By Matt Hearnden

That thing you do that you don’t want to keep doing… what’s the benefit of doing it?

I told a mentor of mine that I was always living based on the expectations of others.

That was the first time I’d said it out loud. I knew something in me wasn’t quite… something. But I didn’t know what. I was out of tune with myself.

“The only reason people don’t know what to do is because they’ve forgotten how to listen to their unconscious mind.”

And then my mentor asked me a question.

“What’s the benefit of always living based on other people’s expectations?

What?

“I don’t know. There isn’t one…”

Of course there wasn’t a benefit. I was in pain. I wanted it to be different. I wanted my life to change. Cliché, maybe, but I do remember thinking that. And he was asking me if there was a benefit?

“You’re not listening to yourself.”

He was right. I never listened to myself. I’d forgotten how to do that.

Or was I just refusing to?

“I’m going to ask you again.”

I felt that little sharp warmth I feel when I’m nervous.

“Listen to yourself.”

It was a command.

But I was proud of myself because I thought “ok.” How long had it been since I’d let myself be ok with listening to my self?

“What’s the benefit of always living based on the expectations of others?”

I know “living based on the expectations of others” is a more complicated way of saying “doing what other people wanted me to do” but those were the words that had punished me. I’d forgotten they were just words. I’d forgotten I didn’t have to make them real.

“… so they’ll like me.”

Maybe that’s obvious to you. It’s obvious to me now.

But then? Wow. I’d finally turned into the sun.

“And what’s the benefit of them liking you?”

“… I’ll feel good.”

I was so uncomfortable. Talking about my secrets like this. I felt a charge of resentment for my mentor. I wanted to stop.

But wasn’t this what I wanted? Answers? An answer? The answer?

We kept going.

What’s the benefit of feeling good? I won’t feel shit.

What’s the benefit of not feeling shit? I won’t be unhappy.

What’s the benefit of not being unhappy? I won’t be unhappy.

What’s the benefit of not being unhappy? I won’t be unhappy.

That was probably frustrating and confusing to read.

Well, that’s how I felt. I kept being asked the same question. “What’s the benefit of not being unhappy?” I won’t be fucking unhappy, will I?! Man.

“You’re not listening to yourself again.” I’m grateful he knew I was close.

“What’s the benefit of not being unhappy?”

I went empty. Empty of fear. Empty of anything but the only thing that could come out of my mouth.

“… I’ll be happy.”

And then my eyes stung. And then I put my head down. And then, finally, I gave up.

I gave up not crying. I gave up holding on. I gave up the illusion that I’d been hurting myself.

And that word. Happy. It had been a long time since I’d said that word. Since I’d even thought about that word.

I was relieved.

Relieved that I did want to be happy, and I was trying to be happy, even though I wasn’t.

I was always living based on other people’s expectations because I wanted them to like me. I wanted them to like me because I’d feel good. I wanted to feel good because I wouldn’t feel shit. I didn’t want to feel shit because I didn’t want to be unhappy. I didn’t want to be unhappy because I wanted to be happy.

It’s logical for something so illogical. But, as my mentor said, emotions have their own logic.

So, ultimately, I was always living based on the expectations of others because I wanted to be happy.

When I realised that is when I realised that was ridiculous.

But not in a hard-on-myself way. In a kind-to-myself way.

I thought “well, that’s not going to make me happy. It isn’t making me happy.”

I thought “listening to myself is what will make me happy.”

So I started doing that.


That thing you do that you don’t want to do… what’s the benefit of doing it?

Because now you know there’s a benefit. Now you know you’re trying to be happy. Now you know answering the question will unleash you.

We always think we’re being kind to ourselves.

Think about every word in that sentence.

Do you believe it’s true?

I do.

When I’m living based on the expectations of others, when I seem to be sabotaging myself, when I’m being less than I know I am… it’s because I think I’m being kind to myself.

What does that mean for you? Does it mean that you can be kind to yourself about that thing you keep being hard on yourself for? Does it mean you can give up thinking “well that’s just who I am” and give in to thinking “aren’t I more than this?”

Whenever I ask myself “what’s the benefit of this?” and I don’t have an answer is when I’m not listening to myself.

When I won’t listen to myself.


I walked from my mentor’s office and out into the sun and towards the supermarket.

My head was higher than it had ever been. My chest was blooming. My steps were strides.

A guy was about to walk past me and I smiled at him.

He scowled.

I felt not fear, not nerves, not that he had any control over me, but pity.

Pity that he wasn’t feeling like I was feeling.

I smiled.

I walked towards the supermarket.

Towards the sun.

Towards me.

Finally.

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