As I’ve been going through my possessions and getting rid of things that no longer serve me, I’ve started to notice a bit of a trend. A lot of the things I’m letting go of have never been used. They were bought with the best of intentions, but for some reason, I never actually got around to doing anything with them. Seeing these things prompted me to ask myself why, and I realised that it wasn’t me that bought them – it was my fantasy self!
Ask yourself ‘why?’
Why did I buy them, and why haven’t I used them? A book on yoga that I asked for at Christmas 2 years ago was sitting unread on the shelf. I’ve slowly come to understand that while my fantasy self loves the idea of practising yoga as part of my morning routine, I just don’t have the drive to do it. It isn’t important enough for me to actually start doing it. I wish I were someone who found joy in it, but in all honesty, I’m not that person. And that’s ok. I’d much rather get outside and go for a walk than spend 30 minutes stretching and trying to get my body into positions that I might not be able to get out of without assistance. So that’s what I tend to do. I meditate, for which I have a little wooden stool that helps my posture (and helps stop me from falling asleep), and I use my yoga mat underneath the seat as extra padding for my knees. The end result is that the stool and yoga mat stay, but the book has been donated so that someone else can (hopefully) benefit from it.
It’s funny how getting rid of one book – something that seems so insignificant at first glance – can make you question yourself. Letting that one thing go has made me look at myself differently. How many other things have I kept in the hope that I’ll use them at some point, despite knowing deep down that they’ll likely still be sat gathering dust 10 years from now? As it turns out, my fantasy self owns quite a lot more than I thought she did.
But why do we do it to ourselves? Why do we build up and focus on our fantasy self – this image of the person we wish we were – rather than embracing who we really are? And why do these non-entities need so much stuff? The real me might be on a path towards a minimalist lifestyle, but my fantasy self is a self-confessed hoarder.
Accepting who we are, along with our strengths and our weaknesses, is a much better way to finding contentment in our lives than trying to force ourselves to become something we’re not. Remember that, it’s important. It’s taken me 35 years and more than two decades of battling with my mental health to figure it out.
But what if you’re not sure who you are?
How can you accept yourself when all you know is that you’re not who you wish you were? There’s no easy answer or quick fix for this one. Sorry. You’re going to have to sit down and figure it out for yourself, just like I did. It might take you a day, or it might take you several months. It won’t always be pretty or fun, and I can pretty much guarantee that you will end up sobbing your little heart out at one point or another. But you’ll survive, and you’ll come through the other side a whole lot better off than when you started the process.
A word of warning: Your fantasy self will not give up their hold on you easily, (mine certainly didn’t) so you need to be prepared for a fight. It will be hard, but I promise you that it will be worth it. Also, don’t try and let go of all the aspects of your fantasy self in one shot. Pick one part of the make-believe you at a time to work on. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up to fail.
Is it important to me now?
Start by looking at all the things you own but haven’t got around to using. Are they tied to a particular hobby or activity? Is that activity something you still want to do? If it isn’t, then the answer is simple – get rid of the items and let somebody else find pleasure in them. If the activity is something that is still important to you, then you need to figure out why you aren’t making it a part of your life.
It could be that you just don’t have any free time because you’re always engaged in other activities. In this case, you need to examine how you spend your time and see if you can cut something else out so that you can concentrate on doing the things that you want to do.
Maybe you’re putting off taking up a new hobby because you’re afraid of failing. If fear of failure is standing in your way, look for a way to improve your chance of success. Look at taking a beginners class in an appropriate subject, or join a local group or an online community and ask for advice.
Or perhaps you regret a particular purchase, and the amount of money you spent on the item. Know that it’s ok to feel this way, and view it as an opportunity to learn to think future purchases through for a while before parting with your hard-earned cash. You could try to sell it on, but be aware that there’s a good chance you’ll get back a lot less than you paid for it, even if it is brand new. Set a timeframe, and if it doesn’t sell by your chosen date, then accept the loss and just donate it. The loss of money is nothing compared to the guilt you will feel looking at an unused item sitting on a shelf for the rest of your life.
Say goodbye to your fantasy self
Once you let go of the person that you’re not, you can truly focus on the person that you are. Now, there might be some aspects of yourself that you don’t like all that much. Don’t worry about it. When you see yourself as you really are, then you can acknowledge the areas of your life that aren’t working for you, and do something about them.