In search of deeper meaning in our lives, we often look outwards and forget our true answers lie within. By 22 most of us have formed a view of who we are and what we are about. Although by this point much of ‘nurture’ has smothered out our true nature, and the picture we have – at best – looks a little blurry, if not totally obscured.
The great news is that, at any point in time (yes, even right now), you can make the decision to be who you were born to be . When I saw the #IfIWere22 series on LinkedIn Pulse I was excited by the prospect of exploring the question as part of the journey to uncovering the real you. Looking at your younger self through the lens of time can provide some wonderful clues to what lies beneath.
For me, 22 was probably the start of the journey I’m still on, though I didn’t know it at the time. I’d finished my postgraduate diploma the year before and had finally secured that first ‘proper’ job as a Training Assistant at a university in Scotland.
On my first day in that job I ended up in the emergency room of the local hospital, hooked up to an ECG machine. Embarrassingly, I’d had a full blown panic attack. This was said in such a way that I had no idea it was an actual condition. I thought the nurses were just fobbing me off, just as my doctor had been doing in the months before.
I’d gone to see my doctor complaining of chest pains and, after a few courses of antibiotics for what he’d diagnosed as a chest infection, he’d started treating me as a hypochondriac.
Now, in all my life I’d had very few health issues. As a teenager, I’d been a competitive swimmer and at my peak physically. To be told there was nothing wrong, when your heart is pounding out of your chest, your head feels like it literally has a vice grip on it, your vision goes and you just want to throw up, leads to all sorts of worries that creep into your mind. Especially as, in between these attacks, I had lost all my energy and had started to become almost completely housebound.
Thankfully this was 1994 and the internet was not yet at our fingertips, but I did know enough to freak out that I might be suffering from anything like a tumor to a heart attack, and even Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which was still being debated as to its legitimacy by medical professionals at that point. Finally, months later, a psychiatrist diagnosed Panic Disorder. Needless to say, I bought a book (Panic Attacks by Christine Ingham), learned about the condition and how to control what was happening.
In retrospect, I have learned much from this episode in my life, most poignantly it taught me the power of the mind and its effect on our physical condition. Of course, at that point I didn’t quite realise that the view I’d formed of myself was entirely created in my mind. It had been created from years of living in a certain culture, with parents and a wider family that had their own personality traits, beliefs and values. How you think of yourself is influenced by all of this, and by friends, adversaries, teachers, kids at school, sport club members, coaches, neighbours, on and on.
What I’d tell my 22 year old self is:
This article was originally published in LinkedIn.
photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/76284765@N00/6008333467">American Woman</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">(license)</a>
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