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A 24 year old’s rants about stress management, expectations, idealism and self-pressure

Extracted from my Dayre, because I’m feeling all of these emotions all over again..

Today’s post will just be random pent up feelings I’ve been holding in for a long time.

Yesterday, I was speaking to a doctor I’d just seen for the first time, who’s a lovely lady that I enjoyed chatting with for about an hour. She was examining my skin when she commented that I look like I don’t sleep enough. I guess she could tell just from looking at me.

“I don’t”, I told her, half laughing but half pitying myself because I’m hit by the harsh reality of this sad truth. I worry about a lot of things. I let my emotions get in the way too much. I don’t sleep well at all. I’ve got a never ending to list and work piled up to my neck each and every week. I don’t even have time for holidays but I forcefully put everything on hold at my own risk, because I just needed a breather.

Some peace, space, and sanity. There are good days, and there are near meltdown days. I’m happy most of the time, but I don’t have time to just sit back and BE happy. There’s always some kind of problem to be fixed in my life. There’s always a thousand and one things on my mind.

As I said this out loud to a stranger, I almost kind of teared up, because the amount of pressure I am constantly under kind of came out of my mouth like verbal diarrhea and here I was spilling my life story to someone I had just met.

Yes, I’m always smiling. I’m always joking around. But underneath that cheerfulness, lies something deeper and darker. For people like me, happiness is an everyday, conscious decision. It is a choice. It is making the effort to focus on the good, and not let the negative aspects take over my emotions and activities. It’s choosing to say, “I can do this. Yes I can.” Instead of, “Fuck me, fuck this shit, fuck the whole world.”

Happiness is simple, yes. But my life isn’t simple. It’s really anything but. But it’s the life I have, and it’s the life I chose. Even if I didn’t choose certain conditions, they sure did stick with me. So it shall be the life I live. I don’t know what it is with me, but sleep always seems impossible. Before I met my current boyfriend, quality sleep was something I used to dream about.

Ever since I broke up with my ex of many years, I’ve been struggling with insomnia a whole lot. I used to sleep A LOT. Like 12 hours some days. That was the good life. Now? My sleep schedule is completely fucked up.

I get so little sleep because I’m stressed and then I can’t function in the day because of how tired I am, and because I get so little done in the day I become even more stressed by night so then I can’t sleep even more and the next day I’m even more exhausted, and this cycle never seems to end.

Days of bad sleep dragged into weeks and then months, now I can’t even remember the last time I had good sleep that lasted sufficiently.

Stress management is something I never realized I was so bad at. I guess ever since I’ve started running the cafe, my stress levels have reached an all time high. My hair is dropping like nobody’s business. I gave up even sweeping the floor regularly.

Every time I’d sweep the floor, by hours later, it would be covered in hair again, because that is just how frequently strands are falling off my head. You can even see patches of baldness on my scalp now. I’m 24 and balding. Jesus.

Maybe my problem is that I want too much. I think I can handle everything, but the matter of fact is, I cannot do everything myself sometimes, and I’m not a superwoman.

I thought I could go out there and run a cafe by myself at 24 without an investor, business partner, mentor, no prior experience, and just make it work. While the numbers have got to work their magic, at the same time, I thought I would be able to manage a healthy social life at the same time.

Go out with friends, have romantic dates, go on holidays, maintain my social media, complete my blogging assignments on time, keep up with people in my life, do housework, travel when given the opportunity, all these while running the cafe, thinking constantly about how to improve and having to deal with problems thrown my way..

Some days, it just gets too much. I realized that in the midst of trying to be somebody, I ended up not wanting to be anybody. Recently, I realized that I just wanted to not have any responsibilities to my name. The feeling of not wanting to be shiberty, or a cafe owner, or have people chase me for blog drafts or look for me when problems arise.

I just wanted to be Jessica Loh, nameless happy carefree girl walking down the street, and nobody knows her name, but that’s alright. Because she’s happy just living her life in her own little bubble. Maybe a 9 to 5 standard office job isn’t as bad as I thought it was. I mean, it’s certainly something I could get used to.. Right?

But noooooo I couldn’t just be happy with that, could I? I wanted to start a cafe, and so I did. I wanted to be different, and so I am. Sometimes I wonder, what is so frightening about the ordinary. What is it about myself that screams inside “we refuse to conform to the norm” and seek self validation from being different. Why try to be different, when by doing so, you’re just being the same as everyone else?

I feel like I’ve been chasing ideals since forever, and well, I’m just sick of it. Tired of chasing perfection, to be putting myself under so much stress that I can barely function. Beating myself up over not performing as well as I wanted to or expected myself to. All these expectations, they’re killing me. They’re killing my happiness, vibes, creativity and soul.

They’re suffocating me. I’ve just had enough of these RIDICULOUS standards I’ve set for myself and my life, standards I wholeheartedly believed I needed to achieve in order to be happy.

Just like how I was on holiday recently with Daric, and everyday, I was out chasing the perfect itinerary, planning our days from morning to night, needing to know what we were going to get up to every hour, taking a ton of photos as we go, just so we could have the “perfect holiday”.

Now I realized just how fucking insane that was. Instead of taking the time to enjoy the time off work we had with each other in a foreign country, I’m shuttling us back and forth, from place to place. Gotta. Complete. Everything. On. Our. Itinerary.

It’s not until we have quiet moments to ourselves, when we DIDN’T plan anything but ended up enjoying ourselves anyway, that I realize, the less you expect, the more pleasantly surprised you’ll be. Some of my best moments in Perth with Daric were just simple ones of us laying beside each other on bean bags in front of a warm fireplace, as opposed to the grand adventures we went on. Adventures were nice, but the small nameless moments ended up being the most precious memories.

And in those moments, I had zero expectations for them to be magical…. They just were. In their own quiet little way. I loved that.

Of course it’s healthy to have expectations. But don’t kill yourself over them. Do your best, and let the rest happen naturally. I’m such an over thinker. I’m so concerned about whether it’s perfect, I would rather abandon the project than finish it knowing that it’s not the best I could do. I realize now that it’s not the right way to approach things. The best way to do something, is to get that thing done. An imperfectly done job is better than a perfect unexecuted idea on most days.

So yeah. While I have many reasons to be happy, I realized that two things have been making things much rougher for myself than they should’ve been, and that is having too many expectations, and poor stress / time management. Poor time management also leads to more stress, that’s why I grouped them together. Everything is interlinked.

I’m sharing this on my dayre because I know many of you in your twenties and thirties out there reading this are trying your best to place first in this rat race we call life, just like I am. We’re SOOO obsessed with being the best we could be. That’s what our generation has been told since we were young. We’re told we can do anything. We can be anybody we want to. But you don’t HAVE to be SOMEBODY in order to be somebody.

You can just do you, and there’s nothing wrong with that. So what if you’re not outrightly extraordinary, commercially pretty or hugely successful. Just know that to the world, you may not feel like you’re somebody, but to someone, you’re their entire world.

You know who is an extraordinary person to me? Someone who can find something special in everyday, minute things. Someone who can smile in the face of adversity, and always make someone else laugh.

Being a good person and learning how to be contented with life is THE most successful thing you can achieve. I believe that with every inch of my beating heart. Some people walk around rich and successful, yet not realizing how to be a decent human being people actually like. It’s so sad.

Life is too complicated these days. All the gadgets, technology, fast paced living and getting caught up in the hustle and bustle. I want this to stop.

I wanna stop using my phone during dinner times. I remember someone asking me, “Why are you using your phone during dinner?” And I replied, “Because there’s always messages to reply.”

And they said, “So? You know there’s going to be never ending work no matter what. Even if you finish your work now, you’ll have more later on. So leave the work for later on. Have your meal in peace. Assign and allocate time to breathe, eat, think and work, separately.”

Those words stuck with me, and unless it’s something super urgent, I don’t think I’ve bothered attending calls or texts about work when I don’t feel like there’s an immediate impending urge to, since. Dinner times, are just dinner times now.

Gotta learn to let go.

Let go of your expectations Jess. And the self pressure. Negativity. The need to take photos at every happy moment. The need to be a slave to your phone, social image and work.

Go back to basics.

Enjoy the little things. Relish the nameless moments you never got to capture on camera because you were too busy living in it. Don’t forget to breathe. Tackle your to do list by checking things off one by one. Worrying never did anyone any good. Stop chasing after ideals that aren’t real life. Define your own life by what you think is good enough for you, instead of comparing yourself to other people. When you feel like giving up, remember why you started in the first place.

Back to the nice woman I met yesterday. After an accidental rant to her about how stressed I am with my life and job, she gave me a reassuring touch on the arm and said, “I think you’re doing a fantastic job.”

And these words she said made me want to burst out sobbing.

“I’ve never met you, but I’ve heard a lot about you from other people. They tell me about your blog, and the amazing food you make at your cafe. I would love to visit some day. Some people even openly expressed that I should engage you to write about my business when I mentioned that I was keen in doing marketing with bloggers! They say you’re different, and that they like you a lot. I think you’ve done really well, especially for your age.”

I’ve been my own harshest critic, so to hear these kind words being uttered from a stranger, meant the world. I just looked at her and said thank you. She has no idea how much weight her words hold. A bit of kindness definitely goes a long way.

I can never relate when people say things like “for your age”. I don’t feel like I’m doing well for my age at all, I always feel like I could be doing much BETTER. Could it be a disease we are all plagued with because we were born in Singapore? Perhaps it IS the truth – that I actually can do way, way better.

But I think I’ve been terribly unkind to myself by not recognizing what I’ve accomplished. By not giving myself credit for what I’ve already done, by choosing to only stress over and focus on what I HAVEN’T done.

I’ve got the rest of my life to do everything I want to do. What’s the big hurry? And what’s all the fuss about?

Stressing over something won’t get the job done. If anything, it hinders your productivity.

I swear, from today onwards, I’m going to live my life differently. I’m going to try nitpicking faults and wallowing in the shadows of “what ifs” and “could have beens”. Stop the comparisons, expectations, unnecessary negativity, and self given pressure. Stress is something self created. I need to stop giving myself shit I don’t deserve.

There will always be naysayers. People who tell you or make you feel like you’re not doing good enough. Perhaps that voice is your parents, your boss, your partner or even a voice inside your head. But don’t listen to it. Don’t let it consume you, because you know how hard you’ve worked for everything you have, and only you know what you can really achieve.

I will do my very best to learn from each and every mistake I make, and not let this be an excuse for complacency or pure laziness. I will live each day with no regrets, and I know that if I keep chasing ideals, I will always regret not doing better. I will reward myself when I’ve done well, but not punish myself for not doing the best I can, for the best is yet to be. I will learn to manage my time for work, relationships and pleasure so that I have enough for all of the above.

And SLEEP. God, I miss good sleep. You really can’t function without it.

I read before that the easiest way to have what you want, is to want what you have. And I have a lot to be grateful for. I never want to forget that. Because being happy is not just as simple as “be”. You gotta know what to hold onto, and what to let go.

Today, I’m letting go of unhealthy expectations, and I’m just going to let myself live. Mistakes are essential to becoming better, and I should embrace them with grace.

In our quest to make the most out of our lives, let us not forget how to actually live.

xoxo,
Jess

Leaving my skeletons behind

Extracted from my latest Dayre post.. here’s an emotional bit of me I haven’t shared in quite awhile.

Laying quietly next to him the night before, we talked about things like we usually do, throwing topics out there and discussing just about everything and nothing. Then we came across the topic of whether it is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all.

Being someone who loves deeply each time I decide I’m truly in it for real, I would say.. Life would have so little meaning if you didn’t give your heart away. Such love can be in the form of friendship, kinship or relationship. It’s selfless, bold and fulfilling.

But sometimes, it doesn’t always stay that way. Life gets the better of love. Patience turns into annoyance, effort morphs into complacency, kind words evolve into harsh ones and love slips through your fingers without you even realizing it.

I can’t say I don’t envy people who have never felt great loss of someone important in their lives. Sometimes I wonder if it is a blessing or a curse to be the type of person who feels every single thing intensely. Maybe living in oblivion is sad in its own quiet way, but it’s not the kind of sad that leaves you picking the pieces of your heart off the floor.

Most break ups are sad. But some are mind numbingly tragic.

Maybe, one day you’ll meet someone who starts a fire in you that never dies. But the saddest truth you’ll come to know is that you may not end up spending the rest of your life with that person.

Perhaps it’s especially morbid to meet such a person at a young age, because you spend the rest of your days trying to fill the empty hole they left behind. The realization that it’s probably never going to feel the same with anyone else is overwhelming. Suddenly, your life is completely defined by three segments: Before you met him, when you were with him, and life after it all fell apart.

I thought I knew what it meant to be heartbroken, but I did not know what it really felt like until I found myself choosing to lie on the floor instead of the bed to cry, because the floor felt cold and hard, and I just wanted to feel something apart from the hole in my empty heart.

Not eating, not moving, barely breathing, replaying the same sad song for hours on end, replaying everything you could and should have done better, questioning the point of your very existence, questioning God even though you’re not even religious. It’s when you choose to bleed just to know you’re alive.

It’s also when you’re wailing loudly despite knowing there’s no one there to hear your pathetic cries or to give you their sympathy. I thought we were going to have children and the rest of our lives together. After all, that’s the only future I ever knew. People don’t realize that I did not just lose a boyfriend of 6 years – I lost the house we were staying in together, my job that we worked together in, my everyday lifestyle, everything that I knew.

I thought that when the days of uncontrollable sobbing and being motionless in bed for extended periods of time stopped, so would the pain. Today, it has been more than a year since I decided to leave my ex of 6 years.

While I don’t cry over it as often as I used to, and no longer see his face or hear his name in everything I do and everywhere I go and I realize that my life is my own.. it still gets me real down every now and then. Just when I thought I’ve gotten over it, there will come a sleepless night that convinces me otherwise. And then it hit me.

There are some wounds that will take more than just a few years to heal, and there are broken hearts that surgery can’t fix.

I should allow myself to feel everything that I am feeling, and I should feel no shame in admitting that yes, even though a year has passed (it’s coming to 2 soon), sometimes I still think of Sam and everything we used to do and have. Not in a particularly romantic way, but sometimes, just mourning the loss of something really special and great.

After all, we’ve stayed in three different homes together, raised adorable pets together, been through unimaginable shit with each other, built a business and worked together, saw the other person’s face everyday for 5 years straight – we basically revolved every inch of our lives around each other. I did spend more than a quarter of my life with this person, and he taught me a lot of what I know today as a person.

I was supposed to marry him, but due to unfortunate circumstances, I did not. I left him instead. Because despite how truly amazing we could be together sometimes, the bad times would rock and shake my entire world and left me with zero self esteem, and a lot of negative emotions, which eventually ate me up inside. Our lack of experience in dealing with difficult life situations and snarky attitude got the better of us.

Everyday, I am still learning new lessons from my previous relationship. I often reflect and think about what it all means. Everyday, I am finding new meaning. Recently, I’ve found myself thinking about Sam a lot more, and I was confused by why this was happening.

After some pondering, I realize it’s because of a new character making a significant impact in my life story. Shortly after my break up with Sam, I dated someone for 8 months, from late last year to a few months ago.

Yeah, it didn’t work out. I’d hate to call it a rebound, but I guess I was lonely, and he was enthusiastic, appearing at the right place at the right time. I thought that was what I wanted. Several months in, however, I realized it was a mistake, and called it off when I could no longer keep up pretending that it was going fine, when it wasn’t. We weren’t suitable for each other at all.

But this time around, dear dayre, it’s different. Right from the start, I could tell. This guy makes me feel things I never believed I would feel again. Emotions that I haven’t felt since 7 years ago. He tugs on heart strings from parts of my heart that I did not know were still alive. It made me flashback to when Sam and I first got together.

I felt overwhelmed with a ton of emotions. I was shellshocked that this was even happening. I thought my love with Sam was a once in a lifetime sort of experience, so how could it be that I’m fantasizing about a future with this new guy the way I used to with Sam? Immediately, I recognized what I was feeling.

I felt guilty, like I was replacing Sam. Or rather, the placement of Sam in my heart, in his good memory. While unpleasant thoughts of how everything went to shit still do haunt me, at the very core of it all, I choose to remember him as the guy who taught me what love was. Even after he left, that’s how I always saw him.

I always knew I would be able to have relationships after Sam. I’m generally a cheerful person, and I have lots of love to give, so it wasn’t going to be a problem to find someone to have a relationship with. I just kind of expected that I would have relationships that could never match up to what Sam and I had. I assumed I would get into relationships, watch them not work out, get the hell out of them, rinse and repeat.

But what I did not realize is that my undeserving, malfunctioning, fucked up piece of shit scumbag heart could still, by the grace of God, love someone THAT wholeheartedly again. Somehow, this guy makes my broken heart feel whole again.

And that actually scares the shit out of me.

I was scared of several things. Firstly, the higher you go, the harder you’ll fall. All that vulnerability I took so long to harden my shell just to cover up for, is now being exposed once again. Of course I’m scarred, and naturally think of the worst case scenario. I can tell this would ruin me all anew if it doesn’t work out. And this time, I’m not so sure I will be okay again. I barely made it out with my sanity and dignity intact for the last one.

Secondly..

What makes it even more terrifying is that he’s been one of my best friends for more than a year, and I was very close to him even before we started dating. In a way, he’s been my rock and support, consistently being the best to me, always lending a helping hand in my time of need and making me smile without fail.

So if we don’t work out, I stand to lose one of my closest friends in this lifetime.

Thirdly, I guess I’m royally screwed because I feel like he could be the new love of my life. I don’t know, I could probably even marry this guy. He seems like he would make a great dad and husband. Perhaps it’s too early to tell right now, but that’s how deep I’m in it already. And I’ve only felt this way two times in my entire life: once with Sam, and once more with him.

Let’s give the new guy a name. Let’s call him D. My relationship with D the last two months has shown me how I’ve grown as a person, and a partner. I’m noticeably more self giving, patient, understanding, gentle and willing to compromise. Much more so than before. Only someone like D could bring out these traits in me and encourage me to be the best version of myself possible, because he’s such a great character himself.

So yeah. Basically I’ve been thinking of Sam more often these days because I find myself going through similar experiences with D as I had with Sam, and I’m frightened by the similarities. Can you blame me? It ended so badly for me the last time and I’m just afraid history will repeat itself.

But no love ever came without sacrifices and risks; I should stop this negativity and focus on the good. Because, God, I want to be happily in love again. I want to hand my broken heart to someone else to mend, and not have to bear this burden all by myself.

While I’ve learnt to discover happiness in doing certain things alone, I think generally I am a very social person and it saddens me not having someone special to talk to me about all the thoughts that swim in my head before I sleep at night, or just having someone around for a cuddle whenever I feel like one.

Someone I can devote all my time, affection and love to. I love myself, I do, but I find much greater joy in loving someone else. I used to think that was a sign of weakness, not being able to be happy alone, but now I think that’s just bullshit.

Some people are happier being single, and the world can accept that, so why can’t we agree that it’s perfectly fine to admit that you’re happier being attached? I don’t mean get into a pointless relationship just for the sake of being one (which is possibly what I did for the previous guy I dated) but actually being with someone who becomes your better half. How is that not an ideal situation to be in?

And that’s exactly how I feel. Despite only dating for two months, I feel like D is my better half already. He has always been the ray of light to guide me past difficult times, and he makes me want to become a better person, for myself, and for him.

Sam might have been the love of my life up till I was 23, but D could be the great love of my life, for well, the rest of my life. And even if it’s not D, although I hope it is, I should be open to the idea that love doesn’t die when the relationship does. Love is a form of energy, and it should be transferred into different forms and reinvested in new people.

I’ve held relentlessly onto precious memories of Sam and I, safeguarding and regarding them as the best I’ll have in my life, leaving little room for anyone or anything else to enter. But I shouldn’t hold onto something so tightly when its already over.

I shouldn’t be worried about D becoming something to “replace” what I’ve been holding dear – he is in fact, a whole new category and placement of his own, earning a rightful and massive spot in my heart, creating new memories to replace some painful ones that currently exist.

Maybe it’s time to give yourself a break, Jess. Perhaps it really is time to stop asking yourself each and every day, “Why did something so good end so bad? Will we ever have the chance to start anew? Will I ever be as happy again? Why did you say and do the things that you did? Why couldn’t you have done any better?”

Because you know what. The past, truly has come and gone. Like there’s literally nothing I can do about what I’ve already lost.. That’s gone with the wind. What I CAN do is actually take the hard lessons and truths I’ve gathered from my relationship with Sam, and apply it in this new one. Don’t screw it up Jess. Let’s not make the same mistakes again, you know you won’t forgive yourself this time. We’ll be the best that we can be. We totally deserve another chance at being happy again.

And make me happy, D does. Dear dayre, he makes my heart sing. He makes the bad days better, and the good days the best they could possibly be. When I gave up on myself last year, he didn’t give up on me. He holds me when I cry, listens tirelessly when I talk (too much), kisses me when I least expect it and smiles at me for no reason. And when he smiles at me, I can never not smile back at him.

He’s a constant ball of positive energy, and seems to absolutely adore every quirk I have. He laughs at all the weird shit I do, even the horribly unglamorous and dorky stuff. He makes me feel like I can truly be myself, because someone loves me just the way I am. He knows about my past, my dark secrets and my pain. But he looks at me and smiles as though I am perfect.

Sometimes I feel real emotional when he does that, because I know that when he looks into my eyes, he doesn’t see the rain that I hide behind them. He sees rainbows, twinkles and fireworks and most of all, he just sees a girl he loves more than anything he’s known before.

He doesn’t look at me with sympathetic or frowning eyes like he recognizes the broken person I am, all he knows is that I make him complete. He accepts me with all my emotional baggage, scars and tantrums, and gives me renewed faith in many things I gave up on.

There’s just something really beautiful about that kind of naivety and innocence. Starting on a clean slate. No past to worry about, just the potential of a future to look forward to. Just so many chances to make things right this time around.

I may not have believed it was possible to do so before, but I feel like I am slowly but surely letting go of my pain and regret. I’ll never forget the crazy beautiful devastating memories and all the lessons you’ve taught me Sam, but my heart has had enough of crying over what we were.

We are no longer. We only exist as separate entities now. You in your own world, and me, in my own.

To think, my world used to be you. And now, I have a whole new world without you. Looks like the world is bigger than we thought it was, huh?

I really hope you’re doing well, and being happy, wherever you are. That’s all I ever wanted for the both of us – to be happy. Even if that means living without each other’s presence. We have memories to last a lifetime. Thank you for being a part of my life, and in some ways you will definitely always be. But I think I’m ready to start a new chapter now.

And this one will begin not with tears but instead, with a smile and a hopeful heart, and you will not be the main character no more. I may not know what the ending is, but ultimately I am the author of my own life story, and I can rewrite the ending if I don’t like it enough – that is the most empowering thing I’ve ever felt.

To realize that your heart is even more resilient and powerful than any other part of you that exists because it can stop beating completely, and then burst back into life one day again… is indeed a life changing thing.

I’m leaving my skeletons behind, memories in my heart, and regrets to the wind.

xoxo,
Jess

My own “Like” should be enough

Saw a video being circulated on Facebook about how posting too much about your relationship online could ruin it, and it made me cry like a baby.

As someone who has spent many years documenting her life online for those who are interested to read it, I can wholeheartedly relate to this story. I used to share every last bit and detail of my personal life on my blog and social media. How I met the guy, what we would do on our dates, even when we had big fights and problems.. I was so glad I found love, and I was ready to show the world just how lucky I was.

At first it was simply to share my joy online, but after awhile, it felt like a parade. It eventually exploded into a full blown self-obsession.

I guess with many things on social media, it’s often a facade. Things are never quite what they seem. But when it comes to relationships, pretending to be happy when you’re actually not is the fucking worst. I’ve had more girls than I can count enthusiastically tell me how envious they were of the relationship I had.

I didn’t know it then, but that put even more pressure on me to have a great relationship. One that was not only great to experience, but to read about. It was a main feature of my life. You have no idea what went on behind closed doors. You don’t know how many times I’ve smiled and posed for a photo for the sake of taking a nice shot, when deep inside, I wasn’t happy at all. And yet, the show must go on.

Or, does it? What happens when the lights come on and there’s no audience there to cheer you on but just you and yourself in your own raw, miserable form?

Looking back on the special memories I’ve posted online in recent years, sometimes I wish I didn’t bring my camera and phone along. Maybe then, I could’ve been in the moment entirely instead of worrying about the composition / filter of my photos and what caption I was going to put next on Instagram. Capturing it with my heart should have been enough. I can tell you that no matter how effortless some girls make it look, appearing glamorous on Instagram is a full time job.

Social media can be a life leech if you’re not careful with it. By itself, social media is a wonderful and inspiring thing, but boy is it dangerous. It can work really unhealthy ideas, comparison and powerful manipulation into your head. Social media posts from your peers may be about them, and not you, but somehow they find a way to subtly tell you, “this is what your life is supposed to be like.”

Too many times I was taking repeated photos of a special moment instead of enjoying it, too many dinners with people spent chatting online or surfing the net on my phone instead. I have been told off repeatedly by family members and loved ones about this. For this, I am ashamed.

But I’m glad I’m not quite like that anymore. I want to be the sort of person who has enough self control, respect and maturity to put my phone down long enough to look my companion in the eye, whoever it may be, and really listen to what they have to say. Whatever it is you have on your phone, it can wait for later. You owe more to the people you spend time with in real life than anyone online.

I have finally learned through the hardest way to experience something cool without shouting all about it, and realizing that my own validation of my happiness is good enough for me. It’s nice if the rest of the world approves, but even if they don’t, that does not matter at the end of the day. I guess this is what it means when they say, “disconnect to connect”.

A very difficult lesson in the life of a social media addict. I hope I will always remember that the reason why I love posting my thoughts and experiences online is because I genuinely enjoy sharing information and ideas with other people, and not because I thrive off the self esteem boost from every “Like” I get for my posts.

My own “Like” should be enough.

xoxo,
Jess

23 things that come with age

I turned 23 years old on September 20th, 2015.

And all I’ve been feeling ever since then, is OLD. Oh my god, how do older people deal with their age? When I was 15 years old, I always thought I’d have a stable career and be married by the time I was 25. I’m left with 2 years, and I am absolutely nowhere near that goal. It’s not even in sight. I’m approaching my mid-20′s, and I am completely freaking out. I have always felt older than my age, since I was a teenager, and it stopped being a “cool” thing after I hit the big 2-0. When you’re 22, you want time to stop.

“I can’t wait to get older!!!!” – said no one older than 20, ever. That’s the kinda dumb shit only wistful teenagers say. When you actually become an adult, you want to stay at your peak and prime forever. You don’t look forward to wrinkles, saggy breasts and eventually, menopause.

Okay, maybe I’m taking it a little too far. But assuming a lot of my blog readers would be about my age, I thought I might get a chuckle or two out of my fellow early / mid twenties people by sharing from personal experience, a post inspired by myself being the oldest, and also yet the youngest I’ve ever been…

23 things that really do come with age:

1. You need to love yourself.
You need to love yourself before you can get anything done. You need to love yourself in order to have a healthy relationship with your significant other, fruitful friendships, self esteem, a successful career, or anything good in life. You can’t blame the world for your faults. You just have to offer your best, and even when that’s not good enough for other people, it has to be good enough for you.

2. Preferring to wear sensible clothing, and lighter make up.
Less is not more when it comes to clothing. Maintain your decency and leave more to the imagination when dressing yourself, ladies. Class, not crass. Unless you’re a sexually deprived male, nobody likes cleavage being shoved in their faces. Short shorts are okay as long as your butt cheeks are not hanging out.
But less is definitely more when it comes to make up. Apart from formal events or photoshoots, I prefer wearing very light make up these days. I have no idea how I used to wake up in the morning and pile on the full works: colored contact lenses, thick plasticky fake eyelashes, foundation, thick lipstick, eyeshadow, eyeliner, under eyelinder… wtf? Nowadays, I just put on concealer for my dark eye circles, draw my brows and some lip color so I don’t look lifeless. And false lashes if I’m feeling fancy. Keep it natural. Clean straight teeth and clear, healthy complexion is already half the battle won. Invest in skincare and braces instead of make up, which doesn’t fix anything – it only covers things up.

3. Weight gain becomes easier.
I think it gets harder to lose weight and easier to gain it as you grow older. Something to do with slowed metabolism rate and your body just not working as well as it used to. This is completely factual and not me failing my diet and conveniently blaming it on science, right? No one in their 20′s can eat like they used to when they were 15 and not grow fat. Unless you’re the rare breed of human that eats whatever they want and doesn’t gain weight, well then I have news for you: everyone hates you.

4. Getting sleepy by 12am.
I used to stay up till 3am every night without a problem. But now, no matter what time I wake up, I find myself sleepy by midnight. No wonder old people are asleep by 10pm. I try to fight it as much as possible, though. I’ll sleep whatever time I want, thank you very much. My youth is mine to own. You will not take me down. DO NOT GO GENTLE INTO THAT GOODNIGHT.

5. Quieter music.
I still like my angsty bands like Blink 182, Simple Plan, Linkin Park, Yellowcard but…. my most frequently played playlist on Spotify these days is “Acoustic Covers” (which are mellower renditions of their original mixes) for day time, alongside “Deep Sleep” and “Spa Music”. What can I say? I like falling asleep to the sound of the ocean more than heavy guitar solos.

6. Intense drowsiness after a meal.
This never used to happen. But now whenever I have a meal, especially if it’s carb-laden or heavy, I get SO DROWSY after eating. It’s like, wow, I’m so tired from shoveling food into my mouth, now I need to lie down and recover from all that exertion of energy.

7. Staying home on weekends cuddled up with a movie instead of hanging out late.
16 year old me at 1am: WOOOO I LOVE STAYING OUT LATE, THIS IS SO MUCH FUN!!! Let’s never go home, the night is still young!
23 year old me at 1am: Whatever it is I’m doing, there’s a very real 90% chance I’d rather be at home watching a movie while lying on my bed instead.

8. Comfort over fashion.
Sandals over heels. How did I even used to walk in those sky high stilettos and not fall to my death?
Boy shorts over thongs. Nobody sees my underwear anyway.
Do not care if my hair looks uglier tied up, the weather is too damn hot. I’ve spent my years suffering in the name sake of fashion, but I officially declare I do not give a flying fuck anymore! I’ll wear whatever looks AND feels good, not just what I think is more fashionable to be seen in.

9. Moisturizing becomes a thing.
Goodbye oily skin, hello dry skin! It used to be ARGHHH pimples. Now after a shower imma be like ARGHH I need moisturizer or my face feels so dry I’m afraid it will crack if I smile.

10. It is important to be on time.
I used to always be really late for every appointment. I regret to admit that I still do arrive late for some of my appointments in recent time, but I realize how unprofessional and irresponsible that is. It instantly leaves a bad first impression that you’ll have to make up for later on. Being early has never hurt anyone.

11. Recognizing who your real friends are becomes way easier.
Your bullshit radar becomes more accurate and effective as you get older. When you’re in school, you’re like, “who are my real friends???? T___T”. For some reason, when you’re adult, it’s so much easier to read people and know who’s full of shit and who’s sticking by you for the long run. Thus making it easier for you to prioritize your time, and remove toxic people from your life.

12. Appreciating the value of hard earned money.
Because you’ve spent the last few years working your ass off and spending your own money is not the same as spending your parents’. It hurts every time you remove dollar bills from your wallet. It also makes purchasing stuff you really want all that much satisfying, because I EARNED THAT WITH BLOOD SWEAT AND TEARS DAMN IT.

13. Your peers all seem to be one step ahead of you.
The pressure to save, have a stable career and start a family, is real. I blame this on Facebook. Scrolling through your feed, you be like “WTF she got married already?! She’s like my age! When am I ever going to find someone who will love me wholeheartedly for the rest of my life?? What if I never get married?!??” or like “How do these people my age even afford buying a house and starting a family, when I’m struggling to just get by?!”.

14. Liking fast food less.
Because, holy crap that’s a lot of grease that will take me 2 hours on the treadmill to burn off, and you finally understand fast food has the same nutritional value as cardboard.

15. You require less sleep.
Even though you get sleepy earlier, you can’t sleep for 12 hours straight anymore. Remember how you used to spend your weekends just sleeping? Yeah, those days are gone. Even when you WANT to sleep, sometimes you’ll just toss and turn in bed… painfully awake.

16. But then you get tired easily, all the time.
Afternoon naps are a requirement. Can’t seem to do anything as fast or as long as I used to. Even using the computer for more than an hour is exhausting. Can’t stop yawning, too.

17. Understanding the difference between needs and wants.
We want a lot of things in life. It’s human nature to be demanding. But we don’t or can’t always get what we want. As long as we have what we need, that’s enough. Anything else on top of that is a bonus that we should be grateful for. Those unnecessary materialistic desires and childish longing for superficial validation fades away eventually, because there’s this thing called life that takes up all your time, leaving you too busy to daydream about things that don’t actually matter. If all you can think of is the next expensive designer bag you want to buy but can’t afford, you aren’t doing enough with your life.

18. Your idea of love becomes a lot more realistic.
Sure, it’ll be just superb if I find a super tall, handsome, rich, charming, loving, romantic guy that’s also a 10/10 in bed… but really, I need someone who is mentally mature, someone who will be able to meet me halfway, accept me for who I am, and treat me the way I deserve. He’s not going to be perfect, and neither am I, but what’s important is that we both try with everything that we have. Tough times don’t last, but tough people do. Sometimes we don’t get to choose our battles, but at least we have a say in who we fight those battles with, or for. Don’t forget that your heart is forever yours to give or keep. He does have to have a great sense of humor, though. Your life is the longest thing you will ever experience, you’ll want to be laughing throughout most of it, or it’s going to be a miserable journey. Him being good looking is a plus, but even the best looking person could have an ugly heart. Find someone who is not just kind to you, but everyone around him. If he’s wealthy, that is fantastic, but there are some people in this world who have a ton of riches and nothing else to be happy about. The acceptance of imperfections is part of loving somebody. We accept the love we think we deserve.

19. Hygiene is really important.
Daily showers and flossing are a must. My record was 5 days of not showering when I was in primary school. I didn’t discover flossing till I was about 20 and now if I don’t do it, I feel disgusting. Nothing is a bigger turn off than body odor or bad breath. I don’t even keep long nails anymore, because I’m paranoid about dirt trapped beneath them. Cleanliness is a BIG DEAL.

20. Birthdays aren’t as cool to celebrate anymore.
Every year, it becomes less and less of a hoot. All-out parties become quiet dinners with close ones. Sometimes, it’s almost embarrassing or shocking.  …You mean I’m THAT old already?

21. Periods, unfortunately, do not get better as you get older.
23 years old and every month my periods still feel like there is a tiny masochistic gnome hiding in my womb making gleeful squealing noises as he hacks away inside of me. Cue Leona Lewis’ “Keep Bleeding”.. PMS does not get better till you’re WAYYY older.

22. Water is your number one beverage.
Water isn’t tasteless. Water is the taste of life. Water tastes great. Water hydrates and fuels your body. As for chemical-laden sugary sodas, well.. they fizzed out in my list of preferences.

23. Being productive is the most gratifying feeling in the entire world.
Sleeping in till 2pm, playing games all day, shopping, movie marathons or just luxuriously lazing around are all great activities. Relishing freedom and play time has never been a problem for any of us. We’ve all learned how to play since we were kids. But learning how to enjoy doing hard work, well, that’s something else. Few things you do for leisure will feel more fulfilling than doing what you’re supposed to do. Knowing you’ve achieved the goals you’ve set for yourself gives you a sense of fulfillment and purpose that aids your growth as an adult. Surpass your own expectations. You’re 20 something now, it’s high time to get your shit together. Hard work is meant for the young, who still have the drive and energy in them. Fight, while you still can fight. Chase after your dreams. If they don’t scare you, they’re not big enough. No matter what you’re doing, whether you love or hate it, think of the bigger picture. Think about how this will affect your life in 5 years time, and if it’s worth what you’re going through.

Now is the right time to start thinking about the rest of your life.

xoxo,
Jess

How to Overcome Emotional Dependency

As most of you would have observed by now, I’m going through a pretty rough patch in life. Rough would be an understatement, most days it feels like I’m crawling on my knees through shattered glass just to get by. I’m 50 shades of confused, frustrated and miserable a lot of the time. I struggle with self-esteem, staying positive and finding purpose in life on a daily basis. I blamed everyone around me, including myself, and spend more time wallowing in self-pity than I’d like to admit. I didn’t understand why all of this was happening to me. I always felt like my happiness revolved around how someone else treated me, probably largely due to how my previous relationship panned out.

In a desperate bid for some clarity, while sobbing to myself on the bed in a relatively hysterical state, I googled “Being emotionally dependent on someone” just to read up some quotes on people who have gone through a similar situation, hoping they’d make some sense for me. Yes, I google everything. Recipes on how to make food, to self-diagnose myself when I’m sick, and when I need life advice..

What I did not expect was coming across this FANTASTICALLY AMAZINGLY GREAT EMPOWERING ARTICLE called “How to Overcome Emotional Dependency”. I expected generic advise that would slip away from me the second my eyes left the page, but after reading through the whole thing, I feel so grateful towards the brilliant and wonderfully empathetic author of this article for helping me regain a substantial amount of self-assurance and sanity. You know how you can listen to the advice of many, but accept none until you come across something so true and logical that you can’t possibly ignore?

Yeah, this was it for me. I feel absolutely compelled to share this article with you, in sincere hope that it will help whoever’s been feeling as shitty as I have. I hope that after reading this, you will find new direction and begin rebuilding your life, piece by piece, as I am trying to do. These are words I will refer to time and time again, over the next few months.

How to Overcome Emotional Dependency
(source: click here for the original article on howtoforgivepeople.com)

When your happiness starts to rely on any person, achievement or outcome (or a fragile combination of these) then you may discover that you’re emotionally dependent. It’s not an easy thing to face, nor is it your fault but it is a challenge which is vital to address.

It takes great courage to learn how to overcome emotional dependency but it’s worth doing so that you feel more in control of your life. Becoming gradually more independent and less attaching takes time and practice but it can be done.

 

SEE INDEPENDENCE AS THE ANSWER TO LIFE’S PROBLEMS

When you’re struggling, it’s tempting to reach out for the wrong answers to life’s problems. These include leaning too much on people or trying to escape how you feel through self-destructive habits. It’s good to take stock of what you become when you’re dependent.

That realisation can also be useful when you’re struggling. For example, may be tempted to contact someone again just because they didn’t reply to your first message but then say “Okay, I don’t really want to be that person”. The more needy you become the more you realise:

“The secret to happiness is freedom”

It starts with embracing the concept or ideal of freedom. That doesn’t mean you can never depend on anyone at all in any situation. But it does mean making a commitment to gradually overcoming dependency and becoming more emotionally free in whatever way you can.

You might look at the path to independence as a learning experience that leads to greater peace, hope and happiness. The good news is that you’re already on that journey and will gradually be able to feel calmer and happier more often without relying on any outcome or anyone being there for you.

 

RECOGNISE THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR NEEDS

The ironic thing about wanting to be less “needy” is that the solution may be to recognise that your needs are actually very important and won’t go away if you neglect or ignore them. Dependency is often a result of both neglect and self-neglect of important emotional needs.

Emotionally speaking, we all need certain things such as calmness, a feeling of safety, a sense of purpose, self-acceptance and opportunities for connection. It’s good to keep your needs simple but it’s also important to do something about them and to prioritise them.

“From now on my happiness comes first”

Feeling needy is usually a sign that you need to be doing more for yourself. The path to emotional independence involves figuring out not only what you need but how to constructively help yourself. There are always many different ways to make yourself feel a little better, one step at a time.

Part of looking after your needs is regularly measuring how you feel and doing something about it. You might decide that one thing would be great for you but then it starts being stressful so you decide there’s no point forcing yourself to carry on. So it’s good to adapt to your changing needs.

 

AVOID GIVING AWAY RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR HAPPINESS

People who haven’t learnt how to look after themselves emotionally are more likely to reach out for someone else to do it for them. But no matter how good someone makes you feel, it’s still a good idea to preserve and develop as much emotional self-reliance as you can.

“It’s my job to look after me”

It takes a lot of practice but eventually you will be able to take care of yourself in situations where you might normally depend on someone else. For example, if you feel lonely or stressed you could experiment with different ways of making those negative feelings dissolve.

There are many ways to make yourself feel better: calming breathing, gentle massage, consciously switching off thoughts or meditating, enjoying films or music, talking on the phone, going for a walk and so on. Make it your project to figure out and repeat what works best for you.

 

AVOID CONFUSING YOUR NEEDS WITH ANYONE’S RESPONSIBILITY

An important step along the road to freedom is allowing other people to be free rather than holding onto resentments about their behaviour. It may be tempting to get angry with someone who isn’t there for you during a crisis or lets you down in some way but it isn’t the solution.

Consider how many times you may have passed a homeless person in the street and not even thrown them some loose change. When you become an “emotional beggar” you’re in a similar situation. You can ask for help but there’s no point demanding it because nobody owes you anything.

“The only way to free yourself from other people is to free them from you”

Part of the solution is simply accepting that people have natural limitations when it comes to friendships, relationships, humanity and understanding. They may find it hard enough to stay positive as it is already without having to look after those who can’t seem to look after themselves.

Imagining that anyone “should” help you when they haven’t explicitly agreed to do so can come across as manipulative because it confuses your needs with their responsibility. It’s not worth testing anyone’s limits by pressuring them to be someone they may not even be capable of becoming.

 

PRACTICE SAVOURING YOUR ALONE TIME

It’s likely that children learn a lot about how to become emotionally independent through the simple act of playing. As as adult, there’s no need to be any different. Alone time can be seen as “playtime”, a chance to rediscover that child-like sense of authentic joy and spontaneity.

How much you enjoy your undisturbed playtime depends partly on how willing you are to improve the experience. It can become the ultimate chance to look after yourself, unwind and explore hobbies and interests. Some people even get addicted to being with themselves. As Maxwell Maltz said:

“If you make friends with yourself you will never be alone”

By transforming the experience of being with yourself you can make a new friend for life. You can practice doing things just because they’re fun rather than to achieve anything. Loneliness may be little more than boredom combined with self-pity or with wanting companionship too much and too soon.

A good start is to stop resisting the fact other people aren’t around and see it as something sacred and vital to growth. It takes time to get into it but fascination, exploration and creativity are great substitutes for neediness. You could even make a list of interesting things to explore:

  • Books and articles
  • Music and music videos
  • Movies and shows
  • Comedy videos and shows
  • Games and diversions
  • Fascinating facts and info
  • Educational videos and courses
  • Creative projects

You could also become more playful in your everyday life, experimenting with retro dance moves, dramatic singing, silly voices, funny faces, crazy phrases or humorous observations. Less serious music can also create a fun atmosphere, whether it’s James Bond theme songs or Flight of the Conchords.

A hermit’s true discovery is that anyone can eventually become perfectly content on their own, far from the imperfect outside world. Realising how much you can give to yourself and remembering you are the only person you can totally depend on can free you of the much less reliable human race.

 

REPLACE SELF-HARSHNESS WITH SELF-LOVING BEHAVIOUR

Negative mental habits are one of the main factors that cause people to run away from their own company and depend on others. Maybe you punish yourself by dwelling in the past, overthinking negatively, being impatient, insisting on perfect results or stressing yourself out in some other way.

Self-harshness is a product of trying to forcefully control things, which includes being angry with other people because it affects how you feel within your interior world. The alternative is learning to talk to yourself positively, dwell at peace with the present moment or find constructive distraction.

“I’d rather relax than control anything”

Two kinds of self-pressuring to watch out for include forceful insistence (“pushing” sensations that go with thoughts such as “I need this!” or “It must be like this!”) and fearful resistance (“pulling” sensations that go with thoughts such as “Oh no!” or “It can’t be like this!”).

We all beat ourselves up every now and then but it’s important to catch yourself in the act and let it go. You can gradually replace self-punishing behaviours with acceptance, playfulness, self-encouragement, self-calming, positive focus and positive self-talk examples of which include:

I’m willing to make the best of any situation
I’m so proud of myself for facing all these challenges
I’m willing to do the best I can to be as happy as I can be
It’s amazing what I can achieve with work and patience
I am open to all the good things that can come my way
I am learning to be stronger and more positive
I am so grateful for [whatever it may be]
Everything is going to be okay
I am a cool/nice/great person
I deserve to be happy
I love myself
I can do this
Another way to reduce self-harshness is to cultivate a sense of fun and playfulness around other people. Activities might include playing board games, card games, computer games or light sports. The key ingredient is not “playing to win” but taking everything less seriously.

 

RECOGNISE AND LET GO OF DESTRUCTIVE CHILDHOOD PATTERNS

A lot of neediness may stem from difficult events that happened during childhood or adolescence. Identifying these events and the way you responded to them as a child is a great way to recognise why you may have got stuck in a place of emotional dependency.

You don’t want to get lost in the past but exploring it to some extent can help you to let go of patterns of thought, feeling and behaviour that you may have formed when you had no idea how to deal with what was going on. It’s good to avoid “re-living” the same story over and over again.

“The role of the present is not to reverse the past or compensate for it”

Therapy can help. Part of the solution is learning to distinguish between present situations and past situations they may remind you of. You can also increasingly distinguish between the helpless child you once were and the self-calming, self-caring, self-approving adult you’re becoming.

You may identify certain “triggers” that make you feel helplessly attached. You can then start seeing such things as an invitation to a trap you don’t have to fall into rather than as something irresistible or impossible to ignore and which inevitably pulls you into dependency.

 

LET GO OF RECKLESS IMPULSIVITY

Emotional dependency can create overwhelming and confusing emotions. Reacting impulsively to that internal state can be very dangerous. What seems like a great idea when you’re in a “reactive” mood could turn out to be a really bad idea so it’s worth stepping back from that.

When you feel calm you can think things through carefully. But feeling needy, upset, sad, stressed, angry, manic, tired, hungry or drunk isn’t a great basis for drawing conclusions or making snap decisions. To avoid consequences you may regret, it’s good to heed the advice of Winston Churchill:

“If you’re going through hell, keep going”

When you’re in the grip of intense feelings it can seem as if they will never go away. But the truth is that they always do when you give them enough time. This is why people often remind themselves “This too shall pass” rather than doing something reckless merely to escape.

The irony is that desperately reacting to make feelings go away often escalates problems with people. Rather than becoming involved in a potentially never-ending cycle of drama, it’s often better to allow emotional “ups and downs” to run their course by avoiding the temptation to do anything rash.

 

FACE AND EMBRACE YOUR EMOTIONS

You may sometimes need to confront painful emotions that you are experiencing. A lot of people push away their physical feelings rather than trying to sense them directly and this causes them to “run away” from their emotions and become dependent. The solutions include:

Expressing and embracing your vulnerable child-like self
Suspending all thinking and just resting for a while
Relaxing your body and breathing deeply to help experience emotions
Saying “Mmmm” a little while breathing out through the nose
Sensing your physical feelings and letting go of resistance to them
Focusing on staying calm even while physically feeling emotional pain
Not focusing on or creating any associated thoughts or mental images
Not suppressing, pushing away or reacting against your emotions
Not identifying with or trying to amplify or prolong emotions
Radically accepting and loving your emotions whenever you can
Seeing yourself as a survivor and recognising your strength
Confronting and dealing with feelings like this may seem like an impossible thing to do but it’s healthier than trying to ignore them, repress them or escape from them. By learning to acknowledge and physically feel any emotions you can learn to move beyond them.

It may also help to talk to other individuals who struggle through a support group for codependency, love addiction or substance abuse. People who have been through similar issues are less likely to judge you when you’re going through a hard time.

 

11. RECOGNISE WHEN YOU START BEING TOO CLINGY

A bit of adventurous self-introspection will often help you identify patterns of dependency in your thoughts or behaviour that you can work on overcoming. An example might be having an attitude of wanting “all or nothing” from people instead of appreciating whatever is freely offered.

You may also recognise how you start thinking about what you want so that you can nip some of that dependent thinking in the bud at early stages. Spending too much time or energy focusing on what might be good for you may seem positive but it can be dangerous for one reason. As C.S. Lewis put it:

“Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose”

If you start attaching to anything or anyone too much you’re giving them too much importance and so you may need to give both yourself and them more distance in order to avoid becoming dependent. The sooner you realise this risk the easier it is to avoid getting into trouble.

You can even recognise and let go of neediness in your everyday thoughts. Changing your language is one way to tackle that. Instead of saying “I need to” you might start saying “I’d like to”. Instead of saying “I need this” you might say “I would quite like that”.

 

AVOID GETTING CARRIED AWAY BY DESIRE

It’s easy to get carried away by the idea of wanting things to be a certain way. It starts with
a mild preference but then it gets twisted in the mind, going through several stages:

“That might be nice” → “That couldn’t possibly be bad for me” → “That would make me happy” → “I probably need it to be happy” → “I’m starting to feel strangely unhappy without it” → “Nothing else could make me happy” → “I could probably never be happy without it” → “I’m unhappy, that just proves how much I need it” → “I need it so much that nothing else exists anymore”

An example is meeting someone and starting to imagine that they are “the one” instead of “just one of many” and not necessarily even good for you. It’s better to avoid wanting anything too strongly. To stop yourself jumping between the steps of desire mentioned above you could say:

“That might be great but I can survive without it just fine”

It’s very dangerous to believe that something can “make me happy”. What’s really happening there is that you are making your happiness depend on it and that dependency then makes you unhappy. The more you focus on what you think “makes” you happy the more you start to depend on it.

People often try to inspire themselves by focusing on a personal goal. Focusing on what inspires you is a great idea and a goal can be part of the fun but you can still do that without making everything depend too rigidly on a particular outcome. The solution is inspiration but without “goal fixation”.

 

RECOGNISE EMOTIONAL DEPENDENCY IN DIFFERENT FORMS

We all sometimes experience a feeling which, on a subconscious level, might be explained in terms of a child jumping up and down and screaming “I want my ice cream!” It may be that the child is spoilt or just so distressed that it genuinely seems as if ice cream is the only possible answer.

To any adult observing the scene, it is obvious that the child could be okay even without getting any ice-cream. And so it is important to observe the child within yourself and to recognise when you might be holding your own happiness to ransom by insisting on something you might not actually need.

“I am willing to try my very best to be happy in spite of X, Y and Z and even without A, B or C“

Identifying what you have recently made your happiness rely on can be an eye opener. For example, a troubling thought like “People are driving me crazy!” can be reinterpreted as “I can’t be happy unless everyone is great” which is clearly a little overdependent and unrealistic.

Another example might be “Nothing is making any sense!” which is another way of saying “I demand that everything always makes sense” and not strictly necessary for a happy life. Recognising which arbitrary conditions you keep placing on your own happiness can increasingly set your mind free.

 

TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR DEPENDENT BELIEFS

It’s very easy to suddenly become psychologically addicted to anything, such physical intimacy, companionship or external approval. Nobody can blame themselves when this happens because they often do so without fully realising the precise role that they played in making that happen.

If you start telling yourself that you “need” something this is likely to alter your “reality”. You can persuade yourself of anything but it’s good to take responsibility for doing so. When you depend on something, your mind creates a system of self-reward and self-punishment around it.

“I did this to myself”

For example, I could keep telling myself over and over again that I “need” to see a black cat run across the street. If I genuinely start believing that and hoping for it then this will affect my emotions. When I finally see a black cat run across the street I may even feel blissful.

I could say that the black cat “makes” me happy but it’s not really true. I made my happiness depend on it by strongly persuading myself it was what I needed. I rewarded myself with happiness at seeing the black cat and punished myself with disappointment if I didn’t see it.

 

AVOID IDEALISING ANYONE OR ANYTHING

The more we idealise what we want, the the deeper we sink into the quicksand of desire. The more you imagine anything to be perfect or put anyone on a pedestal the more you are setting yourself up for a disappointment. What seems like the Holy Grail can sometimes turn out to be a poisoned chalice.

Worshipping anyone as if they are some kind of “saviour” figure is particularly dangerous. Imagining that someone has a magical ability to make you whole is really a way of persuading yourself that something is wrong, that there’s something you can’t live without or that you can’t be okay.

“Nothing is ever quite what it’s cracked up to be”

It may seem like idealising someone is a great compliment but you’re not doing yourself or them any favours. Sliding into dependency will make you feel like a stalker the moment they change their minds about having you around. Focusing on their flaws for a while can help offset such over-attachment.

Idealisation is a form of escape from life. Rather than coping with reality, we create a fantasy in which we can lose ourselves. It’s easy to become addicted to a fantasy but it’s inevitably disappointing. Anyone we worship in our imagination can be boring once we get used to what they’re really like.

 

AVOID CATASTROPHISING WITHDRAWAL

Some people believe that they can’t love themselves unless someone loves them or that they don’t exist unless someone acknowledges them or approves of their existence. They mistakenly assume that their survival depends on being attached to someone on whom they have to depend.

Imagining that you can’t live without someone or something only gives them power over you. You may subconsciously think that being denied what you want would cause you to fall apart but it’s an illusion that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy only when you start strongly believing it:

“Everything is going to be okay”

As long as you’re determined not to abandon yourself then you never have to fear anyone else’s absence. You may sometimes go through a hard time but you also have the ability to get through it, comfort yourself, soothe your distress, learn positive lessons and come out stronger.

You might even visualise yourself without having what you want but as a strong and self-caring person with high self-esteem. If you feel dependent on someone who is also dependent on you then it may also help to visualise them being okay so that you can both detach a little.

 

DEVELOP A VARIETY OF SOURCES OF JOY IN LIFE

Independence doesn’t always have to mean that “happiness comes from within”. It’s okay to have a few people and activities that inspire your happiness. In fact, working on having a few stable interests and buddies in your life is very much part of the solution to becoming more independent.

Even if nothing seems wildly exciting to begin with, there’s something very healthy about gradually building up different sources of contentment rather than single-mindedly chasing one particular goal or short term “fix”. It also means heeding the following advice:

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”

When there are a few things to focus on then it doesn’t have to be devastating if one area doesn’t work out for any reason. Without complicating your life too much, you can make it interesting in a number of different ways rather than having one or two outcomes on which you strongly depend.

It’s never too late to develop new hobbies, passions and friendships but it’s also worth remembering that sometimes you may need to put a sustained effort into these areas before you can expect to get anything out of them. In the long term they can become very rewarding and fulfilling.

 

LEARN TO SUBSTITUTE WHAT YOU START DEPENDING ON

It’s not usually worth needing anything from the wrong people or situations. You may sometimes find yourself “barking up the wrong tree” but sometimes the solution is to figure out what it is that you need and to accept that it doesn’t have to come from that particular source.

When you start being a bit clingy ask yourself what it is about a person, situation or outcome that you like so much. This allows you to figure out how to substitute that by looking for it elsewhere rather than seeing them as having some kind of monopoly on that benefit.

“Nothing is irreplaceable”

For example, if you love how much someone empathises with you then you could look out for a few more people like that and learn to do it for yourself and others. Any need can be met in a variety of different ways so learn to identify what you want and patiently go after it in more than one form.

A relationship breakup is one of the hardest challenges and similar to overcoming drug addiction. As in “rehab”, the most effective approach is “cold turkey”, giving up all contact with the other person, starting a whole new chapter in life and remembering that time eventually heals all.

 

LET GO OF EXPECTATIONS ABOUT PEOPLE

When you’re emotionally dependent, you’re more likely to have unrealistic and slightly intense notions about what you can expect from others. This may be driven by a naive idealism about what friendships, romantic relationships and other arrangements are “supposed” to be like. It’s easy to:

Confuse mere friendliness with friendship
Confuse a casual friendship with unceasing loyalty or availability
Confuse being attracted to someone with them being right for you
Confuse romantic curiosity with serious romantic interest
Confuse a romance or relationship with unconditional love
Confuse any cool experience with the start of something greater
Confuse doing someone a favour with them having to do something for you
For example, you may think friendship must always be “true” and involve “being there for each other” in hard times or always being genuine or kind. You may think that a partner should love you forever, can never turn their back on you or must forgive you just because you’re sorry.

Needing more from people than they feel ready or able to give just isn’t realistic and it can also make you appear unreasonable. Even in a crisis, it is pointless to push on someone to do something for you just because you would be willing to do the same for them: no obligation strictly exists.

“A bond can be beautiful even when it’s temporary and limited in scope”

Everyone is good for some things and useless at other things. Some people will be great at empathising with you or boosting your confidence. Other people will be useless at that but they might be a hilarious travel companion or the perfect partner for a new hobby. Nobody can be all of these things.

There’s nothing wrong with “fair weather friends” as long as you remember what you can’t expect. Nobody can be a substitute parent and their idea about how everything works may be much more casual. Many friendships are about occasionally amusing each other and nothing deeper.

 

THINK IN TERMS OF VIRTUES RATHER THAN OBLIGATIONS

Disappointment is a common human experience but a good way to recover from it is to look at what you expected in terms of virtues that aren’t possible for everyone, given their natural weaknesses and limitations. Instead of accusing anyone of a moral crime, a better conclusion might be:

“They’re only human, they have lots of good points but x is clearly not their forte”

For example, if someone lets you down when you feel sad then you might be tempted to think “What a bad person!” A better way to look at it might be: “They have many good points and sometimes they are kind – just not in an unlimited way or in every situation. I can work around that”.

If empathy, humanity or some other virtue does not always come naturally to a person then needing it when they simply don’t have it in them involves demanding something that is in a sense “supernatural” for them. It’s unrealistic to insist that anyone should rise above their limited nature.

 

PRACTICE CHANGING YOUR FOCUS REGULARLY

The power of focus is what can get you both into trouble and also out of trouble. A good way to prevent yourself from becoming too attached to anyone or anything is to practice switching your focus regularly or asking “What am I going to focus on?” so that it never becomes too narrow or selective.

A good way to ween yourself off anything that starts becoming addictive is to throw yourself into some other area of life that can keep your focus balanced. If you’re willing to find something inspiring enough to totally distract you then you probably will succeed.

“Maybe it’s time to spread my wings”

It may help to consciously stop yourself from focusing on, thinking about or visualising whatever you need to depend on less. You may need to give up bad habits such as compulsively checking phone messages and remove reminders such as photos, social media and so on.

If you never focus on something it can’t control you emotionally. You don’t want your life to be about one person, situation, goal or outcome. A good way to change that is to decide what you should be focusing on less and what you should be focusing on more and proactively making that happen.

 

PRACTICE EMBRACING MULTIPLE OUTCOMES

Outcome-independence may well be the essence of freedom. You can develop a more independent frame of mind if you practice imagining the main outcomes a situation could have and then embrace each of those scenarios by looking at them as positively as you can.

“Whatever happens could be a good thing in some ways. It may even be for the best”

The funny thing about life is that you never really know what’s good for you. Sometimes you need a “bad” experience in order to learn the amazing lessons that will result in becoming a much happier and more independent person in the long term.

As Oscar Wilde put it, “There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it”. Sometimes we get exactly what we want and it is a disaster. But when we don’t get what we want, we often forget that it might not have resulted in a fairytale ending.

 

TAKE THINGS SLOWLY AND PLAY IT COOL

Putting any kind of forceful pressure on others to meet your needs can ruin good situations or make bad things worse. You can often avoid such consequences simply by making it a rule to outwardly behave in much the same way as someone who has complete emotional independence.

No matter how you feel, you can make an agreement with yourself to communicate in a way that allows people to relax and feel totally free. By doing so you are refusing to let any personal feelings or difficulties get in the way of things going smoothly and you are also following a simple rule:

“Go with the flow”

A good way to take things slowly with people is to imagine what it might be like if you were already way too busy or had too many friends. You are less likely to “come on too strong” or need “too much too soon” when behaving as if you already have everything you need from life.

Playing the role of someone who “has it all” can help you avoid giving anyone a sense of being inappropriately pushed or relied upon. You can “fake it till you make it”, using the appearance of totally casual behaviour to allow people take things at their own natural and often gradual pace.

 

DEVELOP GREATER PATIENCE WITH LIFE

It takes time and practice to become more independent. Part of it is improving what you can do for yourself and part of it is having the patience to wait for some things in life to fall into place rather than depending on the next person or outcome that might be good for you.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day”

There is often a risk that people will feel punished just because they aren’t the kind of person you’re hoping to meet one day. So rather than trying to change anyone it’s better to be patient, diplomatic, to accept that “everyone has their uses” and to look out for people who are good for you.

It’s okay to struggle and to make mistakes. But one of the biggest mistakes you can make is setting yourself some artificial deadline such as “I should already have what I wanted by now”. Some people don’t end up with anything they wanted but discover a far greater happiness later on.

“If you continuously compete with others, you become bitter.
But if you continuously compete with yourself you become better”

Everything will get better if you’re willing to slowly but surely build a simple, good life with a flexible attitude towards contentment. As long as you never want too much there will always be enough time for everything you want. Above all, it’s never too late to start feeling joyful.

 

IN CONCLUSION…

Nobody is entirely independent and even people who seem very “strong” are not as free as they imagine. Their sense of emotional well-being often relies on what’s going on in their lives and on knowing that someone who cares about them is a phone call away should they ever need help.

But it is possible to learn how to overcome emotional dependency, at least enough to feel much better. At some point, even when things aren’t going very well, you’ll be able to say “I’m happy not really because of what’s going on but in spite of it”. Developing that attitude takes time and practice.

The answer is a combination of greater emotional self-regulation, self-encouragement and a willingness to broaden your horizons while prioritising your happiness.

xoxo,
Jess
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