A Few Tricks to Avoid Ruining Your Own Life

We’re talented at self-sabotage.

Jessica Wildfire
Dec 7, 2019 · 5 min read

ven pillows come with a little tag that tells you how to take care of them. Unfortunately, we don’t.

It would be great if meditation erased your self-doubt forever, if bullies grew up on their own, if your paycheck went far enough, and if everything was always fair — and carried an explanation.

We know none of this is true. And yet, we need constant reminding that the world wasn’t custom designed for us.

We like to think of ourselves as mature. But everyone has little triggers and breaking points that bring out our inner teenager. Dealing with all this, that’s emotional intelligence.

Stop running on cruise control

We’re in trouble when we don’t even know how we’re feeling, which is often. We default to “I’m fine,” when we’re not.

Somewhere in our mind, we all remember the day someone asked us how we were doing, and kept on walking. We realized that almost everyone runs on emotional cruise control.

When you’re on cruise control, that’s when you blow up at someone for no reason. You say something hurtful, or stop listening to your wife/husband when they’re telling you something important.

There’s no such thing as TMI with yourself

You can spend an entire day on the edge without realizing it. You’ve internalized the rules of polite society.

We learn to spare our friends the details of past traumas. It makes us more socially palatable. When someone asks us about our childhood, we tell them lies of manner. We start believing those lies. We believe we came from a good home, or that nobody ever made us feel unsafe.

We whitewash ourselves.

This leads to one big problem. You never realize why you keep making the same bad decisions and falling into the same toxic habits. Sometimes a better life comes only from feeling the pain of the old one.

One of the best things you can do is sit with your emotions and memories for awhile, even if they’re awful.

How you act matters more than how you feel

Maybe you can’t trick yourself into joy. But you can choose to act pleasant, even if you feel like shredded meat. Sometimes you just have to drag yourself to work and fake a smile here and there.

You have to bite your tongue at that meeting. You have to tell that white lie to protect someone’s ego. You have to make the small talk.

Even a little effort is more than nothing. Nobody expects you to be the life of the party, just part of the background. And if you need a nap later, or a block of solitude — that’s fine.

It’s almost always something else

Maybe you’ve noticed, but little things irritate you more when the world doesn’t bend to your whims.

The thing that’s trashing your mood right now — it might be a distraction from a bigger problem, something beyond your control. Don’t drag yourself down more by fixating on it.

Take a step back and look at the gallery.

Let the knives drop

You’re responsible for what affects you. When you go around cleaning up everyone else’s mess, you’re practicing a kind of intolerance. You’re teaching them to depend on you.

Sometimes you have to let things break.

You have to be okay with something not getting done as fast, as well, or as carefully as you want.

The alternative is that you’re always on call. You become a juggler of other people’s knives — a dangerous and thankless job.

Let someone think they’ve won

Plenty of people only care about making a grandstand, having the last word, or appearing like they’re in control.

They’ll fight you, as long as you put up resistance. The second you stop, they don’t care anymore.

You have more control than you think

The loudest person in the room thinks they’re the most important. They’re not. Don’t raise your voice or keep your mouth moving just to feel important. Don’t make rash decisions to ease some tension. Be the quiet one. Be the one who asks the right questions at the right time.

Be the one comfortable waiting for a bit.

Leave extra drama alone

We have a knack for seeking out drama, and planting ourselves in the middle of it. We’ll gossip. We’ll take sides when we don’t have to.

Just because someone else is worked up over something, that doesn’t mean you have to partake.

Sipping on someone else’s drama might feel like a nice break from your own. But your own problems will always be waiting. You’ll just be too tired to deal with them afterward.

The best thing to do is wait

Certain situations trigger your inner child. You’ll think you’re justified. You’ll think it’s finally time to rip someone apart.

Don’t. It doesn’t matter what happened, or who did it.

Few things deserve an immediate, heated response. The best play is usually the calm, detached one. So go for a walk. Listen to some music. Bury your head in a pillow for five minutes.

Or forty-five…

You can’t expect empathy from everyone

The ones who take you for granted, they won’t stand up and cheer when you suddenly assert yourself and declare your boundaries. They won’t appreciate anything you do — especially after you stop doing it.

Why would they? You’re denying them something they felt entitled to. Of course they’ll try to punish you.

Of course they’ll call you selfish. If you let them, they’ll guilt-trip you right back into the same sad state.

You’ll never make some people understand what you do for them, or what you’re worth. Stop trying, and walk.

Maintain your homeostasis

You don’t have to wake up super early or run a marathon every morning. Just figure out what your baseline is for okay.

Do what it takes to get there.

Stop watering yourself down

Not everyone’s supposed to like you. They won’t like your work, or your ideas. They’ll do their best to hurt you, to ease their own pain.

Just remember, that’s all they’re doing.

It’s almost not even personal.

The best response is none. Don’t second-guess yourself because you grated a vocal troll or two. Keep yourself potent.

Mind your what-about-me-ism

Even introverts crave attention. We just don’t know what to do with it. Attention is the quickest way to restore an ego. But it’s short-lived, and always leaves you wanting more.

If you didn’t want attention, you wouldn’t be human.

What counts is how you get that attention, and how good you are at passing around the spotlight.

What it means to believe in yourself

Believing in yourself doesn’t mean starting a rock band even if you can’t carry a tune. It means devoting time to what matters, and lining up what you’re good at with what you find meaningful.

You might be good at lots of things that benefit someone else more than you. You need to believe you’re not selfish for investing in yourself and what you care about, even when someone else says you are.

Not everyone has our best interest at heart. Even those who do can get side-tracked with their own problems. There’s enough stuff out there trying to take you down. Don’t help it.

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Jessica Wildfire

Written by

Life is an amazing journey to nowhere. jessica.wildfire.writer@gmail.com

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +569K people. Follow to join our community.

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