Speaking up: Anna Geary on finding your voice in a crowded room

We all have a purpose in life — we must make sure it is our own, says lifestyle coach Anna Geary

There are many ambitious people in this world. Most have a certain vision for their respective lives. I help clients to understand that you need to be led by your ambition but stay grounded by your reality. The problem is everyone’s reality is different.

Albert Einstein taught us that everything is relative. What is right for you might be wrong for me; what is a success for me, might be seen as failure to you. In life there is no black or white, there’s only the perspective with which you choose to look at things.

I read this story recently and it made me stop and think.

An American investment banker stood at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the boat were several large tuna.

The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them. The Mexican replied: “Only a little while.”

The American asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked: “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The fisherman said: “I sleep late, fish a little, spend time with my children, take siestas with my wife, and stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos.”

The American scoffed. “I have an MBA from Harvard, and can help you,” he said. “You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the produce collected by the bigger boat, you could buy several boats. You could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening up your own cannery.

“Of course, you would need to leave this village and move to Mexico City and eventually to New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The fisherman asked: “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “Oh, 15 to 20 years or so.”

“But what then?” asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you would sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.”

“Millions,” said the fisherman, “Then what?”

The American beamed at him and said:

Then you could retire early. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you could sleep late, fish a little, spend time with your kids, take siestas with your wife, and stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play guitar with your amigos?

The Mexican laughed. “Thank you, good sir, for your expert opinion — that lifestyle sounds strangely familiar.” Then he walked on with his one crate of tuna.

In the book Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl wrote that our greatest need is to have a meaning in life. But it needs to be your purpose, not one suggested by another because it sounds good, as the above story illustrates.

Above all else, it’s so important to stay true to yourself. But what happens if there is an unexpected twist in the movie plot of your life? How do you recover from it?

Unfortunately, we live in a world of instantaneous news and information. Social media has brain-washed us into thinking instant gratification is the norm. When things are not running smoothly, our response is to judge ourselves and feel miserable. When we can’t fix things immediately, we often become overwhelmed and worry sets in.

According to a Princeton study, a person who is preoccupied with a heavy worry sees a drop in their cognitive function. They say this is equal to the effects of losing a whole night’s sleep. You can’t think clearly, and you aimlessly drift through the day getting little to nothing done, gripped with the belief that you are not good enough.

Why?

Often, it’s not because we have encountered a setback, but rather because we feel we don’t measure up to others. ‘People’ have set the standards so high now, that the expectation is no longer to be ‘human’, but ‘perfect’ instead.

Brené Brown, author of bestseller Daring Greatly, constantly reminds people that “perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth, nor is it about self- improvement. Nothing good can come from it and research shows that perfectionism hampers success”.

In fact, it’s often the path to anxiety, addiction and life-paralysis — all the opportunities we miss because we’re too afraid to put anything out into the world for fear it will be imperfect.

We all have different worries and often I hear people say they experience guilt because “their worries are small in comparison to others”. But again, it’s all relative. Sometimes the littlest thing for one person, is a big deal for another individual. It’s okay to worry about things that seem insignificant to others. That could be public speaking, your weight, a mortgage application, your skin, test results. That doesn’t mean that your worry or disappointment cannot affect you in the same way as someone who might lose their job. It still produces the same chemical and physiological response in the body.

A study in the 2017 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology looked at the psychological health of people who accept, rather than negatively judge, their emotional experiences. When a situation causes negative emotions, accepting feelings of frustration or upset, rather than trying to pretend you’re not upset, or beating yourself up for feeling this way, can reduce guilt and negative self-image.

But it’s hard to stop worrying. Clinical psychologist Chad LeJeune suggests you take a step back and consider the difference between worrying about your houseplants and caring for your houseplants: “If you are away from home for a week, you can worry about your houseplants every single day and still return home to find them brown and wilted. Worrying is not watering.” 

    Top tips

  • Weigh out the importance of your worry. Is this important enough for you to be worrying about?
  • Quantify the worry on a scale of 1-10. If the worry is beyond a 7 then you need to get some help with it.
  • Find a trusted sounding board with a neutral perspective, a friend who is not attached to the worry. When you find yourself worrying, call on them to help you process everything.
  • Practice self-acceptance. Worry can orbit around a lack of self-belief, so it’s important to try shifting how you view yourself from negative to positive. A simple way to do this is to decide on an affirmation, for example, ‘I will get through this’, ‘I am good enough’, ‘this will make your stronger’ etc. Every day, either say this affirmation aloud or silently to help integrate this belief into your mind.
  • Remember the L’oreal tag line, because it’s true: You’re worth it.

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