breakfast and dinner, did yoga and had some quality time with my aforementioned husband. We watched Peaky Blinders. Season 4 was better than season 3, I thought. Season 3 was a bit silly.
For a working day that should be enough right?
The rest of my week, working backwards, was much the same. I did things. Obligatory things, personal fulfillment things, romantic things, house maintenance things, exercise and
healthy eating things. All the things.
But I have barely slept this week. Because as I lay awake in my duvet cocoon, all I can think is:
It’s not enough. It’s never enough. I need to do more things. I don’t deserve to sleep yet.Me
Followed by thinking:
But I’m too tired to get up and do things.Also me
Which inevitably leads to thinking:
I’m lazy. A lazy diva.Still me
And this isn’t a good thing. So let me discuss it at length.
Part 2: Wait, what is this feeling?
Sometimes I think I spend more time forcing myself to be happy than trying to figure out why I am not happy. And this is not to say you always need to be happy as a default in life; it isn’t. But contentment should be. And I don’t have a lot of contentment at times and I partake in negative filtering, which is a toxic thought process in which you believe only the negative thoughts you have and explain away any positive thoughts as irrelevant or unimportant.
I feel like I have not done enough in the day. If I write a blog post, I feel bad that I didn’t also draw. If I draw and write a blog post, I feel bad that I didn’t draft out my novel idea. I have a number of different projects and interests, none of which are related to my actual job, that I feel an immense sense of guilt for not having perfected. I feel I am not “good enough” at any of my hobbies and interests and side projects. And when I end a day, no matter how busy my day was, it’s not enough and I feel like I have wasted my time. I lie awake at night, my mind racing, feeling rather worthless.
It’s all a bit miserable really and I don’t know why it’s the case. If you asked me what I think of myself, I actually feel I have a high level of self-esteem. I may lack consistency, but I believe in my skills, ambition and talent. It’s more that I have internalised an idea of not being good enough on an emotional level whilst remaining practical about my abilities on an intellectual level. My thoughtful mind is hijacked by this internalised anxiety and I am left fatigued both by doing things and feeling like I have not done enough things.
So I need to figure out why this is.
Part 3: Why is this feeling?
Let’s introspect, a process I like to use as DIY therapy.
As part of this therapy, I listed all the possible reasons I may have internalised this sense of “not being good enough”.
Reason 1: SOCIETY IS TO BLAME (but really its just me?)
I could eloquently explain how our modern way of life is responsible for rising rates of anxiety and depression. But there are many people smarter than me who can unpack that whole argument a lot better. I would rather use this as a jumping off point to take ownership of my own feelings. My main issue with society is that I feel the pressure to “always be hustling”. But that’s just the backdrop of my concerns. The thing that pushes it all over the edge is that I, as a person, compare myself to others a lot.
Seeing successful people around my age makes me feel overly inspired, empowered, stressed and depressed – in that order. Because when you combine “you must hustle” with “awesome people your age are hustling”, my brain goes through many emotions. I am happy because I feel represented and seen but sad because I am not yet at that stage. I’ll watch a video on YouTube and miss when I used to edit my own videos for university projects, or I’ll read a book and love it, then feel awful for not being as good a writer.
And it’s gotten to the point where I stray from consuming things that I actually really enjoy because along with the joy is this misplaced guilt. I am both inspired to create and guilty for not creating. And if I do create, I still feel like it’s not enough. And I don’t sleep.
Reason 2: MY WOMANHOOD IS TO BLAME
It’s weird being a woman.
I feel like anything I say puts me in a box. anything I say about relationships, having babies, working, getting married, having opinions, being a feminist, being religious… all of it. Everything I say or think is a type of woman. Into the box you go! And you might think this is just me projecting, but I have enough evidence from my own life to know that if I say a thing – I get follow-up questions about the thing as people try to develop an understanding of which box to place me in. And that’s just in my actual real life. Online is another world entirely.
And it makes me kind of defensive. As a Pakistani Muslim woman… there is an image. An image projected onto me by various groups of people but also an image I have of myself. A set path to life that I very early on thought was somewhat incongruent with my own aspirations. Not entirely… but certain things didn’t mesh. Nobody overtly told me to be a well-educated religious middle class housewife who does Islamic charity work and loves having babies. Because socialisation is sneakier than that. Breaking out of that norm requires an awareness that such a norm exists and a desire to break out of it. So when other people put me in boxes as I try to figure out how to leave a certain box – I get defensive.
I care deeply about one thing – I want my own success. I want a career. I want to travel. I want to be independent. This might seem obvious and you might be thinking “okay”. But realise that having a career has never been anything I have been pressured to do. Think about that. There has been little expectation of me to have a career. Maybe a job until I get married, but not a bosslady career. I could probably have gotten away with not working after marriage. And certainly after having children. But I made different choices.
And the problem with all this is that I put a lot of pressure on myself. I want to be successful and I have a vision and really worry about failing. Because failing means falling back into that default box that’s always waiting for me. And the thought of becoming what I have never wanted to be is scary. I don’t know how #relatable that is but it’s like a ticking clock. And I can’t sleep.
Reason 3: My DREAMS ARE TO BLAME
If I were to zoom out and look at the timeline of my life, there would be a clear line of progression in terms of growing as a person, learning new skills and developing relationships. The last 10 years may not be what I had planned for myself but life is fun that way. I am okay.
But zoom in to where I am and I constantly feel like I’m at the starting line, particularly in reference to my ambitions. I’ve not achieved the stage in my career I would like or the skills or the creative vision etc. And I never look at how far I have come because I’m not where I would like to be. I’m in the middle of my timeline but tend to feel like I’m in the beginning.
And I blame my misguided, ambitious nature. I’ve always considered myself a bit of a Slytherin because I think I’m overly ambitious and want to be better than everyone. But I recently went to Pottermore and got sorted into a house and yep… I’m a Hufflepuff.
So that was a trip.
I also recently learned about the Hedonic Treadmill.
“the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.”Wikipedia
Now doesn’t that sound nice? The suggestion that we can snap back to a place of contentment whatever life throws at us is super sweet.
But it also suggests that even if I achieve something really positive, my initial joy eventually becomes a new normal and I once again reset to feeling like I have to do more to get there again. I think many people feel this way. #desperatetoberelatable. And it’s worth zooming out to look at my dreams in the context of my entire timeline. To help me sleep.
These reasons do matter to me immensely and I don’t think the solution is to care less about them. I can’t just not feel affected by society’s expectations or my baggage with femaledom and my own ambitions. But you can’t hate yourself into the thing you want to be.
Rather than spiralling into sadness, I am trying to catch myself in that moment and realise that, oh, I’m sad – I should be nice to myself. It’s better to focus on removing the negative filter and allowing in more positive thoughts.
This is in order to start building more internal validation, which is when you validate your own feelings without judgement. So you don’t blame yourself for feeling a certain way or for not doing certain things. You tell yourself that it’s okay and that you’re okay. You’re allowed to feel how you feel and work from there to feel how you want to feel. And that might help me sleep.
Part 4: Practical things to help?
The key here is not to solve the problem but to slowly develop tools to keep the problem in line. Because it’s not something happening to me but a part of me. And I should learn to live with myself. I need to address the root problem of my brain just refusing to accept that enough it enough. And it’s also okay to not do enough. You can have a basic day. You should have a basic day.
So I have identified 3 simple strategies to start addressing these concerns.
- Making a To-Do list that is versatile and includes what I would like to realistically achieve in a day.
- Have a journal that I write in each night celebrating what I have achieved and how that is enough. This is to give myself that internal validation.
- Start using a sleep app to keep me in check and keep me informed about how my sleep actually works.
And in my next post, I shall update you all on which strategy I liked the most.
If you’re more an email person, join my mailing list. I post weekly-ish. I promise I won’t spam you.
Or read some recent posts that I am quite proud of:
- My Sunday evening: doomscrolling, taking offense and yogaQuickie 2 min read about that dread you feel every Sunday evening.
- Was Valentine’s Day even relevant in the pandemic?Defending Valentine’s Day for 7 minutes straight. 7 mins of reading I mean.
- What school assignment still haunts you? Mine is the Tiger EssayGorgeous 10 min read about a formative childhood experience. With #siblinggoals
- What the fear of not accomplishing your dreams feels like.5 min read about things that hold us back from living a creative life. There’s a Venn diagram in it!
- I restarted yoga and now I’m better than everyone.8 min ramble about fitness goals, consistency and smugness and how none of it will last.