You know when people tell you “it’s all in your head”? They’re usually right.
Now I ended the previous post mentioning how I was consistently telling myself that “this wasn’t me” or that “I was losing it all” but I never really understood where this came from. If this “wasn’t me” then what was me?
Until the 7th grade, I was a B average student. Starting grade 7, I started shifting away from my careless lifestyle and decided to get a bit more serious about my education. I started working harder, studying more, and eventually doing better in class. Getting those grades gave me a dopamine rush. Every time I saw an A on my assignment or a 90 on my test I felt happier and better about myself.
This was dangerous.
Progress onto high school and into grade 9, the 90s weren’t enough for me anymore, my mind had conditioned itself to the feeling that the 90 brought, I needed more, I needed a larger dose of this drug for the same effect. I went for 100s. This inevitably meant more time studying which was another thing I had begun to enjoy.
This process slowly lead me on from the 90s to 100s to extracurriculars until I had only a moment to spare in my day. This played a large role in the formation of who I perceived myself to be. Spending most of my time doing school work and striving for grades and the validation that being a “well-rounded” student brought. I had begun associating myself with my work and extracurriculars while neglecting every other aspect of my life. At this point, if you asked me what my hobbies were, I’m sorry but I wouldn’t have an answer for you.
Every time there were slipups, I would question not my work, but myself as a person and find ways to punish me for it.
“Aryan, how could you be so stupid”
“You really think you know your stuff eh? This literally isn’t meant for you.”
“ You better not be eating today.”
Another thing that really screwed me up was the toxic rap culture “grind” mindset I had begun to foster.
Spending so much time working, it was inevitable that my time away from friends and family increased as my time away from my work decreased. What’s worse is that I had seen this as a sign of good progress.
Rap and pop culture, from my understanding of it, had always represented “being on the grind” and not being able to see friends and family for months on end as the recipe to their success. This really had an influence on me.
“Back when it all started, grinding hard on that promo tour
Tired from the night before and the night before and the night before
Fuck it, tomorrow, gotta fly some more
Don’t complain, this is what you signed up” — G-Eazy
“Drapes closed I don’t know what time it is
I’m still awake I gotta shine this year
I could never ever let the streets down
Haven’t left the condo for a week now, man” — Drake
So to put it together, I associated my work and the results it yielded with who I was as a person, encouraged this mindset because of my perception of what “the grind” meant, and to top it all off, I had worked long hours for such a long time, that not only was I addicted to the dopamine hits the work provided but also to high levels of cortisol that the high-stress environments stimulated.
Being simulated with such has levels of dopamine and cortisol for a prolonged period had me addicted to them. That is what I needed to feel “sane” and “normal”. So when I burnt-out and physically wasn’t able to stimulate an environment like that, I fell into withdrawal.
So at this point not only was I dealing with a physically painful burnout, but also with withdrawal at the same time and what made the withdrawal worse was the fact I had associated the presence of a certain amount of those hormones with my sense of self.
I had always thought of myself as “that person who is constantly on the grind, barely gets time to see family and friends, is acing everything he’s doing, is addicted to his work and never drops the ball.” And how I measured if I was hitting that image of myself was by looking at how much I was working, how stressed I was, and if I was neglecting enough time with the family. The never drops the ball part was what helped me turn up my levels of cortisol
Takeaway #2: Perception & Stimulus
Who do you see yourself to be?
Your perception of yourself can act as a key ingredient in both your success and downfall. You choose which.
Your perception of yourself extends beyond just you. Its contagious. Who you believe yourself to be will, more often than not, dictate your actions and thus establish a similar aura around you for others to witness and acknowledge. This is the essence of “fake it till you make it” and “believe yourself to be who you want to become.”
My impostor syndrome stemmed from the fact that I wasn’t really who I showed myself or believed myself to be. It was a conflict in perception. The negative feedback, the inability to work, and low levels of cortisol went against who I saw myself to be. It was a mini identity crisis. This is what had lead to me saying “this is not me” and that I was “losing it all.”
Your perception of yourself as a person has to be unattached. Unattached from materialistic means and objective measures and rather based on your morals, and growth-based desires.
Who you are as a person should not be dictated by how you perform on a test but rather by how you prepare for it and handle the outcome.
The perception must be adaptive otherwise it is confining. In order to grow into something, you have to grow out of something else, you have to let go. This means letting go of habits, tendencies, and even previous perceptions. It must be adaptive to your growth as a person.
The amount of things I have never tried because of who I thought myself to be is unreal.
Me to me: “I really want to go to this family party man”
Me to me: “But you can’t”
Me to me: “But why not?”
Me to me: “Because you miss parties to work remember? You don’t spend time with family, you miss family time to work on a project that you’ve already finished but are too in self-doubt about to submit.”
Me to me: “You’re right, you have a point”
Perception and stimulus are often entangled. Every time you do or hear something that agrees with the perception you have of yourself you feel some kind of stimulus. This may be positive or negative, but either way, it acts as a small dose of confirmation that how you perceive yourself to be is how you truly are.
Prolonged negative and “positive” stimulus are both destructive and aid in confining your perception of yourself, making it that much harder to break. Harder to break perceptions are the ones that often result in the largest slap on the face during times of perceptive conflict.
Don’t drug yourself.
It is of utmost importance that you reflect on how certain activities make you feel and why you pursue them. Reflect.
Hey, welcome to Asymmetry! This is my personal blog where I get straight up and real with you. This time I’m covering one of the crappiest experiences I had had in my 16 years of life. The takeaways from this experience are large enough that they almost all deserve their own blog, that’s exactly what I am going to do. Stay in the loop by following me ;). And hey, while you’re at it, be sure to check out my newsletter & LinkedIn.