They say they’re like buses. When one comes along, several quickly follow…
And no, I’m not talking about men.
Unfortunately, I’m talking about my thoughts. My name is Andrea Anastasiou and I’m a thoughtaholic. From the minute I wake up until the minute my brain finally allows me to fall asleep at night, I’m constantly thinking.
Now, I’m not referring to the kind of thoughts we all have on a daily basis that are completely natural and make us human. I’m referring to the neurotic type of thinking that can lead you to turn even the most positive prospect negative. In my mind, something can go from hero to zero in pretty much a millisecond. And the hero needn’t have done anything wrong – my brain will still manage to somehow transform him into Freddy Krueger.
I genuinely think my brain believes that if I stop this type of thinking, even for a split second, I will die a painful death and end up in hell, where I will be forced to listen to Justin Bieber on repeat and eat grapes off Rowan Atkinson’s belly for eternity.
I have always been this way. I cannot stop questioning, wondering, debating. And, in many respects, it’s a good thing. I like the fact that I rarely take anything at face value and that I question things that I don’t think add up. I like the fact I don’t take any bullshit. I like the fact that, on the whole, I can differentiate between a good person and a potential tosser. And most of it is down to this overactive brain of mine.
However, a line needs to be drawn where useful thinking ends and neurotic thinking begins. Sadly, my brain likes to cross over to the bad place on pretty much a daily basis.
Right now, it’s tormenting me for a couple of things, one of which is my decision to quit my job in Dubai and embark on a world tour for however long my money lasts. I’ve never had this much cash saved in my life, and whilst it may be a modest amount for many, for me it’s the difference between freedom and being stuck behind a desk feeling miserable.
So my brain starts: “Do you really think it’s wise to spend all that money on gallivanting around the world”? And continues: “Don’t you think you should get another job, build on those savings of yours and buy a house instead?” Not satisfied with the response, it carries on: “What are you going to do, eight months from now, when you have NO money left? Where are you going to go?”
In many respects, I quit my job because I wanted to try out living for the sake of living for a change instead of following my rational (and neurotic) self, which likes to take a little too much control of my actions. I honestly think that if I didn’t give in to this other side of me on a regular basis, I would still be in England, working for the council and feeling miserable about the fact I never had the balls to do what I needed to do.
And most of the time, that’s exactly what stops me from acting on the things I want – my neurotic thoughts. My neurotic thoughts want to protect me. I cannot blame them, but I also cannot let them control me.
I recently came across this interesting TEDx speech by Brené Brown, research professor at the University of Houston, on vulnerability. She argues that vulnerability is not a weakness, and that when we spend our lives waiting to be ‘perfect’ before trying to achieve something, we are sacrificing relationships and opportunities. The topic interested me so much that I pitched a story to my editor at The National and I’m currently writing about it.
I agree with Brown. If you don’t embrace vulnerability and open yourself up to the possibility of falling flat on your face, you potentially miss out on a lot of opportunities. For example, if you don’t open yourself up to the possibility of being hurt, how can you ever have a relationship in which you love fully and truly? If you don’t open yourself up to the possibility of being turned down, how can you ever have the chance of attaining the job of your dreams?
I believe that my neurotic thoughts are my brain’s way of protecting me from being vulnerable. If I over-think things, I’m less likely to act according to what my heart wants and more likely to keep myself in my little sterile bubble, which seemingly protects me from the world’s ills.
After a lot of thought (surprise, surprised) I have concluded that the key to allowing yourself to feel vulnerable is to, from time to time, be more like a child. Think about it; if as a young boy you were too scared to graze your knee, you would have never got on a bicycle in order to try and learn how to ride it.
Children don’t over-think. They just do.
I miss the days when anything was possible. I miss the days when every boy was a potential prince, and I never thought about the possibility of being hurt. I miss the days when I believed I could be a singer, and I didn’t think of the fact that I cannot actually sing.
Yes, it’s not ideal to be completely careless and carefree all the time. But every once in a while, I think it’s good to let go of the neurotic thoughts and instead think: what would the child in me do?
And then follow in his or her little footsteps and let your heart run free.