During Quarantine, I Learned More About Myself – Here’s How I’m Letting that Improve My Life
During Quarantine, I Learned More About Myself – Here's How I'm Letting that Improve My Life
We’ve heard it over and over again: This global pandemic is an unprecedented time.
But a lot of what we’ve learned about ourselves during this time is unprecedented, too.
Regardless of whether we’re happy about what we’ve learned about ourselves and how we’ve changed, we can actively improve our lives in some way. We begin to understand ourselves better, and our new understanding isn’t something to be ignored. Below are four examples of what I’ve learned about myself.
(1) I’m more of an introvert than I thought I was – and that’s okay.
Every time I take the Myers-Briggs personality test, I get a different result. I grew up thinking I was an introvert. I loved spending time with my friends, but it also made me anxious sometimes; I definitely didn’t mind spending a Friday night watching Netflix in bed. I could only handle so much time around other people no matter how much I liked them.
Once I came to college, however, I was constantly around people and making new friends. Instead of feeling relieved when I was alone, I felt lonely, sad and tired. I began to identify as an extrovert, which made me feel more confident in myself. I had this misunderstanding that extroverts are somehow better, more successful and more likeable.
After some time spent in quarantine, though, I’ve realized the value in spending some time by myself or with just one other person. I’ve realized that extroverts aren’t necessarily better, just different. I can watch shows I’m interested in that others may not enjoy. I can chill out without worrying what to say or dealing with social anxiety. I can read in the bath, one of my favorite things to do to relax. It’s okay to enjoy these things; it’s okay to be an introvert.
Author Jill Geisler expounds upon the idea that introverts are just as valuable as extroverts in her book Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know. Now, when I want to hang out with myself or when I’m quiet in a meeting, I understand why and don’t feel bad.
(2) The pressure to always be busy is external.
Especially during quarantine, we’re receiving messages from mainstream media and social media that now is the time to gain new skills, create, clean or be thinner or stronger. As a recent college graduate, I’ve received many emails from my alma mater, UNC-Chapel Hill, listing online trainings that will supposedly make me more employable. Facebook is covered with workout videos and people worrying about the “Quarantine 15.” Further, I feel like everyone is becoming an entrepreneur or freelancer now, selling art or their services.
I get caught up in this too. I feel a constant urge to apply for jobs, to write extra pieces, to “Marie Kondo my house” more. I once stayed awake til 3:30 a.m. writing articles to pitch to online magazines.
While engaging in these activities isn’t inherently bad, we don’t have to worry about doing them all the time.
Living in a global pandemic with a lot of unknowns is stressful enough. It’s okay to be gentle and have grace with ourselves. It’s okay to take advantage of this period when we have more time to relax.
If it’s hard to remember or convince yourself of this, reach out to someone you trust and can listen to. I often have to trust other people when they remind me of the importance of sleep and to not overwork myself, because the pressures I’m feeling aren’t my own.
Self-improvement tips are everywhere on social media and I often get caught up in them, feeling guilty if I’m not consciously trying to better myself. However, existing in a global pandemic is stressful enough, so I’m refusing to let those feelings of guilt remain. I’m trusting those whom I love who say that these self-improvement pressures are unnecessary and not mine.
I am worthy even when I’m not making money, and I deserve to take care of myself.
Moving forward, I will remind myself when I’m tired that I’m allowed to take breaks. I will remind myself that it is okay to delete the LinkedIn app when I’m looking at it too often and feeling inadequate in comparison to others. I will remind myself that it is okay to be who I am rather than feeling the need to constantly “better” myself according to society’s unreachable standards.
I want to trust others when my self-talk isn’t enough.
(3) Sometimes, the things we avoid out of discomfort aren’t so awful after all, and self-talk is crucial in pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones.
I usually text people since phone calls make me uncomfortable most of the time. Calling makes me anxious for whatever reason and texting often seems more convenient given people’s different schedules and attention.
However, being in quarantine, I’ve missed my friends so much that I’ve talked myself into phone calls. And I’ve actually enjoyed them.
I also prefer sleeping in whenever possible. I love and am in the habit of being a night owl. However, as I’ve lived with people who wake up early and I find myself unable to go back to sleep, I’ve learned that getting up early isn’t all that bad. I’m able to get my work out of the way so I can spend the rest of the day relaxing.
I want to remember that I’m strong enough to go out of my comfort zone, and that phone calls and waking up early aren’t the worst after all. My relationships are worth phone calls; my relaxation is worth waking up a little earlier.
(4) We aren't alone in any of our worries or failures.
Despite living in a world with over seven billion people, I’ll still feel alone sometimes. I’ll feel like I’m the only person with a certain problem or the only person getting rejected.
We can be alone in our togetherness. But we can also be together in our aloneness.
This quarantine has really shown me how not alone I am. I’m not the only person struggling to find a job during a global pandemic. I’m not the only person who worries that re-opening the state too soon will exacerbate my social anxiety. I’m not the only person who feels alone but isn’t.
It’s understandable and common to feel these ways, and it’s impossible to be truly alone in a world with so many people. Going forward, I want to keep this in mind when I’m feeling doubtful and insecure, choosing instead to lean into those moments when I realized I wasn’t alone after all.
Some of the traits I’ve learned about myself have contradicted the person I thought I was for many years. Sometimes our situations can give us the willpower to push past our fears or discomforts; for example, I would rather push past the anxiety of a phone call so I can further my relationships with my friends.
Don’t be afraid to realize who you are – or at least who you are now. And don’t be afraid when you change.
During your quarantine, think about what you’ve learned about yourself. Lean into your changed self, and move forward in ways that benefit you most.