Yesterday, I found myself waiting for friends to arrive at the pub. Our plan? To watch the Spurs game at the stadium.
(My gosh… a pint of beer is so expensive these days!)
It was one of those situations where the automatic reaction is….
- Retrieve your phone.
- Scroll aimlessly online.
- Clutter your mind with noise or nonsense.
Now, you might be thinking… “Andrew, I would never do that?”
Really? Are you absolutely sure?!!!
Here’s the intriguing part: when these thoughts were flashing through my mind, I caught a glimpse of self-awareness about this behaviour. I thought, “What’s motivating me to do this?”… “What’s driving me to pick up my phone as soon as I have a few minutes to myself?”.
Is it purely a habit?
Am I bored?
Or is it my fear of solitude, of being left alone with my thoughts?
I reckon it could be a bit of all three. But the third option had seldom crossed my mind before. Was I subconsciously evading certain thoughts, feelings, or worries by keeping myself busy? Was I neglecting the one person I needed to converse with… me?
Perhaps there was some deep-rooted avoidance of myself going on? Could it be that I doubted my self-worth? That I didn’t deem myself worthy of my own attention.
This might seem like a crazy notion to you.
However, when you consider that many people suffer from imposter syndrome — 30% of young people and 70% suffer from it at some point in their lives — this hypothesis might not be as outlandish as it appears.
Maybe some of us are avoiding time with ourselves because we have a low opinion of ourselves.
It’s certainly something to reflect upon.
But how do we improve our self-image, and move from feeling like imposters in our own lives, to feeling comfortable with our own shadow?
Here are three top tips for doing this:
- Cultivate the habit of spending time with yourself, undistracted. Observe your thoughts during this solitude. Are they supportive and kind, or are they negative and chastising? If the latter, be mindful of this internal dialogue. How can you regulate it and make it more positive? Journaling can help with this, see the next point.
- Start keeping an appreciation journal. Every evening spend time mindfully acknowledging all the progress you’ve made and are making. In our busy world, it’s easy to gloss over our wins, but they’re so important. They help you maintain a positive and balanced perspective.
- Engage in kind and empathetic conversations with your friends. When you express kindness, you inherently cultivate self-kindness. Plus, your self-image will get a boost.
- Avoid the trap of comparing yourself to others. We all start from different points, have different destinations; it’s futile comparing ourselves to others and it only leads to negativity.
- Remember, what you perceive to be your weaknesses may be seen by others as strengths.
- Exercise — this is my no.1 method for improving my mental health… I don’t even use a device when I work out!
In summary: you might reach for your phone because you’re bored or it’s a habit. And that’s fine. No judgement. However, if you’re doing it because you’re avoiding yourself, it’s time to try some of the above strategies or to talk with a friend or trusted advisor.
Remember, you can only truly forge ahead as a leader when your mental and physical health are in good shape. So, don’t ignore these seemingly small aspects. They can considerably influence your performance and the quality of your life.
Finally, if you’re not journaling, what are you waiting for?
P.S. Spurs won 5-1 yay!