New people are easy. You meet them, you chat, you get to know each other—there’s no long-term baggage or expectations. There’s also no lingering bad blood or long-term irritants. It’s a fresh canvas and you’re both painting. But as time goes on, you develop a history. Much of that history is likely very good—you wouldn’t stay connected so long if it wasn’t. You may have periods where you don’t see each other that much, but when you do get back together it seems that no time has passed. You pick up right where you left off. You have a true and solid connection with each other, and it’s part of who you are. But there are also elements of the relationship that aren’t ideal. It may be a personality quirk that irritates you (and irritates you more over time). It may be a certain belief or opinion they have that doesn’t jibe with your worldview, and they have to bring it up. It may be some incident in your past that’s hard for you to let go. The relationship is not all wine and roses, but ultimately, no relationship is.
Imagine a world where you could have anything you wanted, any time you wanted, for as long as you wanted. When I was a kid, I thought that’s what heaven must be like, but in time, I came to realize that it’s a more apt description of hell. Why? Continue with the mental exercise. Choose something that you love, make it unlimited, and take away any challenge or effort required in getting it. It will invariably lose some or all of its appeal—nothing would be special anymore. Of course there are nuances to the question. Does having an unlimited supply mean you have to accept an unlimited supply? Something might only lose its appeal if you imbibe it constantly. Ultimately, our trade-offs and struggles are a necessary part of a fulfilling life. Without them, life would be less meaningful and less happy.
Self-loathing is so easy. Everyone has setbacks or makes mistakes, and many go through a period of being very hard on themselves afterward. After a mistake, you may be focused on the consequences or the sequence of events that led up to the mistake, but many people make beating themselves up a higher priority. Of all the options that you might consider after a mistake, beating yourself up is the least helpful. It’s important to be aware of when you’re doing this and replace it with other reactions. The first among these must be learning from the mistake, with forgiving yourself a close second. If you’re able to incorporate these reactions to mistakes into your life, there will be no room for self-loathing.
Some people, as they move through life, begin to feel out of touch. It may start with the interests of younger people—music, apps, gadgets, etc.—and extends to a general feeling of being left behind. But it’s all a matter of perspective.
As you get further down your path, you should feel more and more confident, and increasingly trust your judgement based on your experiences. It’s not necessary to like, or even be aware of, every new trend. You should remain open to new ideas or experiences, but should not worry about those that don’t interest you—don’t think that you’ve become irrelevant just because you’re not engaged in the latest rage. Develop a balance between what’s known and comfortable and what’s new and different. And trust yourself to know what you like.
So many of us engage in activities to get a reaction, or to make money, or to feel loved. But what are the things you do because you love doing them? What do you do just for yourself—because it gives you pleasure or is meaningful?
Our motivations for what we do with our lives are worth exploring. They can provide a filter through which we can evaluate how we spend our time and may lead us toward a more rewarding set of activities. For example, we all have to make a living—that is a key motivator for most people—but would you pursue your career if money were not a factor? If not, how else would you spend your days?
What you do with your time outside your job should be as important and intentional as your work. Are you just filling the hours, or are you getting something back? What activities would you engage in even if you didn’t get any external, positive benefit? What activities do you do just for you?