Uprooting the Pressure (pressure part 2)
Updated: Dec 18, 2020
Welcome back! Welcome back! to our conversation about self-induced pressure. Last week, I began the conversation by opening up about my decision to reclaim the small joys of life. Reading is one of the many places I've always find joy, which is what made me recommit to it. In order to circumvent my struggle with inconsistency, I locked myself into a strict reading regiment. The irony of the story was that it was the strictness of the reading regiment that caused me to be inconsistent. As soon as I threw out the regiment, and read for the sake of enjoyment, I was able to maintain consistency with ease. To those who are not quite caught up on the conversation and would like to read where it started, click here.
To those who are caught up, you would've thought that after everything I went through with those books, I would've learned my lesson. Mmm. Yeah. Not quite! Unbeknownst to me at the time, God just used the books to reveal my surface level issue of self-induced pressure. It wasn't until I went through the process of creating and launching I am Philosophy did I realize there was a much deeper issue behind the pressure I put on myself. What was the root? A fear of consequences. And ohhhhh did this journey get interesting. Let's dive in shall we? *Cracks knuckles*
As I've shared in a few of my other articles, I have been deep in the trenches of a Clean Slate season. The heart of this season has been rebranding and relaunching The Creative Vessel (TCV). Based on the instructions to move my studio and shave my work down to the new direction I was going in, I knew God was about to make some major changes to TCV. At some point I asked God when did he want me to relaunch TCV. The conversation gave me the distinct impression that the relaunch date was October 15th. Now if I'm honest, I wasn't overjoyed with this relaunch date, mostly because the conversation took place in May. That meant I was going to have to wait 5 months before we relaunched. I had had enough vision to feel confident in thinking I knew where he was about to take me and didn't think I needed a full 5 months to get there. Let me just say...Now that I'm on the other side of the rebrand, I can tell you that the only thing I should've been confidently doing is sitting my unhappy hips down somewhere.
Why? Because no where in that vision did I see us shifting away from my art as the primary focus and taking a hard right angle turn into my writing. Sure, I'd attempted to write a blog a few times in the past, but in my mind, it was just because I loved to write. It was never something I had planned to focus on full time, especially since I was under the misguided impression that God wanted my art to be my main focus. Shifting the focus to my writing meant TCV wasn't just undergoing a rebrand, it was undergoing a complete foundational remodel. By the time I'd gotten the full, mile long memo about I am Philosophy, it was the end of August. Which meant I now only had a month and some change to bring I am Philosophy into fruition. Pause. Have you ever said yes to God or a project and then as soon as you started undertaking it, you thought to yourself, "what in thee absolute hell did I say yes to?" Well, that was me. Except, I wasn't frustrated or overwhelmed by what I'd happily gotten myself into. I just hadn't grasped the sheer totality of everything it was going to take to bring I am Philosophy into fruition.
I needed almost the entire month of September to figure out what I am Philosophy was going to look like. That only left me three weeks to write and record the spoken word piece I wanted to launch I am Philosophy with. Not only that, I'd decided to get ahead of the game and launch with three weeks worth of Articles. Now a normal human being would look at that work load and say, "Hmmm. Three weeks worth of Articles and a spoken word piece to be completed in three weeks is a bit much." Not me. In my mind, that was still plenty of time. I can write an entire article in one to two days, three if you count the time it takes me to proofread and edit it. The spoken word piece was going to be a little bit trickier since I hadn't written a full spoken word piece, meant for performance, in years. Still, I wasn't worried. I knew that if God was behind this deadline, and I did my part to make time for it, I could make the deadline no problem. The thing was...God wasn't behind the deadline. At all.
Come to find out, I'd misinterpreted the October 15th deadline to be about the relaunch when it was actually in reference to something else. I hadn't known that at the time. So of course: *Que the sudden escalation of problems interfering with or distracting me away from being able to get my work done.*
For the first time in years! I had gotten sick, plagued with headaches and fatigue for almost an entire week. I knew it was spiritually induced, I just couldn't figure out what was causing it. Then, after surviving the headaches, I was hit by waves of emotional instability, making it hard for me to focus or want to do anything. The root of the emotional pain was a situation I had been struggling with for a while. I know grief can be a lot but this was ridiculous. I'd been dealing with it for over a year and was finally getting to a place of balance. There was no reason for it to suddenly escalate into emotional imbalance. The straw that broke my patience was the great wall of China I ran into every time I sat down to write. You mean to tell me that I'm finally, finally awake, alert, healthy, focused, and fully prepared to write this article and I can't, for the life of me, find a way to put two words together? I lost it.
I knew God was blocking me and I didn't know why. I was getting tired of trying to figure out why, and, with only a week left till my deadline, I no longer cared. I still had three articles and a spoken word piece to write and record. As far as I was concerned, all these emotions and physical issues were just distractions. Remember, I am a living, breathing cyborg. I am willing to deal with whatever emotional issues come up, but not at the expense of my work. It's a flaw, I know, but as I said, I'd already taken more than enough time over the last few weeks to try and work through my issues to no avail. Which meant that the root of these physical and emotional issues was tied to something else entirely. Towards the end of my ranting frustration to God, he finally tells me the root of these issues is the pressure of the deadline.....God...What???
He started this revelation off by comparing me to a character whose primary flaw was that she obeyed without question. While no one on Earth probably asks more questions than me now, at one point my default setting was to obey an instruction without questioning it. It didn't matter how many flags went off, how uncomfortable it made me feel or how much I had to sacrifice. If someone of authority gave me an instruction, I followed it to a T and that same flaw carried itself into my relationship with God.
As of late, God has spent a lot of time teaching me how to think through the things I hear in the spirit, and subsequently in life, so that I no longer fall prey to deception on either level. While I'm much further along than I use to be, I am still learning. So when I thought he instructed the relaunch date to be Oct. 15th, I was determined to stick to that deadline even though I kept feeling like that deadline was impossible meet. I even told him I didn't think I was going to meet it, but me being a recovering robot, I was still intent on killing myself to make it happen anyway. When he hit me with "obedience without question", it snapped me out of robot mode and put me back in touch with the human side of my cyborg self.
Embracing how the workload made me feel helped me see how the interference, the headaches, the wall of China, and the emotional instability, were all, what I call, the dramatics of God. Anytime I am believing something that is not from God, my spirit man will scream at me through unsettled instincts. Whenever I don't listen to that, God will send spiritual interference to get my attention. This time he sent it through my body and my emotions because he knew the interruptions to my work would aggravate me enough to stop and ask questions. Ranting questions, but questions none the least.
The answers to those questions led me to remember my experience with the books and transfer the principles I learned there to my blog. The pressure of trying to get so much done in such a short time choked my ability to write much of anything. Since this deadline was not from God, it opened the door for spiritual interference (aka warfare) to make it even harder for me to get anything done, which then opened the door to stress and feelings of failure. In light of this understanding, I decided to push the deadline back another 6 weeks, which was more than enough time for me to get everything done. Just as I had with the books, I saw immediate results in my productivity.
As much as it was great to finally understand how important it is for me to have an abundance of time to get things done, this was now the second time I'd run into this issue of self-induced pressure. I wanted to know why, especially since I'd never had a problem with being down to the wire before. As a matter of fact, I was, at one point, the queen of waiting to the last minute because I knew that I would get whatever it was done in the least amount of time needed with the utmost excellence. So why all of a sudden was I struggling with tight deadlines? As per usual, the investigation led back to my childhood.
In my journey of self-discovery, I have repeatedly run into the revelation that I was raised in fear: fear of rejection, fear of abandonment and fear of extreme punishments. Since the basis of my childhood was fear, it meant that the motivation behind everything I did was fear based. I got good grades and had good behavior out of fear. I also executed my chores better than anyone else in the house out of fear. Not only that, there were several occasions where the things we were asked to do in the house were under a strict time limit. I still remember the red and white stop watch my dad put in the middle of the kitchen. If whatever he asked us to do wasn't done by the time it went off, we were met with a punishment that often didn't fit the weight of whatever we had done or didn't do.
Well if I am nothing else, I am a survivor. I will get whatever I need to get done by any means necessary if it means I won't get into trouble. This fear based thinking gave birth to crucial thought processes and behaviors, two of which directly affected the way I approach my work.
The first thought process is fear motivating everything I do meant that I did things not because I wanted to but because I had to. Anything I had to do, because there was a consequence if I did not, was done in sheer, unadulterated excellence, no matter what I had to sacrifice to get it done. In contrast, anything that was not an absolute necessity, was hard for me to focus on, be consistent with and or finish. Without the dragon of fear breathing down my neck, I didn't know how to push myself. The second thought process was a natural default to procrastinate. I had been groomed to get things done under pressure. No pressure. No productivity. As soon as pressure arose, like a deadline, I could get whatever it was done because I was in familiar territory. With fear apart of the situation, I now had the only tool that had ever motivated me. (I would like to note that all of this thinking was lodged in my subconscious. If it hadn't been for God giving me an uncanny need to understand my psychology, I would've never figure this out.)
So how does the above translate to present day? Fast forward to my twenties and my struggle to work out consistently. From ages four to eighteen, I played basketball and ran track. Practice was my constant source of motivation to work out. I would be on the bench if I didn't take conditioning seriously. Now that I no longer play sports, I struggle to go to the gym consistently. One, because my natural body type is fit and somewhat toned, no matter what I eat or how often I don't work out. Two, because there is no one around to make me workout and I do not have the threat of falling out of shape to motivate me either. Now I'm stuck in a place where I have to figure out how to motivate myself to go to the gym without the negative reinforcement I'm use to.
In the last year, I've noticed this same struggle with reading and many of the other things I find myself wanting to do, including this blog. I don't have to write this blog, but I want to. I've never had more peace about anything else in my life besides writing my book. Only God knows how much I want to be consistent with this blog and my commitment to my readers. The thing is, God absolutely refuses to make me do anything out of fear. So now, he's teaching me to be motivated without it and instead be motivated by joy and peace. If I'm honest, this new source of motivation is still not something I'm use too.
It feels strange, wrong even, to do things just because I want to. I'm still struggling to use peace as my sign or marker that something is from God. It's like if I don't feel uncomfortable I don't trust it as much, as if this happiness is too good to be true. God is having to retrain me to trust peace, joy, and desire instead of frustration, sacrifice, discomfort and fear. It sounds crazy but think about it. Most of the time fear doesn't feel like fear. It feels like failure. It feels like you're not good enough, smart enough, strong enough or fast enough. It feels like what will people think of me now. It feels like "well I should be like this or I should have done that..." Fear doesn't feel like you're trembling. It feels like inadequacy. It feels like a plague of what if's.
If I'm going to be successful one day, fear can no longer be my motivating factor. I have to learn to be motivated by God's peace. The peace I'm referring to is not the supernatural peace of God. While I have, at times, felt that kind of peace, the kind of peace I'm referring to is the peace of God that comes from his wisdom about myself or a situation.
Right now he's putting peace behind my motivation simply by teaching me about myself. For instance, I tend to be more motivated to do something when I have more time to do it. Laundry? If I give myself a specific laundry day, it'll take me forever and 36 years to get it done. If I give myself the whole weekend to get it done, it'll be done before the weekend is over. Reading? Now that I've taken the reading regiment away, I read much more than I ever would've assigned myself. I'm back to being excited about reading and actually look forward to it again. Suddenly, the motivator is the joy I find when I read, not fear.
The same is true with this blog. My motivation behind the blog is the joy I find and the peace I have when I'm writing, since writing is, in fact, my primary gift. Giving myself an unnecessary amount of time to get it done keeps the stresses of deadlines away. That in turn takes the pressure off and gives me the room to enjoy the process of writing. So last Friday, when I said I was fighting for my joy in my "I have a dream" speech, I meant...I'm not fighting at all. That's how the peace of God works. He's giving it back one lesson of self-discovery at a time.
Now let's talk! What are somethings you do out of fear? Where in your life has fear robbed your joy? Comment below!