Who am I? Close your eyes and think about that question. When I close my eyes and think about how I would answer this question, what first comes to mind is how other people would describe me. My family. My friends. My ex-girlfriend. The lady behind the counter in my local Chinese takeaway. Who is Brian? What does he stand for? How would you describe him? How would you remember him? Too often people define us by the past. Whether that is our past achievements, past memories shared or past impressions.
A few years ago, during my Masters, I went through a period where I contemplated suicide. I would often have very dark, vivid and negative thoughts.
I did not know who I was or who I wanted to be. To my family, I was an intelligent, inspirational man who had ambitions of pursuing a career in Law. To my friends, I was an introvert who came alive after a few Long Island Iced Teas and Strawberry Daiquiris. To my ex-girlfriend, I was a caring partner who was troubled by his past.
I was a different person in the eyes of different people. This would often create pressure on me to live up to people’s perceptions of me. But more so, live up to their expectations of me. I used to be a very selfless person. Throughout my Masters, I felt a pressure to be that person that my mum wanted me to be. Or to be that friend that listened to everyone else and all their worries. But what about me?
Who was Brian? What did he stand for? How would you have described him?
I felt like an imposter. I felt like I did not have a purpose in life. Living life just to make other people happy. All the external pressures to be someone else. To be someone that I knew just was not me. I remember at times throughout my Masters, I would look at myself in the mirror and study each detail of my body. I would look at different parts and think the worst. My ears. My nose. My lips. My hair.
If I thought this about myself, imagine what other people would think? I was extremely self-conscious about my weight. Growing up, I was often bullied and ridiculed for my size in comparison to my classmates. I remember in one term during my Masters, I ate around eight to nine full packets of custard cream biscuits. Kebab delivery drivers would come to my doorstep and say ‘oh, it’s you again?’.
But I found happiness and solace in comfort eating. The food tasted good. The drinks tasted sweet. I did not have to worry about cooking. However, the more I indulged, the tighter my clothes became. The rounder my stomach became. My mind would often go into overdrive, overthinking the littlest of things. Overthinking what other people thought of me. Overthinking what people were thinking but would not say to my face. Overthinking.
Look at Brian. Look at him. Just look at him.
I remember one conversation I had with a close friend of mine. She told me that I am my own primary source of happiness. That I have a purpose in life. That I should define myself for who I want to be and not who other people want me to be. One of the most important things that I have learnt over the past few years is control. Taking control of my life regardless of all the external pressures around me. Here are a few words of wisdom that I would like to give:
1) Make a conscious effort to accept the past and move on
One of my bad habits would be that I would dwell too much in the past. I would often dwell on experiences or traumas that I went through. Leave and let go. You are on a moving bus, yet you are trying to read the bus times at the previous bus stop? Are you mad or what? Accept that the past is the past. Let it go. Let it go. (No, this is not a rendition of Frozen).
2) Unlearn. Remove old debris
Take the time out to unlearn. Remove bad habits. One of the bad things I would do is recite the lyrics from a song by an American musician called Lil Uzi Vert. Although I really enjoyed the song, the lyrics became so instilled in my mindset that when I was going through negative periods and dark moments, the lyrics heightened my feelings and emotions. Remove old debris.
3) Pray. Create that connection
Praying for me really helped. Being able to sit down and strengthen my spirituality. Strengthen my faith in God. Praying really gave me a greater sense of conviction and purpose in life. Everyone’s experiences differ. Find what works for you. Whether that is reading daily passages from the Bible or watching sermons on YouTube. Creating that connection with God added another dimension to my mindset. It gave me a positive outlet.
4) Focus on the things you can control and create peace of mind
For the most part, I would say that I am naturally an introvert with the odd extrovert tendencies. I like to be in my comfort zone because It gives me a sense of control. However, as an introvert, I would often become anxious and overthink in situations where I am not comfortable. I have learned the importance of focusing on the aspects of life that you can control. Leave everything else. Peace of mind is wealth.
5) Define yourself for who you want to be
Society and the world will always try its best to shape our mindsets and force us to conform. We are all born different. (Unless you are identical twins, but even then, I am sure they are different). Make a conscious effort to define your identity for what you want it to be. Be your own person. There is beauty and strength in individualism.
You are great. You are amazing. You are special. Do not ever forget that. You know the vibes.