And When They Come Back, Don’t Forget How They Left

7 Reasons Why Watching Other People’s ‘Ideal’ Lives Paralyzes And Keeps You Stifled

1. You spend more time watching how other people live their dream lives and thinking of ways you can be better than they are, but their high level of “dreamy perfection” paralyzes you because you fear that you can never measure up or be qualified enough to attain what they have.

At first, you think that you finally have a vision for finally getting your sh*t together, and you apply some principles of lifestyle reconstruction, which involve getting rid of old things that no longer align with your newfound purpose, rearranging your living space, cutting back on time spent with people that don’t understand you, and making more time for rest. However, as soon as you make these big changes, you become paralyzed and spend months and months never starting on the things that you intended to create.

2. You constantly compare your current situation with other people’s five years’ worth of progress and results that show quantifiable proof of it (the number of followers/subscribers they have, number of books published, number of blog posts they’ve written, etc.) and you believe that you need to be in that stage like in a week or else, you’re a failure (or worse, a wannabe dreamer).

Seeing other people’s progress quantified in number of likes, followers, subscribers, articles written, blog posts written, videos made, photographs taken, fans acquired, and number of articles written about their success paralyzes you and you end up procrastinating because you are still holding onto the toxic belief that you are incapable of going after what you want and you need to achieve the same level of success in one-tenth of the amount of time it took for other people to achieve, or else you’ll never be relevant or competitive enough to stand out from the type of people that you judge as wannabes. You fear looking like a novice starting out, so you set some high, unattainable goals – things like churning out 100 pieces of work in a week (in whatever field you want to pursue) just to get to other people’s level of expertise. But this works against you because you end up being so paralyzed and intimidated by this goal, so much that you live each day in the same fear-based manner that you want to grow out of and thus, you never begin anything that you set out to do.

3. You vacillate between believing that you are superior to other people and believing that you are inadequate, worthless, and undeserving of anything unless you prove yourself. Thus, you are always in a place of judgment and discontent, which keeps you fearful of making changes to better yourself.

All of the old judgments and preconceived notions of what you think dreamers and idealists are like keep your mind in a toxic state – you constantly compare yourself and think you can be better than others because you feel like your aesthetic, mission statement, values, and personal experiences are morally and artistically superior based on your own assessment, but then there are many days when you beat yourself up for not attaining unachievable goals or exceeding the standards that you think the world imposes upon you. This is an ego-based motivation that is rooted in envy, and it results in you never making any progress because you ruminate over the finest details of what others are doing wrong with their lives and what you are doing wrong with your life. You end up spending more time stewing in your jealousy, which prevents you from going after the kind of life that you desire most – a life that is free from exchanging your wellbeing for the sake of getting by.

4. You spend a lot of time bullet journaling, making lists, methodically planning every minute detail of your life, and making a rigid schedule for yourself, but after months go by, you realize that you haven’t done anything you’ve planned and are in a constant state of fatigue, anxiety, and sadness.

People call this resistance, but I think the term paralysis applies more. You become so overwhelmed by the grand ideals that you have to live up to that you begin to freeze and continue living life in fight-or-flight mode: you operate in fight mode by fighting against change because you feel threatened and helpless when something new is pushing away the old ways that you feel comfortable (but not satisfied) with, and you operate in flight mode by running away from things that will ultimately change your life for the better because as an instinctual, carnal human that seeks after comfort and approval from others, you are not mentally or physically equipped to deal with anything that undermines your primal functions that prioritize immediate needs for survival and push inspiration, growth, and creation by the wayside. Thus, you feel even more paralyzed than before you recognized that you wanted to change your life because you are now grappling with both the desire to become the ideal self that others have already achieved and the fear of neglecting the day-to-day obligations that you wish to be rid of (being a sycophant to toxic people who have the power to cut you off, studying what you don’t love, being swamped by bills, sacrificing your mental health, and going only after short-term means of survival) that keep you stuck in a state of discontent, stress, and anxiety.

5. Any period of creation ends up being followed by a period of feeling stuck, and anything you do put out there remains in “under construction” mode.

You may be a content creator with a rather empty blog or homepage. You may have social media accounts that you intend to fill with inspiring content that reflects the best version of yourself, but they barely have anything posted. Or you may have a YouTube channel with only a few videos that were added months ago. You have something out there, but you do not continually add to the work that you started, and thus, your work remains “under construction” and you do not experience any growth because your high standards of perfection and feelings of inadequacy hold you back from creating more or allowing yourself to pursue more of what enables you to transcend your ego-based desires of doing what is expected of you.

6. In everyday life, any negative comment from others – no matter how trivial – has the power to cripple you for weeks, even months, on end because you associate their perceptions of you with the cold, hard truth, which you think dictates how you should live by striving to earn their approval just to avoid the feeling of them criticizing you again. And then you turn to lifestyle gurus and binge-read or binge-watch their content as a means of escapism and building up your self-worth.

You see negativity as truth and positivity as an illusion. You are unable to reconcile the multiple selves that you want to be because you want to be the man-pleaser that excels at work by being a workaholic and also manages to attend every single happy hour for the sake of building relationships with people. You also want to be like the inspirational lifestyle guru with thousands of followers. You are afraid of letting your parents down, so you take on more work just to prove that you aren’t useless. You also have the rent to pay and the healthcare bills to cover. You are afraid of everything, yet you are too paralyzed to take any sort of small action that would remove you from this mode of fear-based living that is measured by people who have the power to ostracize you and cut you off from a comfortable, typical lifestyle that you still are afraid to lose. And you end up running around in circles – wanting to be successful in the eyes of those you want to please yet you want to define your own principles of success and take actionable steps to get there. You over-plan and under-act. You prioritize your own wellbeing, but then others’ demands of you take over your life, and by the end of the day, you resort to escapism again. It turns into a vicious cycle that you are powerless to put an end to.

7. You feel defeated by setbacks, paralyzed by expectations, weighed down by the opinions of others, and stifled by the dissonance between what you are and what you want to be.

You ruminate over your setbacks (picking the wrong major, allowing your parents to make major life decisions for you, not doing well in school as you’d like, getting rejected by hundreds of jobs, burning bridges with people, etc.) and a feeling of defeat is always heavy in your chest, preventing you from clearing up your spirit and moving on. You feel paralyzed by what people around you expect you to do, what you expect from yourself, and what you think lifestyle gurus would theoretically expect from you to attain their same high standards of living. You have a difficult time breaking through this paralyzing mentality and cutting out what kind of expectations are holding you back from pursuing what would serve your higher purpose that is in alignment with your most natural and innate self. Your current living situation stifles you and keeps you stagnant because you cannot reconcile what you are and what you desire to become in the future. And let’s not forget that you also compare yourself with people in your age group and judge them for following the norm yet also envying them for being loved and praised by others (whether it’s your parents, your boss, or your peers that are successful). Your struggles stem from the dissonance between what you think the world wants you to be, what your inner critic pushes you to be, what you think you want for yourself, and what you actually want for yourself. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Poet, sci-fi/fantasy writer, music lover, composer, & INFP.

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