Pictured: Me. And probably another version of me.
I had a realisation this weekend. Well, that's not entirely true; a "realisation" makes it sound like it was something I didn't know, beforehand. In actual fact, what happened this weekend was merely that I came to appreciate something that I already knew about myself.
I am an analytical person. When something happens, I like to think about why, how and what it all means. Great for when some major emotional event takes place. Not so brilliant when you're lying in bed at 1am, trying to work out what the previous night's random toilet-related dream might have been trying to tell you.
Probably that that extra drink before bed was a bad idea...
For years, I worried about my analytical brain. And then I pondered why I was worried about it and what that said about my psyche, because of course I did. I figured that I was reading too much into everything that went on in my life, when I ought to just let some things go. After all, surely not everything happens for a reason?
But if I was being a tad over-analytical, over the years, I started to realise that it wasn't actually such a bad thing. Sure, I need to stop obsessing over some silly things (I'm pretty sure that "Z" at the end of a friend's recent text message was a typo, rather than a confession that she is, in fact, Zorro), but being analytical has its benefits. Especially when you apply that analytical mind to yourself and your own behaviour.
I recently wrote an open letter to EL James, inspired by her point-blank refusal to listen to any of the many survivors of abuse who recognise their experiences being romanticised in her Fifty Shades trilogy. My frustration was that EL seems entirely incapable of critiquing her work, of taking other opinions on board, or of looking at her own behaviour in a critical manner. And that's a pretty major problem.
Okay, so I over-analyse myself. I don't need to obsess over whether I smiled warmly enough at that random old lady in the Co-Op, yesterday. I shouldn't be fretting over whether something I said in jest might have been taken seriously, weeks after the event, when nobody has mentioned it since...
You're so wise, Elsa...
...but I think that being able to analyse my own behaviour - to openly admit to my wrongdoings and to understand why I feel the way I do about things - is massively important.
When you actually look at the way you behave and why, you start to understand yourself on a whole new level. Very quickly, one realisation will lead to another, until you begin to feel as though you're getting to know yourself in a way you never did before. If there are aspects of your personality that you're not mad-keen on (a short temper, for example), you can work out what causes them and put measures in place to lessen their effect.
This weekend, I reached the conclusion that I only still have the kind of celebrity crushes you're supposed to grow out of by the age of 14 because, despite being nearly 4 years down the line, I'm keenly aware that my last relationship was abusive and I'm terrified of putting myself in a position where I might get hurt again. Best way to fall for someone and ensure they can't hurt you? Fall for a celebrity. And if you want an absolute cast-iron guarantee that they can't do anything to cause you pain, you can always fall for a dead celebrity (I know; you can't judge me any more than I judge myself at this point...).
Reaching that realisation and being honest with myself about it was a turning point for me; I also realised that I can't build walls around myself forever and that some day, I'm going to have to trust someone enough to take a leap of faith. It's something I desperately want to do, so I'm prepared to work on my own weirdness in order to do it.
Analysing our own behaviour helps us to understand the choices we make and, crucially, how the things we do might affect other people. When we don't bother to think about what we're saying or doing and why, we're rather selfishly believing ourselves to be above criticism or challenge.
I don't think for a second that it would be healthy to go around analysing every single thing we do in our day to day lives. That's what insomnia is for, after all... But we should be looking at why we behave the way we do and whether we need to change something in order to make life easier for ourselves and the people around us. If we don't challenge ourselves from time to time, how will we ever learn to respond to criticism from others? The answer is that, much like EL James, we simply won't. We'll believe ourselves to be above reproach and we'll stubbornly refuse to change the way we do anything.
So, the next time you can't sleep because you're fretting over whether you should have eaten the last chip at lunch, or whether you ought to have offered it to a friend, then for goodness sake, close your eyes and forget about it.
But when you're wondering whether you could have spoken in a nicer tone to someone, or whether you should have listened more to that person who chose you as a shoulder to cry on, maybe that is worth thinking about in more detail. Maybe by analysing ourselves just a little more than we do, we can learn how to be the best versions of ourselves possible.
And now I'm going to click "publish" and overthink every single word I've written...