Hello, my dear.✨
I'll be honest, I like to complain sometimes. I think most people do. It's a short-term relief, but sometimes it feels so good to complain in chorus with a friend who gets it and feels the same way.
When the pandemic kicked off in March, my feeds were flooded with memes saying "Your grandparents had to go to war. you have to do is sit on your couch. You can do this." - or something along these lines.
Honestly, these messages made me feel so damn angry. Guess what smartypants, I know people have it worse than I - and not just my grandparents. I'm hyperaware of social issues, racism, other/worse diseases, the sick, the weak, the homeless, the ostracized, the risk groups, the doctors and nurses; people who have to deal with a *tremendous* amount of shit ON TOP of this pandemic.💩
I know I'm a healthy person in an industrialized nation with food, shelter, and clean water. I know all this, and nevertheless, things occasionally suck.
They suck because the simple formula for things to suck is expectations < reality. If things go worse than you expected, you'll be (temporarily) unhappy, regardless of all the privileges you hold.
My point is not to highlight how the privileged have it bad as well and give everyone a free pass to a continuous loop of complaining. My point is, if you tell others their negative feelings are invalid they'll feel worse. They'll become less compassionate and more miserable. They'll feel misunderstood and frustrated.
The same is true if you tell this to yourself. Honestly, I often find myself thinking how pathetic I am and how it's ridiculous to feel bad in spite of all the good I have in my life.
What follows after such a guilt trip isn't understanding and reason (what a surprise!). It's further self-loathing and misery.
These guilt trips have gotten a lot better over time. Through therapy and reading, I learned we can be privileged and emotionally unprivileged. Our negative feelings don't invalidate other people's horrible experiences.
It's an important example of the coexistence of seemingly contradictory feelings about which I write about here.
Yes, it's crucial to be socially aware, fight against injustices, and to know where we stand in the grand scheme of things - we must check our privileges.
At the same it's necessary to allow ourselves (and others!) to feel whatever we feel and to let ourselves and others know our thoughts and feelings are valid - they have a right to exist.
As Seth Godin put it,
The other person is always right.
Always right about feelings.
About the day he just experienced.
About the fears (appropriate and ill-founded) in his life.
About the narrative going on, unspoken, in his head.
About what he likes and what he dislikes.
You'll need to travel to this place of 'right' before you have any chance at all of actual communication.
If you feel like you need to complain it's essential to have a space safe (partner, friend, family) to do so. At the same time, let's try to be this safe space for others - even if we can't relate to their feelings.
The next time someone complains to you, reassure them their feelings are valid.
The next time you complain, reassure yourself.
Sometimes, trivial stuff can take a toll on us and that's okay - I hear you.
It helped me to write down my negative feelings and vent a little on paper. Here's a little excerpt of the things that brought me down this year:
My birthday was in March and I couldn't celebrate it with my friends.
The gyms are closed so I cannot follow my biggest passion which is indoor bouldering.
I can't work and read in my favorite cafés.
Corona canceled two wonderful trips I planned.
To spend a lot of time at home gives me cabin fever.
Sometimes, I feel like 2020 deprived me of valuable time I won't get back and which I wanted to spend otherwise. I often felt completely out of control.
I don't name these things so you can feel bad for me. My point is to show you it's okay to voice these negative experiences, even if they're so-called trivial first-world problems.
Once I feel validated and understood, I find it a lot easier to put things in perspective and practice gratitude for all the joy have in my life.
If you feel like you want to complain, feel free to reply to this email and get it all out or do so by yourself in a journal or on a piece of paper. Let's normalize negative feelings and stop glorifying toxic positivity which leaves people even more isolated.
Things I enjoyed in the past week:
🧠 Thought: Darious Foroux's Stoic Letter on Adjusting Your Plans
This is a perfect read after a good round of complaining. Darious Foroux introduces a mindset-shift which can help us better with dealing with canceled plans and disappointments. As he points out,
[...] in reality, we own nothing, and nothing is owed to us. We’re guests who temporarily walk this planet.
If we think about it, 2020 is a big stoic exercise and it instantly sounds like more fun when we see it that way.
📖 Essay: A Very Brutal Game by Margo Steines
I really enjoy the highly personal essays in The Sun magazine (not to be confused with Britain's tabloid!). This one is about coming to terms with (and overcoming) toxic sexual masochism.
By the way, one of my current projects is to submit a personal essay myself to The Sun. My hopes are low to moderate but to be published isn't even the ultimate goal. I really enjoy the process of learning this new form of writing and the creation of my first personal essay. You can still keep your fingers crossed for me.😉🤞
📰 Article: How to Be a Better Neighbor to Homeless People by Matthew Gerring
I was confident I knew a lot about homeless people but this article came with an abundance of new input and notions. It's US-specific but I found most points to apply just as well to the European cities I know. Highly recommended!
📚 Books: Very Short Introductions by the Oxford University Press
What 👏 a 👏 goldmine! Very short introductions are a series of short reads which introduce you to almost any topic ranging from philosophy over biochemistry to psychology and more. I just finished A Very Short Introduction to Leibniz (the philosopher). With zero prior knowledge about him and little knowledge about philosophy, I can confidently say I was well introduced and had little to no difficulties to follow along.
✍️ Journalling prompts: The Isolation Journals by Suleika Jaouad
Suleika Jaouad started The Isolation Journals in March in response to the pandemic. Every Sunday, she sends you a deep journaling prompt that goes way beyond the usual questions like What was the hardest time in your life, and how did you overcome it? Prompts come from herself and from guest-prompters she invites to share.
Here are a few examples:
Needless to say, besides helping to get to know me better, they help a lot with my writing process too.
- Excavate the long-buried lowlights of your résumé and jot down a list of your first seven jobs. Then pick the most surprising, disastrous, or absurd, and spin it into an epic tale. (by Elizabeth Gilbert)
- What is the cloud that surrounds you now? Write about a situation or feeling that’s so all-encompassing it’s hard to see forward or back, left or right.
- Complete the sentence: “If you really knew me...” You can write one or many of these statements. Then sit with them. Ask yourself: What would your life be like if people knew these things about you? How would your circle of friends change? What about your job? (by Noor Tagouri)
Thank you for being here.🙏
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