The advantage of getting older is that you’re able to observe your flaws over a long period of time. Since I was 16, I have many of the same flaws at 33. Some flaws you grow out of. You eventually drop them or improve or you no longer beat yourself up over them and reach a point of self-acceptance. For others, it’s different story. You’re stuck in a loop. So here are my flaws, and here’s what I’m going to do about them.
I start from scratch and delete the old
Ever since I’ve been old enough to wield an avatar and open up a new account, I’ve always opted for deleting instead of sticking to blogs and social media accounts. As some point, I stultify: I begin to hate what I’ve written in the past, the views I’ve held and the lack of success for a blog that I’ve begun. I’m too scared to hold true to my opinions and because something hasn’t paid off after a year or two or hasn’t led to opportunities, I want to begin again.
The cure: resist the urge to delete or start anything again. Change, update, experiment and modify what I have, but resist the urge to begin again. Yes, this means keeping the awful Twitter account, but making sure I don’t check Twitter. Instead of becoming disillusioned after a year, stick with something for at least 5 years before starting again. Always take a long view. This blog is for the excess in me — but it’s not the ‘real’ me.
I care too much about what other people think
This is very common. But in highly metrified spaces, like social media or even blogging, this flaw is intensified. In an offline space, I will withdraw or withhold an opinion, but the moment will pass and the pain doesn’t stick. Online, there is evidence that I’ve allegedly failed. And even though I’m aware, more than the average person, about the artificial design tactics used to promote some content over others, I still blame myself.
I’m also always trying to please everyone: my intellectual uni mates who would cringe at everything I post on Insta, strangers on the internet, potential employers. I get hung up on what a specific person thinks and then demonise them, even though I rarely interact with them. I imagine them rolling their eyes. But then I also resent them too. It’s the paranoia that damages friendships.
The cure: this is a hard one. I’m always going to care about what other people think. I’m always going to want to please some people more than others, because I regard them as more important than me.
But I also know that this comes from holding an idea of who I should be. I should behave in this way because so-and-so believes I should act in this way. I need to let go of these pressures and expectations to be a fixed identity, a fixed person. Unless I am doing something dishonest, which I never am, I shouldn’t be ashamed of it.
I’m also mind-reading all the time, when I have no proof that someone is thinking this. They may be doing it: but I exaggerate the importance it holds in their lives. People have all sorts of things going on with them. They’re trying to write books, get published, hold down a full-time job, have kids. I’m just a footnote on their Twitter or Insta feed. Unless I’m attacking something that they directly do, they won’t think about me too much. People are far more preoccupied with themselves than other people. I don’t agree with everything all my friends do. But I rarely attack or hate them for it. I just scroll past it, like they’re just an irrelevant piece of content. I don’t even dislike them for it. The only person I really hold back and hurt is myself.
It’s hard to know what the ‘cure’ is. But I think this comes down to knowing my principles, reminding myself why I care so much about why I’m doing something, having fun, learning and experimenting with this, and also just putting myself in perspective. No one really gives a shit. They should still be more pissed off at systemic injustice over their well-intentioned friend with an Insta account on wellness.
But what I can do is:
- Focus on the people who support me (whether they are online or offline)
- Let go of this need to be this hyper-critical, super academic intellectual, it’s okay to let go of old identities and have new priorities
- Allow myself to fail and explore, and be open to genuine and legitimate criticism, instead of imagined criticism
- Remind myself of my principles and why I’m doing something. I’m not doing this to get applause or cred from a notoriously neurotic subsection of society, but to actually make a difference and change lives
I don’t persevere with things
This is linked to the first point. I want things to happen quickly. I create an idea, I put it out there. If it doesn’t get that much traction, I then start from scratch again. This isn’t like blogs or social media, but about mini-products and creative outputs. I want things to happen quickly. I double my work by rewriting and re-recording things from scratch. I also love novelty. When I begin something new, I develop skills quickly. But eventually it slows down. Really slows down. I don’t see the benefit of it after a few days, a few weeks, then want to give up.
The cure: build on what I’ve already done instead of starting from afresh. This comes down to disliking what I have already written, filmed and recorded, instead of building what I have. So regularly re-reading and reviewing what I’ve created is going to be important, no matter how much I want to cringe. Also just stick to things, even when I have the impulse to delete or remove it.
The one thing I want to work on though is building on what I’ve already learned and experienced, instead of dropping it for something new. It’s hard, having to expose yourself and be vulnerable in front of people. But no one’s looking that hard and I can’t please everyone.