“For most gulls, it is not flying that matters, but eating. For this gull, though, it was not eating that mattered, but flight.” (Jonathan Livingston Seagull).
This is the story of Jonathan, a seagull different from all the birds in his flock. He is so passionate about flying that he dedicates all his time to flying training, to find strategies to fly faster and faster. His speed improves in time from 90 miles an hour to 200 miles per hour, the fastest a gull has ever flown! Celebrating his 200 miles/hour achievement, he speeds up flying through his own flock. Nobody in the flock got hurt. But after Jonathan shares the incredible flying knowledge he has gained with his species, he was called before the Gull Council and was banished from the flock under the accusation of “reckless irresponsibility when flying”.
There is a little Jonathan in each of us. Maybe you wanted to become an astronaut, a painter, a filmmaker, a writer, and someone told you are not good enough to do it, or that you won’t have any money to pay for your rent if you pursue that woo-woo idea you cared so much about. Maybe you were keen on quitting your job to do something closer to your heart, to follow your purpose and you gave up because your family did not support you. At least once in a lifetime, each of us has given up on something – a passion, an idea, a dream, a wish because of the social pressure and expectations. You might have blamed it on the ‘Council of the flock’. But actually, I think it was you.
I believe you are your worst enemy. Although I am not denying the social pressure and what a difference can make a supportive social system or family, I believe you are often the harshest critic of yourself. You allow speaking to yourself in ways you would never speak to others. You look into the mirror and you say to yourself words you would never dare to say to your closest friend. You put blame, pressure, junk food, sleepless nights, overtime onto yourself like you would do to no other. And then you still want to fly higher and higher towards your dream?
Now that you know who is your worst enemy, you have the chance to stop whatever harm you notice you do to yourself.
Notice your self-talk. And if it’s junk, just change it, making it encouraging, friendly and loving. Before that job interview, before that meeting, before an important date, just say what you would say to your best friend. You can do it, you’ve got this.
Notice the actions you take towards yourself. What media has taught us is self-care – going for a massage, to the hairdresser, buying an expensive anti-wrinkle or taking a bubble bath – might be just what money can buy for a superficial self-care (questioning the ads I see now!) Go for depth self-care, like talking enough sleep, going for a run or for any type of exercise you enjoy, giving your body nutritious food, giving your brain some helpful learning, getting out for some free fresh air, taking breaks at work, write encouraging words on post-it and stick them all around your house, spend some time in silence (is cost $0!).
You know, the exclusion of Jonathan from the flock is not the end of the story. It is actually just the beginning of it. He does not criticise himself for aiming to fly faster. He is not blaming himself for being different, hence wrong. He goes and meets a group of more advanced gulls who, just like him, fly for the joy of it, not just for eating.