I was talking with Ray today about how the biggest thing I’m working on right now is acting on instinct, doing before thinking, trusting myself to get through whatever path I choose in the moment rather than crafting the perfect response to my external stimuli. There’s a part of me deep down that fears failure in these situations, and the higher the stakes, the more I feel the pressure. Interpersonal situations are especially effective at generating anxiety and distrust. As a child, I was incredibly neurotic and introverted. I got stomach aches the night before any high stakes performance, whether it be something I was good at (academic tests) or something I was terrible at (cross-country meets). I’ve come a long way since then of being more stable emotionally as well as having a higher and more solid foundation of trust in myself, but lots of people situations still feel scary, even if it’s simply notifying that they gave the wrong order.
I think there’s an Asian familial pressure to suck things up, to make do with whatever you have. That philosophy gets internalized as “you should never complain” or “you should act in-line with the the status quo,” which ends up stifling your true authentic expression of yourself. My life feels like a journey towards unlearning that instinctual protection mechanism, to allow my authentic self to face the world. A mantra that has stuck with me for a while is to be provocative. I’ve lived a lot of my life trying to make everyone “like” me, and by like I mean not dislike me. That game is one averages, of normalizing yourself to the most palatable common denominator. It’s like when Asian dishes get toned down in spice level until they’re bland. I was striving to be a bland dan dan noodle, when it’s so much better to be full of flavor, even if it alienates some people. It’s natural to have people you vibe with and people you don’t, and I’ve been forcing myself to be more textured, more weird, more shameless in my presentation of myself.
I want to eliminate that layer of translation most people have between their inner thoughts and feelins and the person who they present externally. We’re constantly doing so much work to compensate and pretend to be someone that’s different from who we are, while toning down so much of what makes us great. I never want to tone down my intensity or dilute my flavor for the sake of others.
Ray gave a good idea for how I can force myself to act, especially in those high-stakes situations where that thought simmers in my head for a long time before I actually do it. I’m going to institute a 10-second countdown where I consider whether it’s something I actually want and if so, do it. It sounds so simple, but there’s some sort of gap between what my mind says “I want” and what my body feels is right to do. I think my body is just so used to inaction that its natural state is to protest against taking aciton when it doesn’t have to. It’s a nice addition I’m hoping to augment my gambling commitment.
Another intentional thing I want to do is be more free with my compliments. It’s something I’ve already noticed coming up as a good opportunity for practicing this action-oriented true expression, where I’ll think of something nice of someone and need to force myself to actually express it to them. I’ve written that “compliments are one of the few things that are infinite energy machines,” and I’ve been exploring more ways to scale that producer of happiness. It’s also a good intersection with my challenge because the more attractive the person, the higher the pressure I feel on actually taking action.
I explore this more in the next essay for this experiment.
This is the 61st installment in my experiment of publishing raw, lightly edited mini-essays every day towards achieving 100 public pieces. Check out the rationale and the full list here.