I had some big plans for 2020; 2020, particularly COVID-19 had other plans. While my experience with virus and pandemic has largely been from the sidelines thus fair, it’s not fair to say I haven’t been affected. I’m fortunate enough to not have had any family members affected, and my job has let me transition to full-time work from home status without missing a beat. Having said that, my job has a decent amount of down time throughout the day and is slowing down as summer approaches. That means I have a lot of time for other projects and self-reflection. And I have self-reflected that I have a lot of bad habits. These are the 3 main things (and bad habits I need to kick) I’ve learned about myself during COVID-19 that extend beyond how to properly wash your hands.
1. I’m no longer comfortable with silence.
A few weeks ago, I took a serious look at my screen time and media consumption. I knew it’d be high; I use my phone for a lot—alarms, googling, calculator, audiobook player, etc. Honestly, it wasn’t as high as I had anticipated, and I was impressed with myself … until I realized: If I’m not on my phone, I’m on my laptop. If I’m not on my laptop, I’m watching TV. Don’t forget my work laptop I’m on 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. And sometimes, somehow, I’m on all 4 at once.
Realistically, aside from mindless scrolling, my devices are being used throughout the day as some sort of noise. From the minute I wake up, I’m listening to something. I like to catch up Youtube videos while I’m getting ready in the morning, audiobooks and podcasts while I’m doing chores around the house, and while I’m working, I put on a TV show that’s familiar but not distracting while I work. I’ve realized I don’t have any quiet time.
On one hand it’s upsetting that I’ve become so far removed from the sounds of nature, living slowly, and being alone with myself. But on the other hand, I love content, particularly productive content. I love consuming new information, researching, supporting other creators. But I also am finding I need to spend time with myself to be productive as well—to contemplate, gather, and articulate my feelings and emotions; to not only brainstorm new ideas but to brainstorm systems to make those ideas realities. And the reality of my current situation is that I’m consuming content but not creating content, because I’m not alone with myself long enough to do it.
2. My inner voice is not nice.
Previously I said I’m not alone in silence with myself often; however, working from home means I am by myself a lot of the time. And if I thought my inner voice was a major B before social distancing, she took steroids to prepare for this alone time.
I have always sprinkled a little self-deprecating humor into my daily life, because I think a good self-roast is humbling and, honestly, a little funny. But lately, I’ve been able to take a step back and notice the way I’m speaking to myself and the way my inner voice speaks to myself. And it’s not something I can sustain long term, so I am actively trying to change it.
During COVID-19, with the help of therapy, I have noticed how often I’m asking myself questions like “What’s the point,” “Why bother?” and saying things like “That’s a stupid idea,” “That’ll never come intro fruition,” and “You’re not going to do that thing justice.” Those aren’t 1.) healthy thoughts to have about yourself or 2.) productive thoughts.
I’ve learned that if I continue to let my inner voice of late dictate the trajectory of my life, I will do nothing and generally never feel satisfied, fulfilled, happy – you know, all of those good adjectives that we all want to feel. Changing the dialogue with myself about myself is something I have to intentionally and actively address.
3. I wasn’t busy before. I was making excuses.
I think the biggest revelation or thing I’ve learned about myself recently is I wasn’t busy before COVID-19, I was just making excuses to not do things I knew I needed to do. One of my goals for 2020 was to change how I defined being busy and being productive, and while I have done a good job with that, I am still using “being productive” as an excuse to not do other things.
Sure, the house does need cleaned, and cleaning it is a productive way to pass time. However, the house being cleaned isn’t more important than addressing relationship issues, addressing mental health issues, and exercising and creating other healthy lifestyle habits. I make a list of everything I need to do and then pick and choose the sexiest and easiest of those line items and leave the hard stuff that takes real effort for another time. Because nobody wants to do the hard stuff. We want to do the things that enable us to tick the most boxes, so we can say we are busy and productive. But is a clean house going to get me where I want to be in the next 5 years? Probably not. Will sitting down to file for financial aid so I can start grad school help me get to that place? Yes.
Since I’ve had an increased amount of time to spend with myself thanks to COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines, I’ve had an increased amount of time to realize my bad habits, habits that are honestly holding me back. I have become uncomfortable with silence because being alone with myself is scary, because my inner voice is mean and scary, and all of that combined has caused me to make excuses for why I’m not doing what I need to be doing. Thanks COVID-19.
About Jacquelyn Brooks
Jacquelyn is a true crime junkie who daylights as a digital marketer, freelance content creator. She owns and operates The Lipstick Narratives, a beauty and lifestyle blog designed to help transition editorial living to everyday life. But all of that is really just code for “Millennial trying her best.” You can follow Jacquelyn on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.