One of the greatest things I ever taught myself to do was to dig. To see what I was struggling with on the surface level, but to learn to identify what the real problem was beyond that. We go in circles continually fixing the symptoms, but never addressing the underlying problems in our lives. I really do believe that if we could only have a better grasp on identifying what it is that is really bothering us, we wouldn’t be so consumed with being frustrated as we cannot solve what are really only symptoms of a larger issue.
I can’t definitively spell out how you know what is a problem and what is just a symptom of it because it will look differently for everybody. All I can attest to is the importance of identifying and differentiating between the two.
Very generally speaking, I think the way we act out toward others and the way we feel about ourselves are usually rooted in something much more serious than a lapse in judgment or some negative-self talk. I know that in my personal experience, I very much struggle with how I think of myself, and no matter how successful I am or not, that image doesn’t change: because it’s rooted in much more than the titles and identifications I think of myself as. This is what I’m talking about, and this is why it’s relevant: because you will never find contentment until you’ve learned to resolve the issues that are under the surface.
And by the way, very often, these issues aren’t small feats to be dealt with. They are opinions and stances that have been built for us throughout our lives, through exposure to different cultural norms and personal experiences we have had. We’ve learned to construct our minds to regard ourselves and others in a certain way, and when we run into an aspect of that construction that doesn’t aid us well, we can’t figure out why its something we can’t simply solve now that we know its a problem.
It’s because doing so requires uprooting yourself, and that’s not always a bad thing. But even just the term “uprooting” sounds so intense, so definitive, so scary. But it’s not– just ask anyone who has unwillingly had their lives uprooted for them. At the end of that long journey, things turned out better than they were before.
So you can’t be afraid of the monsters that are hiding inside you, and you can’t ignore them either, that just gives them more leeway. Learn to address them, debunk them, and move on. Let yourself be gutted if that’s what you need to do. Reconstruct your ideas and re-educate yourself on what it means to be you, to be a woman, to be a man, to be a professional, to be a parent, etc. Get rid of all the notions of what “should be” and let yourself be as you are, I promise, you’ll end up better for it.