The hardest thing to do in life, is to be yourself

...Without worried about consequences, responsibilities, what others perceive of you, etc.

I had an epiphany today. I was thinking why am I perpetually feeling stressed out. I thought it was because I was trying to be myself. Being part of a minority in any given scenario is difficult. You get judged, accused, criticized, etc.

I realised a huge part of the stress doesn't come from being myself. It comes when I am actually trying to be like everyone else.

Some examples:

1. Trying to be a morning person. It actually made my insomnia worse, I had sleep anxiety, and needless to say, I woke up feeling extremely tired and eventually it resulted in me having a weakened immune system that makes me fall sick all the time. So must everybody have the same circadian rhythm? Why can't I just be one of those that is born to be nocturnal? Is it entirely impossible?

2. Trying to save up so I can buy a house and feel secure. This sets off a whole series of complications including trying to work more, or trying to convince myself to work on projects that may not be the right fit for me but was financially rewarding.

3. Being persistent. They say persistence will bring you success. Yup, but am not so sure about being persistent even if you're continually unhappy and letting your soul rot.

4. Trying to have a routine. Well, the gtd experts say establishing a routine gets things done faster. I would say it is true to a certain extent but...

Last night I read this book introduced to me by a twitter friend (I love twitter). I was lamenting how our brains shrink with age and he told me he recently read a book on the very same subject. Being curious, I bought it on ibooks and read it the very same night. It is written by a neuroscientist who is trying to find out why some people can be extraordinary – is it because their brains are wired differently?

Perhaps "wired differently" is a wrong choice of words. His research shows that certain parts of their brains respond differently to the same stimuli. The interesting thing is, he pointed out that our brain has become very energy efficient due to evolution. It is made to be the most efficient while using the least amount of energy. So, with time, our brains get trained to do the same thing very well over and over again. Which sounds nice right?

Unfortunately, it also means that the part of your brain that makes you achieve new sets of thinking (eg. ideas) becomes more and more unused. In short, you slowly become the snake that has lost its legs.

Extraordinary people somehow retain that ability to have new perceptions even they see the same thing over and over again instead of relying on the default mechanism of categorizing responses in accordance to past experiences. In order to retain this part of your brain, you have to keep exposing yourself to new things so that your brain continues to receive challenges (aka not to be lazy).

This explains why kids are actually quite imaginative and creative while people tend to lose that part of them with age. With experience, we tend to lose the ability to see things in a new light.

The book also touches on the point that people are instinctively wired to follow decisions of the group (aka groupthink). You don't want to be the black sheep or the odd one out, and you definitely don't want to risk being wrong. So in his experiments, even when individuals knew something was wrong, they would stick to the group-given answer because that is what the majority says.

Hmm.

It made me think a lot.

I love changes. I love to experience new things. People get stressed out when their routine changes or their life circumstances become different. I thrive on it. I realised, I don't get stressed out when I learn something new or try different things. I actually like it.

Yet in order to meet expectations of 'the group', I try as much as possible to stay the same.  I try to establish a routine, stay in the same job, save money, wake up early.

The stress comes from trying to please people who love me and knowing I dislike doing the things they expect me to. Trying to disown that part of me that is ironically my greatest gift and that makes me feel alive.

I am not saying that saving money is bad. But compromising on the quality of life in order to feel secure is bad. Or at least it is bad for me. I need to love everything I do. That's my greatest strength and curse. In fact at this moment, I am full of gratitude for falling sick repeatedly so I am forced to keep re-thinking my life.

On hindsight, it is of no wonder I am clinically depressed. I thrive on new experiences but for the past couple of years, I've been forcing myself to stay put because of financial worries. I force myself into things I don't want to do because it is "right and responsible". I tell myself to stick with it, that all pain is temporary and it will enable me to do the things I want to do in future. Yup, there is definitely a future if I carried on with the way I was living. A future where I see myself in a coffin.

It is one thing to try something repeatedly with continued persistence when you believe in it, but another issue altogether if it drains away your soul.

So, am I able to be true to to myself, concentrate on doing things that I love, live life the way I love? I am not sure if I am strong enough to do it. I feel a strong sense of guilt when I let people down, whether I believe I am doing the right thing or not. I go out of my way to avoid feeling that guilt, that explains the mess I am in now. I want to be someone that my loved ones do not have to worry about.

But I wish to try. To live in the now. To make sure every second is lived with complete willingness. I may not end up having a house but at least I am not in debt right? I believe life will have its own rewards (may not necessary be monetary) when you live it authentically. That to me, beats having everything and the approval of everyone but you cannot wait to die.