5 Traits that Keep Me Stuck in the Ineffectual Blahs

I am a moderately talented young woman with time and freedom to express myself. I am not socially or culturally repressed or stuck in a job that renders me motionless at the end of the work week. So why do I repeatedly fail to make time for the things I care about, the things that will outline the human I wish to be? Why am I trapped in this perpetual cycle of wasted ideas and time, growing more hopeless with each failed declaration to myself that I am really going to try this time?

Last week, I decided that I want to teach trauma-informed yoga. It’s a step down from a 2014 declaration that I wanted to get my PhD in Psychology, but still a noble path and in a good direction. Last week, it felt doable and right, like all of my inspired hopes and dreams feel, which worries me. Because somehow, the doubt always creeps in.

I am beyond tired of this repeat pattern of setting out to achieve great things, and then retreating when the soles of my shoes are hardly dirty. So I thought that maybe, calling out the menacing traits which keep me stuck might be a good first step. Recognize the problem, then find the solution. So here it goes.

5 Traits that Keep Me Stuck in the Ineffectual Blahs:

1.) I care too much about what people think. You could even call this an obsession. Perhaps it is the curse of the only child — feeling all powerful and central to life’s happenings, a real life Truman Show — or growing up with caretakers who were also very concerned with how others perceived them. It’s become a sort of paranoia, that they are thinking the worst. Who they are frequently changes — sometimes it’s strangers, sometimes old friends or authority figures, sometimes the population of an entire nation. Regardless of who they are, they are all judgmental scoundrels and really think I suck. This has kept me very limited in my self expression, because in trying to please everyone I become as milky murky as the water Van Gogh used to clean his dirty brushes. (now I’m researching if Van Gogh even used water to clean his oil-based paint off his brushes, bringing me to the next point…)

2.) I want to be perfect. Perfectionism keeps me stuck because I can’t allow myself to make a mediocre beginning. If I can’t be a beginner, how do I learn anything new, or get good at what I love? Perfectionism keeps me quiet. It forces me to paint over or trash half-finished canvases, then wait another 10 years to make another attempt. It is why I’ve signed up for 6 elective college courses over the past 7 years and dropped every single one. I’m horrible at not being perfect.

3.) I have zero self discipline. My day consists of waking, laying in bed for 30 minutes while the negative thoughts begin to grow louder, and then seeing where things go from there. This is not effective. Most of the greats at anything had discipline and a routine. It may have involved alcohol or strange dances or even odd non-sexual masturbatory motions (novelist Thomas Wolfe) but regardless of details, their routine got them working, making little room for the inner critic to share its two cents.

4.) I struggle with shame. I can will myself into a class or a workshop or even a job that I am passionate about, but sooner or later I begin to feel like I’m just taking up space, and like people don’t want me around. More than just feeling like the things I do are flawed or bad (perfectionism/guilt), I feel like the things I am are flawed or bad (shame). I then start to feel like a fraud, and begin doing weird things to prove my worth. In the end, my strategy is always to quit before I can be rejected or let go. The odd thing is, when I get feedback, most people really like both me and my work.

5.) I am as terrified of success as I am of failure. People don’t like to fail — duh. But what happens if when you succeed, all you can imagine is the new height at which you are going fall when you fail? It’s a much easier drop if you haven’t even taken a step up the mountain. Maybe this whole analogy isn’t serving me. Who’s to say success needs to be vertical? Maybe it can be horizontal, with no gravity involved. Then if I fall, I risk only scuffing a knee and slight embarrassment. Unless it’s on your wedding day, during your first dance as husband and wife and 180 people are watching you… this almost happened when I stepped back for a funk soul dance move and my high heal met the mesh lining of my quinceañera-esque ballgown. By the grace of goodness, I caught myself, but it still haunts me.

In addition, I am terrified that I will get to the place I have always dreamed, and it will feel… well… blah. And then I’ll be lost. But I’m about as lost as any 31 year old can be, so I guess there is nothing to lose.

My bonus point is this, and it’s an important one: I don’t take myself seriously. I still, in many ways, feel like the child at the adult party, cute and entertaining, but not worth any real concern. My art, my writing, my opinions and passions, all feel like nonsense after a while. And this breaks my heart the most.

When will I value my own process, thoughts and feelings more than the real or perceived judgements of others? When will I finally care enough to start making time for the things I really care about?