Dear 100 Hour Board,
Do you ever just feel like you need a break from yourself? Today I've just gotten so tired of my inner voice in my head, and in general I'm feeling tired of who I am. What do you do when you feel like this??
I deal with negative self-talk on a semi-regular basis. It varies in frequency and severity depending on how my life is going and how many social faux pas I've committed. For instance, last Sunday I went to church and no one was there when I sat down (15 minutes early), so I sat by myself. No one sat by me for the first 30 minutes of the meeting, even though I have quite a few friends in the ward. I knew that I could come up with a logical explanation for each of my friends not sitting with me, but that's not how it works. Instead, with no one to make conversation with before the meeting, I ended up overhearing the conversation between the two people behind me. It's a good thing I didn't turn around to see who they were, because I wouldn't have a very high opinion of them based on that conversation. That's where the second part of my negative self-talk came in: not only did my friends not like me enough to sit with me, but I was a terrible person for judging these two people that I didn't even know.
This particular episode got better by the end of the third hour of meetings, when I was finally able to be around people that distracted me from those thoughts. The other thing I like to do to get rid of those thoughts is to break them down piece by piece until I can convince myself that they aren't true or, if they are true, that at least there's something I can do about it. Writing in a journal usually helps me to systematically outline my thoughts so that I can refute them in the same way. If you have a close friend or family member with whom you feel comfortable doing this, it might also help you to talk to them about the things your inner voice is telling you, but be sure to be clear about what your expectations are of them when you do so.
This question is rather overdue and it's entirely my fault. I thank you for your patience and ask your forgiveness. It's been an interesting week. Suffice it to say I sympathize with the desire to get out of yourself, to silence the inner voice, to get out, to get away. I have tried to write down some things that I find helpful. You'll notice these are a little disjointed, and it's possible none of them will be any good. Just take what helps you and toss the rest. With no further disclaimers:
- Sometimes what helps me most when I'm in a rut is venting into an email draft or writing in a journal and just writing down my stream of consciousness until I feel a little better. This is a technique where I feel I am in a position to address my inner voice, tell what I think of it (sometimes going as far as to write back-and-forth dialogue) and strive to set it aside for a while. I often find this process to be emotionally cathartic.
- Drawing or sketching out an idea as best I can is one way to avoid my "voice" and express better how I'm feeling. Alas, I am terrible at drawing.
- Reading a book. A good book, something I find fun, maybe something comforting and familiar.
- Sitting in a quiet place, preferably outdoors, away from people. Usually I'll just try to simply observe nature and seek to be mindful of my surroundings. I've compiled a list of places on campus to do this you may find useful in Board Question #87840.
- Maybe going outside isn't an option, or it's freezing (a sad reality of most of Fall and Winter semesters). I have heard positive things about the relaxation recordings available for free on the Counseling and Psychological Services website ("recordings to relax your and body") you may find useful. While we're talking about it, have you ever been in to the Counseling center just to talk with someone? Services are free to BYU students and I've personally found a couple sessions remarkablyuseful in addressing amorphous life frustrations I didn't quite know how to identify or handle.
Sometimes, though, when the burden of stillness sinks me deeper into my funk, I choose movement.
- Swimming has long been a refuge for me. I was a swimmer growing up, I feel rather comfortable in water, so going to the RB and swimming around deep in the dive pool where at least I'm good at something is a big comfort to me. It's nice being a place where I can focus on the swish of water in my ears, feel the invisible currents moving across my skin.
- Due to schedules or lack of inclination I don't always find swimming practical. At times like these I've taken off running—into the streets, into the hills, perhaps up Rock Canyon—running and running and until I slow to a gasping stagger, my mind is too tired to remember what plagued it, worn down until the frustration bleeds away into silence.
- Hiking, exploring and camping are favorites of mine. I have a chance to leave my life problems behind in favor of simpler decisions about how to best explore my environment.
- Dancing by yourself, however you want—perhaps later at night/on a weekend in those RB dance rooms with the music cranked up—is something I'd strongly recommend.
- Speaking of dance-related things: occasionally when I feel dissatisfied with who I am I'll take some sort of small risk to shake things up, prove to myself I'm capable of succeeding at something new. One semester a while back I decided I needed to shake things up. I wasn't happy with how self-conscious I felt when I danced in public so I signed up for an early-morning Zumba class. Since the class was mostly girls, I wasn't sure if my presence as a guy would be welcomed. While there was some initial puzzlement (one girl asked me on the first day if I was there on a dare), my fears of being shunned were largely unfounded and everyone was pretty chill. I met some really nice people, and enjoyed the class enough that I took it again in subsequent semesters. This was a validating enough experience that I have since tried beginning ballet (fun, but ballet is tricksy), landed a small guest role in a BYU Theatre Ballet production and—most recently—taken a hip-hop dance class where we learned the basics of breakdancing, locking, popping, New Jack Swing and house dance.
I don't know if any of that will be useful, so I'll leave you with one final thought: seek to develop self-compassion. It's okay to feel frustrated, feel insecure, have life plans that haven't worked out how you'd expected, it's okay to not know what the 'next step' is. You're you, and you're trying. From an excellent article on self-compassion by Dr. Kristin Neff:
Self-compassion involves being kind to ourselves when life goes awry or we notice something about ourselves we don’t like, rather than being cold or harshly self-critical. It recognizes that the human condition is imperfect, so that we feel connected to others when we fail or suffer rather than feeling separate or isolated. It also involves mindfulness — the recognition and non-judgmental acceptance of painful emotions as they arise in the present moment. Rather than suppressing our pain or else making it into an exaggerated personal soap opera, we see ourselves and our situation clearly.
Remember: you're a worthwhile, lovely human being, even if you don't always feel that way.
P.S. Should you ever want to talk, or just vent: ardilla.feroz(at)theboard.byu.edu
P.P.S. In case it piqued your interest, here's another plug for the hip-hop dance class, Dance 245—Urban and Street Dance Forms. Each dance segment is taught by dancers from the community who are experts in their style, some of whom operate their own studios. They're talented, kind, and very encouraging. The class is a block class offered in the second half of the semester beginning October 19, it's still open for enrollment.
It appears the class is being headed by Marc Alexanda/Big Chocolate, this cool British dancer who has competed (and won) a number of European competitions prior to moving to Utah. You can see him in action in this 1:45 clip here. Incidentally, Big Chocolate faces off with another Dance 245 teacher named E-Boogie Scruggs in this longer video clip. E-Boogie is the first person to dance.