Brain fog. Dammit.
I’ve been feeling foggy for the last few weeks. I don’t exactly know what’s happening, but I feel like it may be a combination of a few different things.
I started my summer job in beautiful Ásbyrgi in north-east Iceland about a week ago. As a park ranger, my work is pretty physically intense, with a lot of hiking, maintenance of the park and all kinds of physical labor.
I love being outside so much and working with my hands, but going from doing basic bodyweight exercises every day to the kind of intensive work I’m doing here has left me pretty physically depleted.
My first day of work was about a week ago, then the next day I flew south to Reykjavík to attend my grandmother’s funeral and then flew back north in the evening. On top of that, I had been asked to play and sing The Beatles’ Let it be, as per my grandmother’s request.
Everything went well in the end, but it really managed to stress me out. Then straight back to work. Now I have a few days off, and I’m absolutely exhausted. Mentally and physically.
I have a pretty strong inclination to perfectionism, which causes me no end of consternation. That means that when I’m feeling off or out of energy, I usually beat myself up for being “lazy” or “unproductive”.
This is really something that I’ve been conscious of for a long time, and I do my best to be aware of it as it happens, but it still manages to catch me by surprise.
Make no mistake, perfectionism is not a virtue.
I would go so far as to call it poisonous. To someone who doesn’t feel the need to achieve perfection, it may seem like a good trait to have. After all, more energy is certainly spent on “perfecting” projects or whatever you may be doing.
However, what’s not obvious is the inner lambasting and criticism associated with perfectionism.
In fact, I believe perfectionism can’t exist without a strong inner critic. A voice inside, however subtle it may be, that just doesn’t leave you alone, that doesn’t allow you to actually finish anything. That doesn’t allow you to take a break because then you would be “wasting time”.
So that brings me to my predicament today. I’m fogged up in the brain. Misty-minded. Temporarily cognitive disability. All right, maybe not that bad, but still pretty unpleasant.
Unpleasant isn’t even the right word. Confusing is more apt.
I think everyone knows brain fog to some extent. We feel it when we don’t get enough sleep, when we experience a crash after too much caffeine or sugar, or after watching too much mindless TV. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s no fun either.
Brain fog is certainly not compatible with perfectionism.
I’ve written about the inner critic, or inner judge, on a few occasions before, and I’ve made it no secret that I see nothing positive about it. Inner criticism is never constructive. It may seem like it is, but the negatives outweigh the positives.
Whatever you may accomplish thanks to incessant inner judging is shadowed by the stress and anxiety it produces.
What really helped me turn the tables on the inner judge is twofold. The simple awareness of the fact that judgment is occurring is the first step. Nothing can be done without awareness.
The second step is to remove permission for judgment. The way I do this is by finding the indignant, angry, even offended feeling within me and directing it to the judgment. I literally tell it (mentally) to get the hell out of my mind, you have no right to judge me, or even to just fuck off.
Do not try to argue with the judgment. That only confirms the judge’s permission to, well, judge you. And besides, you can’t win. After all, the inner judge is really another aspect of yourself.
Where attention goes, energy flows.