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What kind of House will you build with your Life?

Updated: Apr 13, 2022

A metaphor for moving past fear.

So, I've been asked to do a number of "scary" things lately.

I'll be honest with you, it's left me feeling really vulnerable.

For one, I just published an article on Singapore Kindness Movement's online publication, The Pride, last week.

I shared some very personal things on there - things like loneliness and my experience with mental illness in the past.

I have no idea what their readership is like, but the thought of strangers reading my story left me feeling uncomfortable.

I know, I know, I do write about similar stuff on this blog already. Yet, somehow it just feels different you know?

Kinda like, it's out of my control.

I can't simply delete it if I don't like it - that sort of thing.

Then there are a few talks I have lined up ahead of me - a few with various student groups and another at a hospital.

Jeez. It's been a while since I've had to give a talk - and it'll be the first time I'm ever giving a talk about my mental health struggles at that.

My mind is already conjuring up all the things that can go wrong.

As usual, it's up to no good.

It's created a few scenarios in my head already - students that are bored and yawning, perhaps even booing me off the stage. Healthcare professionals with their arms crossed wondering who the hekkin' is this dude and who is he to give me this talk?

It's scary to think about that indeed.

Yet, like I've written about in many of my Acceptance and Commitment Therapy articles, there's a reason my mind is doing this.

It's just trying to protect me.

It wants to stop me from exposing myself, along with all my flaws and vulnerabilities to the world, where I'm open to all kinds of criticisms and judgments:

"Are you trying to get yourself in trouble? Don't be daft! Get back here!"

Yet, as much it's nice to retreat back into my little shell where I can feel safe and protected, I know that's not going to take me any closer to what I want to do with my life.

And not any closer to what matters most to me too.

I'll be forsaking my dreams of a Singapore where mental health will no longer be a taboo topic - but a topic of resilience and suffering overcome.

Yup. By doing so, I'll be closing off one avenue to reach out to more people and help them out too.

What are your fears getting in the way of?

Just like me, I'm sure you have had plenty of scary things you've had to face in your life.

Fear is very much part of our daily lives. Here's a list of some of the things that are commonly scary to do:

  • Giving a presentation and sharing your ideas and vision.

  • Auditioning or pitching for something you're really interested in.

  • Moving from a cushy job to an unfamiliar new one.

  • Being promoted with new responsibilities.

  • Deciding to pursue your passion but worrying you might fail.

  • Putting yourself out there to make new friendships, even searching for a future life partner.

Usually, it involves any kind of new or unfamiliar experience or environment.

Our minds really relish the idea of certainty. Certainty keeps us safe. Yet, the things our mind wants us to be "certain" about are usually outside of our control.

We can't control the future.

We can't control what others might think of you.

As much as I want to, I can't predict how the students or hospital staff I have to give the talk to will react.

No doubt, fear is scary. I guess that's what fear means in the first place.

Yet in the effort to protect ourselves from this scary idea of "uncertainty", have you ever wondered:

"What are your fears getting in the way of?"

Fear leads us to avoid the experiences we truly desire.

I could very well politely decline to give the talk if I really wanted to.

It makes sense doesn't it - it's scary and it makes me feel uncomfortable - why would I want to have anything to do with that?

Yet, I know deep down that giving these talks will also get me closer to what I want to do with my life. It will help me reach out to more people, to help them and share what I do too.

It's a meaningful thing for me to do.

Just the same as it is for you - whether it's about going for a job interview, taking a new job, meeting a new person, or giving a talk too - sure, you could listen to your fears and not go ahead too.

Stay in that comfort zone or little shell if you wish.

But you and I both know this, giving into fear narrows down the options available to you.

It halts your life progress and takes you away from the meaningful life you imagined yourself to have.

I really want to share a metaphor about fears. It's one I revisit for myself, and share with my clients too.

Here goes.

What kind of house will you build with your life?

Just imagine for a moment that our life is a house that we build up ourselves and live in.

Of course, like all houses, this house needs to be build with materials.

Bricks are an obvious building material we can use, and in our case, we can equate bricks to our life experiences.

Just like real life experiences, some bricks are nicer than others - while other bricks are dirty, or look a bit unstable, or even downright scary to touch.

When we avoid our experiences, it's a bit like building a house on nice bricks only. We avoid the other bricks because we don't want to go near them.

Yet, if we only build our house with the nice bricks, what do we end up with?

A much smaller house, compared to a much larger house if we had used all the other bricks.

As nice and as comfortable as this house is, it merely fits us. It doesn't allow room for many other people. It's also quite bland, telling a story about how we've lived comfortably - yet comfortable is boring isn't it?

Still, every time we want to go look out for other nice bricks to make our house bigger, those other nasty bricks are still lying all around us. They force us to retreat back to our little tiny home.

What if we learned to used the other bricks - as dirty, scary, unstable or even nasty as they look?

Wouldn't we be opening up our life to more experiences? Wouldn't our house allow for much more room and diversity?

Wouldn't it allow us to look at the house we've build and be proud of what we've achieved?

I shared this metaphor with a smart, young person recently - she asked a really good question.

She says,

"The metaphor makes sense but what if those ugly bricks make my house unstable or worse crumble and fall? I would rather live in a tiny stable house than a shaky wobbly huge house right?"

"If it's just ugly bricks, it might still be acceptable but not scary unstable bricks I suppose?"

Gosh, that's a great thought and good question too. Here's what we decided upon together.

Whether ugly or unstable, the answer is still the same. Because those bricks look so ugly, scary to touch and unstable, we don't even go near them.

We avoid the experiences - just like how I can choose to avoid giving those talks.

Yet, I'm sure you might have had an experience like the below before:

Have you ever went ahead and did something you thought was going to downright horrible, but you tried it out and it wasn't as bad as you thought?

Perhaps you even found that you enjoyed it?

(She said yes btw)

Anyway, just like those experiences, we have the opportunity to reshape the ugly and unstable bricks - but that will only happen if we can go near them in the first place and pick them up.

Otherwise, those bricks / experiences will forever remain ugly and unstable.

We'd never know if we never gave them a chance.

So really, what kind of house would you want to build with your life? Have a think my friend.

That's why as scary as it is, I'm going to forge ahead with the talks - in the hope that the people I share my story with will one day be able to share their story openly too.

For now, wish me luck :) hopefully it'll create more bricks for me to keep building that house of mine.

Thanks for reading this little article. I hope you're enjoying your one and only life over there. Go on then, do meaningful things with your life k? Take care, Hernping.


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