Growing Pains: An Introspection

It’s been a while since my last post (again!) and this one is a lot more introspective than my usual outwardly analytical posts but I’m sure it will be useful to crystallise my thoughts into written form, both for myself and any reader that can relate.

I am going through something of a transitional phase right now as I can feel the black cloud of depression still lingering on even if it has become more like white noise in the last period. It has nevertheless been a relief to get over the worst of my recent tribulations and get back into the swing of things. The problem is that I can still see that the underlying problems still remain which is what really needs addressing.

Psychologically speaking, depression comes from a propensity to focus on negativity. This is a very simple analysis and ignores the chemical and physiological side of things but I believe those to be symptoms of rather than causal factors in depression.

By focussing on the negative aspects in life it is easy to see how one can start to get overwhelmed by feelings of failure and futility. Taking myself as an example, at 25, I’m still single (many of my school friends have now settled down and had children), I have a number of ongoing health issues, though I’m one of the lucky few to have a quite clearly defined career path, I’m not able to achieve it in the current period and so live quite precariously right now.

All these things can quickly pile up if we so choose to focus on them. This is why it is important to not get bogged down in the negative but to see the positive and build towards a more positive way of thinking. Thus, to reframe the above outlook on my own life, I’m free to do as I please without needing to think about how that will fit with a partner’s plans, I’m still alive despite 25 years of life being thrown at me, I have found a career path that will mean that I can work in the one thing I’m incredibly passionate about, my politics.

However, though I’ve had many people express their support for the career path I hope to take, there is never any harm in taking stock of my current strengths and weaknesses and striving to better myself. Now, this may seem to be a drive for perfectionism but it really isn’t and it actually touches upon a weakness of mine that it is clear I am in need of addressing.

I am largely unwilling or unable to accept that anything I do is good enough. On the one hand this pushes me to always excel but on the other it leaves me prone to a maddening drive to keep pushing my limits and ultimately burnout which then leads to feelings of failure and invites depression. This may seem ridiculous to those around me who have naught but admiration for some of the things that have been achieved in Plymouth in and beyond in recent months but I have never been any good at sitting back for two seconds and actually appreciating how far I’ve come.

I was invited to the National Committee of the Socialist Party of England and Wales this June. It was gratefully accepted and yet despite everything, the first question in my mind was how do I prove myself fit for the World Congress? The ambition is nothing unhealthy, the fact that I want to prove myself through my merits rather than to achieve some kind of decoration of title is a clear indicator of this.

However, what is unhealthy is the fact that I have come so far and yet I almost castigate myself by not accepting the amazing journey I’ve come through. I seem to completely disregard some of the successes that I have played a big part in up to this point. This appears to be my kryptonite and this is what I need to address as it is clearly a fetter on my progress.

I know that part of it would stem from learned behaviour as a child. I won’t go into detail here to protect those who may not want their past brought up but I think some of my failure to recognise myself within any given situation comes from seeing other cases of depression.

So, why is it that I find it so difficult to accept that I can actually achieve some huge feats? For example, when I sit back and reflect on the fact that I played a key role in organising the TUSC electoral challenge in Plymouth I realise that I should give myself a huge pat on the back for it. I played a leading role in securing the biggest electoral challenge in Plymouth outside of the main parties for over 80 years. Yet I just shrug it off and ask “what’s next?”

It’s great to be in a constant state of readiness but I’m sure those around me have been warn out by how driven and overbearing I can be sometimes. I can also recognise that my ego seems to kick in to mask my exhaustion but also it seems to be a manifestation of a cry for some kind of external recognition. By bragging about what I’ve achieved to compensate my failures to take in what I’ve done, all I do is alienate those around me from the humble disposition I know I have at my core.

So, what’s the solution? I guess I need to learn to systematically look back at the road I’ve travelled so that I can continue on the road without running and inevitably stumbling. This is a marathon rather than a sprint after all. I clearly need to take stock and actually take some time off to myself; I can’t burn the candle at both ends forever.

I also need to stop trying to be the dispensable body to throw at the tasks which lay collectively ahead of us all. I have learnt and continue to learn by my mistakes. If I don’t permit others to learn the way I have done because I’m too keen to prove to myself that I can be of use then nobody else will learn the tools needed and I’ll just run myself ragged.

I need to step back sometimes and take the time to guide others rather than always trying to lead by example alone. I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge which needs to be put to use educating others, not just trying to improve myself at an unsustainable pace.

If I don’t enjoy some serious leisure time, I’m going to be no good to anyone and I won’t be developing as a well-rounded individual. So I need to focus on developing some of my other interests and I need to get myself out there being the social butterfly that I can usually be.

I know I have the respect of comrades around me, I’ve earned that and I will continue to earn it by pushing myself further. However, I need to learn that it is my duty to constantly replace myself. I cannot allow myself to become indispensable precisely because I can see that my talents and skills require me to be free to take on more work in the region.

I recognise that this is just a bump in the road of my development but it’s a necessary bump that I need to overcome to continue to move forward. I recognise that I’m developing myself as leadership material, I now need to recognise that whilst leading by example is the best way to lead, it is not the only way.

Providing guidance, testing out and pushing others to excel, sitting back and reflecting material conditions and actually recognising a job well done are all things I need to learn to grasp in order to continue serving the cause that I so passionately believe can be achieved.

I dedicate this post to Robin, Luke, Andrew and Louise who have all had to deal with my ego, my rants and my doubts. I hold you all in the highest regard and I look forward to continue building Socialism with you all.

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