Let me just say, I hear you, I see you, and I feel you. You feel out of control, and you’ve been sold by a new fad, the media, or a friend that says if I “just do this one thing, I will finally feel in control”. And sometimes it works! You got a new hairstyle (peep the picture below of mine or on Instagram), you decided to discard or sell anything that doesn’t “spark joy” after you read Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up, or maybe you did the Whole30 (or went even paleo/keto/vegan/raw) and feel more energetic because of it. In my case, I’ve done forms of these kind of things too, but the feeling is ephemeral and then I’m once again back to feeling like my life is out of control. And yes, I do know that I am responsible for my life, I am overabundantly clear on how my life is what I make it, but sometimes rationalizing these feelings with “I’m just living from the past” or “I’m leading my life from a place of fear” just doesn’t always work! And I want to acknowledge that I’m speaking from a young college-aged Millennial woman’s point of view here because, incase you forgot, I’m not some Baby-boomer CEO guy with the ego the size of the Menlo Park Googleplex. In other words, I’m not going to tell you to go from Zero-to-One like Peter Thiel because I’m already a young woman, my voice is already in a unique market position in our patriarchal society. And when I write this, I hope you don’t think I’m going to give you some world-changing view solutions to feeling in control, but rather that I want to create an inquiry into why, as young women or just part of this generation, it feels like it’s normal or just plain normalized to feel like we’re not in control of our lives.
Some hypothesize that from a sociological perspective, through generations of oppression and discrimination, and being socialized to be and act a certain way, women have had the freedom to own property, be financially independent, and had leadership positions stolen from them, so the only thing we do have control over are our bodies and maybe the appearance of our homes. But when you look at current political events, with anti-abortion laws being passed (which is just plain fucked up) and attempts to de-fund Planned Parenthood, or you look to the media, where incessant ads of creams, lotions, and makeup are shoved in women’s faces with the promise to make them look “more attractive”, do women even have control over their bodies either? Even though nowadays we’re having conversations about women being the breadwinners in heteronormative households and ads now containing “natural”, un-airbrushed pictures of “real-women”, it still just feels like old ways disguised as new. Maybe we do these attempts to control our appearance and our immediate spaces because those are the things we do feel like we can have control over and if we control the few things society allows us to control, then maybe we will finally feel over-all in control of our lives and futures as well.
Consequently, sometimes this search for control can go too far, or to toxic lengths.
Consequently, sometimes this search for control can go too far, or to toxic lengths. Sometimes that hairstyle change is of the 2007-Britney-Spears-variety, you get rid of so many material items in the quest for minimalism that you get rid of even the things that meant the most to you, or your “clean-eating” has turned into a toxic relationship with food. I actually have started to see the words “clean-eating” as a red flag, because what does that even mean? When you look at the foods these people who preach “clean-eating”, much of the time it’s foods that are financially unattainable to many people and/or are just the new food fads. How about we just eat-whatever-the-fuck-makes-you-feel-awesome or just stop being so cluttered with things we don’t need?
I read a quote the other day, honestly it was probably from an inspirational Instagram post (and if anyone knows where I saw this quote then please let me know so I can link the quote to them to give them the credit they deserve), that said “Stop asking for advice from the people who aren’t where you want to go!”. I can’t quite pin-point if it just felt right in my body, or it just validated why the advice I chose to listen to hasn’t been working for me, but regardless it felt like a these-are-the-words-I-needed-read-thank-you moment after I read it. What I took from that quote was that I shouldn’t ask an electrical engineer how to become a holistic practitioner. I could even take this to, should I even ask a successful cis-man in this society how to be successful, when I want to be a successful woman in a society that benefits people of all genders? Maybe I’ve been trying to fit into these boxes I don’t even want to fit into! Or maybe I’m just full of shit, because there’s always a possibility of that, who knows! As I chose to write this post over a number of days, because I needed to process the things I’ve said and the feelings I’m having around my words, I do acknowledge that I’ve been given some great advice, from very powerful women in my life, that I chose not to listen to when I should have at the time. I got the advice when I wasn’t ready to hear it and my past self wasn’t in alignment with where I am today, but now I still hear the advice and I am ready to take it with me.
I had internalized certain ideas of what success looks like and what I was supposed to do with my life that were just not serving me whatsoever! Today, as I briefly heard Sophia Amorusa in an episode of #GirlBoss Radio (if you read my last post, you know I’m big on podcasts these days) say, “Success is not a destination”, I received a these-are-the-words-I-needed-to-hear-thank-you moment. Now I obviously don’t think everyone who feels out of control is trying to be “successful”, but recently that’s what’s been on my mind as I decide that I need to take a semester off from college because of severe burnout and adrenal fatigue. To anyone in my community, who I haven’t told that I’m taking a semester off from college, I’m dealing with the consequences of when my body started to say “No” and I didn’t listen. I plan on reading the book When The Body Just Says No written by Dr. Gaber Maté, which discusses the minds influence on chronic health problems. In my case, when just the perfect combination of life events came together, my course of action needed to change in ways I would’ve never imagined. It has left me to feel pretty lost and that I don’t have control over my life, but I’m starting to realize that this is an opportunity to learn about my resiliency, as painful as it feels right now.
Okay, but where’s the line between “let myself feel my feelings” and “you’re holding yourself back with this negative self-talk”, or even that it might be pretty invalidating to say to someone in a shitty situation!
Here’s the thing, I do have control! We have control! We have power! We have complete control over our lives! We have everything we need in us to get where we want to go! But what happens when we know this objectively, but we don’t feel like we have control! And of course after typing that, I hear the thought “Well, you have control over your feelings! You may not be in control of everything that comes into your life or happens to the people around you, but you have control over how you react to it!”. And my response to that: Okay, but where’s the line between “let myself feel my feelings” and “you’re holding yourself back with this negative self-talk”, or even that it might be pretty invalidating to say to someone in a shitty situation! These are the questions I ask myself, I look forward to a few months or years from now looking back on this post and having those answers for myself.
Maybe I’ll find that I’ve actually just been searching for comfort, something that might not get me where I actually want to be.
So currently I just listen to podcasts and make a lot of to-do lists. I got a haircut in hopes of cutting off the thoughts and lifestyle behaviors that no longer serve me. It’s thus far been empowering and gives me a sense of productivity, but I know that this feeling might be ephemeral and I might just keep feeling that my life is out of control. I might figure out that a sense of control is a feeling from within rather than something given to me from an external environment. Maybe I’ll find that I’ve actually just been searching for comfort, something that might not get me where I actually want to be. For now, I’m going to sit with the uncomfortable feeling and see where it takes me.
EDIT: Okay, conversely, there’s the possibility of this idea being the other way around, that it was actually us being more in alignment with ourselves that brought us to do things like get a haircut, consider minimalism, or go into “clean-eating”. We gotta think about these things from all angles, right? So as I was totally stalking myself on twitter I came across this tweet that explains this idea.