The other day, a dear friend and I had a lovely phone conversation about life, the universe and everything. We are both exploring paths that are somewhat different from the mainstream. This is true across many aspects of our lives, including career, health and spiritual exploration. We both have people in our lives whom we love very much that do not understand and in some cases actively oppose these choices. It’s hard to be around naysayers, even harder when they are people whose opinion you value and approval you crave. It can lead to self-doubt and sometimes to choices that are made simply to gain the approval of others, instead of because it is what we want for our lives. When we do choose to follow our own path, it can be very uncomfortable to be around people who challenge and disagree with our choices. Even when, actually especially when we know they are only concerned for our well-being and want what is best for us. But whose version of ‘best’?
I think sometimes I try to justify my life choices to those who doubt me with hard facts and cold logic, because I feel that mere gut feelings and emotions are too hard to explain. They are qualitative, not quantitative, anecdotal rather than statistical, so they’re harder to distill down into a sound bite. That’s when I have to start paying attention and gathering evidence to support my choices. The evidence may not convince anyone else but it can help my self-belief and to reaffirm why my gut feelings were right in the first place.
Well, here’s a piece of evidence to support my recent life choices that I’ve been able to gather. This week is the first month that I can remember in a long time that I haven’t had a 3 day migraine during the week of my period. Earlier in the year I gave up gluten because I realised it was causing many of my migraines (as well as a whole lotta other symptoms). It was a big sacrifice at the time because I loved bread, pasta and many other glutenous foods. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only cause of migraines and I have not been 100% migraine free since then. I discovered that chin-ups, which I was so excited to be able to do, tightened my neck muscles to the point of triggering migraines. So I gave up chin-ups and soon saw a reduction in migraines again.
I have recently reduced my hours at work so that I now have a three day weekend every week. This has been a reduction in stress and work load, but also in income. In making the decision I sacrificed the extra money before I knew whether or not it would be worthwhile. I didn’t know if the proportion of income I was losing would be equal to a proportional benefit to my health. Some people in my life were not confident that it would and certainly there were naysayers. But I knew why I was making the decision and I listened to myself more than others.
Not having a migraine this month was proof that reducing my stress and workload does have a positive impact on my health. Income can be replaced in other ways, which is something I’ll continue to work on. In the meantime it is a sacrifice, as is avoiding gluten and not doing chin-ups. But it’s worth it.
Nietzsche said “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” When you are plagued with self-doubt, struggling with sacrificing something for a greater good or faced with naysayers bringing you down, remind yourself of the reason you are doing it.
Keeping the ‘why’ top of mind will make the ‘how’ easier to handle.