Shoulditis - What have I done with my life?
Every year on my birthday I stand in front of a mirror in my 'birthday suit’. I assess the physical, emotional and cultural state of my affairs. This year, whilst my girlfriend cooked me my favourite breakfast (you're the best!), I presented for inspection. First, I asked the mirror "what's up with the lack of chest hair?" I'm 29... Puberty is long behind me. Then I moved on to less superficial ponderations.
I felt calm, satisfied, excited.
I have always considered going to the grave unscathed a bit of a sad scenario. I'd rather go back to the earth with chunks missing, like badges of honour that say ‘I lived’. In 29 years I have done many things that I'm proud of, grateful for and smile about. I smile either because the memory is happy, or because I avoided a cringe-worthy oblivion in some way.
I have learnt to drive, dive, ride, roll and design and how to get over a broken heart. I have pierced my ears, nose, eyebrows and nipple (now removed). I've also had some questionable hairstyles, blonde frosted 90's tips a highlight. When I was 14 I got my first job at Tuckerbag Supermarket. I have pierced my ears, nose, eyebrows and nipple (now removed). I've also had some questionable hairstyles, blonde frosted 90's tips a highlight. When I was 14 I got my first job at Tuckerbag Supermarket. Since then I've worked in clothing stores, real estate, nightclubs, a pet shop, restaurants, wine bars and I've had a go at running my own business.
With 30 approaching me at speed I am more vulnerable than ever to a self-reflection crisis. This kind of crisis starts with second guessing: Should I be spending more time with my family? Should I be fitter? Should I own my own home? Should I have had children by now?
An attack of the should-I’s is the most common symptom of Shoulditis: An internal self-battering caused by a combination of self-reflection and social anxiety. *officially coining the term.
My earliest experience with Shoulditis was in the change rooms at school - should I have body hair? Facial hair? A deeper voice? And another thing boys compare in a locker room scenario...
At 21 I was working in Real Estate, surrounded by shiny, fancy European and cars, Shoulditis hit me hard - Should I be more successful? More of a young-gun Real Estate guru?
When I was 25 I remember looking in the mirror, as I did every year, and wanting to cry. I was sick with self-doubt, career anxiety and the desire for wealth. Should I have a newer car, better career, more prestigious degree and an off-the-plan apartment in the inner suburbs.
Since then my perspective has definitely shifted. Primarily when I started to understand the value of asking for advice. Following the 2012 attack of Shoulditis things began to change. I have been on the up; happier, more fulfilled and more grateful. I have spent some time defining how change has occurred in my life. I believe the following three points summarise the positive energy and influence I've received:
- ASKING FOR HELP WITHOUT HESITATION - People are generally flattered when asked for help. It makes them feel empowered, helpful and respected. I am lucky to have three brilliant mentor friends in my life who I asked 'will you be a mentor to me'. From that conversation they have always been a reliable source of honest and sage advice.
- NO BULLSHIT BALANCE - It is HARD to stick at one thing and not stop until you become the best at it. That's why there is only an Olympics every 4 years. If you try to remain rigid and stiffen up when you see a corner approaching you’re going to go over the guardrail. Balancing your chosen path with unexpected turns is realistic.
- BE IN SERVICE TO YOURSELF - When was the last time you stopped and asked yourself... Does this thing/garment/friendship really serve me? If the answer is 'no' donate it, bin it or sell it. If the answer is 'maybe' put it aside for 3 months and if it doesn't come out because you need it, off it goes. If the answer is 'yes' make a conscious effort to wear/use/enjoy it more. I'm not going to put myself out there as being great at the above. I have gone in and out of motivated periods of this process and it FEELS AMAZING to declutter, even if the initial separation causes anxiety.
Shoulditis tends to attack us from the angle of un-certainty. The second we go down a path of negative self-reflection it will take hold. I understand that I have become more aware of how creating certainty in my life can help me focus on gratitude, happiness and moving forward. The three points above are all connected by the fact that they reduce un-certainty. Getting advice, welcoming life's unexpected turns and removing dead weight creates opportunity for focus. It does this by removing distractions leading to enhanced satisfaction.
This is why our grandparents reflect positively on staying in one job for 45 years. And this is why on my 29th birthday I stood for the first time in that mirror and gave myself full marks.