I am passionate about continually striving for more and achieving my goal. When puzzled by a problem, I work towards a solution—relentlessly. I’m fueled by my excitement about what may be just around the corner, so I keep going. Even the pressure of a deadline can be energizing.
Whether due to nature or nurture, this is who I am. Certainly, our society supports this push to go further and to succeed. And it’s fun to achieve, to make progress, and to create. But with these benefits, there are also costs. It usually starts in my jaw. Then my neck and shoulders. At first, the tension is barely noticeable. I stretch my muscles and try to shake it off. While I was feeling driven and full of passion, I wasn’t listening to my experience of increasing stress.
Many of us have learned to ignore the wisdom of our emotions and the guidance it provides. Sometimes it takes physical symptoms like muscle tension to notice there is more going on. How does it happen? In part, we are conditioned over time to listen to others instead of ourselves. We are told that our emotions or perceptions are inaccurate. We are taught rules to follow so everything might be orderly and safe. Over time, we internalize these messages and make them our own, often overriding conflicting truths our emotions offer.
Of course, living in a society requires living by consensus. But problems arise when we listen solely to what others tell us rather than being attuned to our internal guidance. Or when external expectations are more important than our own. The messages I received about hard work have served me well and are congruent with my authentic self. And I also need (and want) to listen when feelings of stress tell me I need a break. Every day, we have an opportunity to follow the guidance of a really wise person—ourselves! Take time to listen to what you and your emotions have to say.