Duped

In the spring of last year I read a book called Stuffocation. It was one of those books that you pick up from time to time that truly inspires you. I had always been somewhat into minimalism, I just didn’t know that it was an actual thing. A movement that had guidelines and even rules in some circles of the minimalist community.

This was one of those moments where I was truly inspired to take action because it just felt so right. Ridding myself of material possessions that I had no use for and attached little to no value kept making me feel freer and freer each time. It became a drug to have a clear out and de-clutter. I just felt that the less I could have in the material world may help me to pay closer attention to the garbage I have stored in my mind, and when discovered could also be thrown away. 

So far this has proven to be the case. I have learned more about myself and my behaviours in a few months than I have in years. Really getting to grips on how my own attention works is based primarily on ridding myself from fear based anxiety, or at least getting a firm handle on it. I have come to realise that there are two key components of my anxious mindset; time and money.

Despite narrowing down to fewer areas of interest, I am still not entirely sure what it is that I want to do work wise and therefore I have this worry that I won’t be able to earn a living. This is grounded in indecision. Now this wouldn’t ordinarily be a problem because I am only 32 and there is plenty of time to figure this out and by trying different things I am sure I will figure it out soon enough.

What makes it a problem is that I seem to think that the world is moving too fast for me to able to keep up. Intellectually I know this is nonsense, I just haven’t been able to marry this up with my emotional outlook. And I think I may have figured out why.

When I returned home from Australia in late 2010, those around me were looking at the next phases of their life such as settling down, buying houses and things of that nature. Understandable of course, thats how life works. For me, things were different. I was not only coming home and starting from scratch, I was also becoming qualified in a new field which subsequently meant going self employed.

I didn’t come home and walk straight into a job to earn money. It took me the best part of 2 years, if not longer to be earning a consistent wage. All the while feeling as though I was falling further and further behind. In a bid to play catch up I was using my credit cards to enrol on courses, seminars and business programmes that I thought would give me the answers to a fruitful and successful life. Immediately.

Entrepreneurship seemed to have all the answers. Lately I have come to discover where I sit on the political spectrum. Centre-right would probably best describe my position. I got so caught up in the world of entrepreneurship that I was convinced anarchy was the best solution. This was purely just me trying to make out that I knew best and that I was ready to lead the free world. Because it puts me first. Instead of last, where I thought I was. Long live the King.

You wouldn’t be able to convince me of socialism over capitalism. I cannot help but think that socialism stifles growth and as far as I can tell, growth is why we are here. Having said that, a freer than free market with minimal regulation could spark chaos. Capitalism with a bit of socialism in place to keep things in check and a sprinkle of libertarianism in certain areas where appropriate is the where I am placing myself right now. At my current level of understanding.

The big question is; what made me think of anarchy in the first place? Well, we are seeing a rise in entrepreneurship and more and more people are starting businesses these days. With the rise of social media, YouTube stars are fast becoming the new celebrities. So there is definitely a shift going on. Is it that big a shift and is it really happening at the speed of light? Probably not. It will always come down to what we want as human beings and are we really that fast?

We have yet to cope well with social media and we are still finding our feet to some degree. Mental health issues are cropping up everywhere as we look to fuel our desires for dopamine. Loneliness is on the increase as more and more people are becoming isolated.

Although is all that really true? Maybe it is. Maybe I am overreacting. Who knows? I haven’t done any research on the statistics of those claims so I cannot know for sure. I can only go by what I hear people saying in the media, online or in person. And I am quite sure that that is the problem. That is very likely the root cause of my anxiety. Listening to other people reel of negative statements and claims and accepting them as true without even checking them out for myself and making my own mind up.

Feeling as though I was starting my life over again upon returning to the UK, I became even more susceptible to information. I was craving certainty so I would blindly believe anything that I was being told particularly if that person said it with such conviction. Before I knew it I was overwhelmed with information and tried so hard to make sense of anything and everything. I was fighting a losing battle.

My confirmation bias was attached to anything that could potentially spark fear into me. All the while being at the mercy of New Age dogma that has infiltrated society over the last few decades. What’s worse is that I was spreading all this stuff as well because it made me look like an authority of sorts and an all knowing enlightened master. At least that was the plan. If I could make out that I was certain then I would start to feel certain in myself. I just hadn’t realised how flimsy those foundations were.

I give myself a hard time for this. People have relied on me for teaching them and I feel as though I have set them off on the wrong path or even further enhanced their also dogmatic beliefs. That is part of life though I guess. It is certainly a learning curve and has made me hungrier than ever to get my facts straight going forward.

The evidence based approach is something that I now understand the logic behind. At first I thought it was just super intellectuals mocking people with faiths and beliefs. Maybe there is an element of that. The main emphasis behind it is to help people separate fact from fiction and potentially avoid the pitfalls of unproven claims and help save them time and money.

My desperation to succeed got the better of me. I fell so far behind that I was adamant I wanted people to see me at the top. I guess I am still figuring out why I needed that so much. Maybe I didn’t want to be forgotten as people moved on with their lives.

It really is amazing just how much conviction some people can have when they believe something so much. I don’t blame or condemn anyone that operates this way. They simply have less of a filter in rational thought, perhaps. I actually envy it in a way. And if someone believes something so intensely then they have greater courage to go out into the world and share it. Another thing I envy.

What I have come to realise about myself is that my conviction will come with a greater and solid understanding of actually how things are rather than simply what I believe. Therefore I am finding myself holding onto the bottom rungs of a ladder that I may actually want to climb. The lesson for me is patience, no doubt. Perhaps my anxiety is my warning sign telling me that I am not being patient enough.

When I first got involved with the evidence based approach within the fitness industry I found myself going to extremes and criticising everything that I could. This, I hoped, would make me look knowledgable and powerful. Certain and commanding. Now I approach it with a little more humility, understanding and empathy.

This is because I know what it is like to fall prey to unfounded beliefs and unproven claims. I know what it is like to desperately seek out knowing of some kind. It wasn’t the claims or the people that I was duped by. It wasn’t the courses, the seminars, the conviction and certainty in the voice of a thought leader. It wasn’t the collection of several people that confirmed things further.

I was duped by my own brain.

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