Moods, States and Shifts: Being at ease in unfamiliar environments
It's my first day of lessons as an exchange student at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany. I was excited but extremely nervous. My first lesson began at 8.30am and even as I woke up an hour before that, I was still scrambling to make it to class on time. It didn't help that I didn't know the building well and got lost, leaving me panting and frantic. When I arrived, the class door was open and as I looked in, I was like "Oh my God." All the students seated inside were Germans. And even as I tried hard not too, I felt extremely self-conscious as the only Asian in the class. The peripheral seats in the room were taken, and so I forced myself to sit in the front, no matter how uncomfortable I was.
I felt like I was a messy sight: sweating, jittery, unsure of where to place my hands. I sat next to a girl who was talking animatedly to her friend in German. In fact, I felt like all the conversations around me were held in German. And I started feeling even more self-conscious: "Damn! My German sucks! I can't talk in German, my German is lousy."
The professor came in and announced that he will start only 5 minutes later to wait for the latecomers. So I started talking to the girl next to me and the moment we chatted (in German), I surprisingly felt calmer. That was when I realized that I judged myself to be inadequate and to not be able to fit in the moment I had arrived to the class. What did being the only Asian matter? It will only matter if I make it a point for it to. The self-consciousness I layered onto myself really stemmed clearly from my beliefs that I am not good enough.
In that 5 minutes we waited, I had the fortune of having some quiet time to myself to check-in on myself and ask myself why I'm feeling this way. I felt the pounding in my heart, the repeated "Oh No"s going through my mind. And I told myself to stay in this moment. Know that I am afraid. And to step out of it. To be larger than self.
It was the first lesson and we introduced ourselves. And as it got nearer to my turn to speak, my heart started beating furiously, and I started rehearsing lines in my head. I noticed these things and how afraid I was of making a fool of myself. But then I remembered the times during AsiaWorks where I stood up and spoke to a hundred people. This situation doesn't seem so bad anymore. I half-turned around, smiled as I introduced myself, and when I received smiles back, I felt calmer. I could feel the room a little more.
It's not easy being a foreigner in a foreign environment. With the lenses I hold (that I am different and do not belong), I constantly find evidence to justify my claim that yes, I do not belong. If I hear people speaking German, I think, "no way I can speak like them". If I see whites everywhere, I think "I am the only Asian". But yet, as I hold my lenses up so stubbornly, I conveniently forget that the times when I fit in - when I converse with people in German and have nice conversations with them, or when I go about my daily chores like buying groceries in the supermarket and I converse in German. Or my familiarity with the transport system.
You only see what you want to see. The lenses we see through influence our lives so much that we are largely unaware of it. That is why it is of paramount importance that we consciously step out of the comfort zone our lenses has provided to see things differently, and make conscious choices to do things differently.
This is the part I talk about moods, states and shifts in more detail. These are things I learned from the self-awareness workshops I've been to. Firstly, technically speaking, moods are temporary forms of being. We are in moods all the time - anger, sadness, anxiety etc. States are moods, long-term. The feeling of despair and emptiness for a long period of time brings to the fore the idea of depression. Shifts are the processes that come from powerful individual choices people make to feel and react differently to various circumstances.
Taking my previous example of the first lesson of school, I had felt anxious. That was the mood I was in. But when i had become aware of my concerns, fears and beliefs, I made the choice to accept these things going on with me and to be more confident and stable. That said, stability is not suppression. This is something I'm constantly grappling with. I want to be stable, but I don't want to suppress my feelings. Because it's unhealthy. And that is where honest check-ins with myself are useful:
Asking myself "What am I feeling? Why am I feeling this way?" Telling myself to stay in this moment and this feeling and thought that I have. Then again asking myself "Is this serving me? What would be good for me?" And then making a decision to feel or behave differently to a situation.
Being in the moment and feeling whatever I am feeling, be it good or bad, always helps me in making sure I am not suppressing my emotions and chucking them aside.
Practising 'shifting' of thoughts and feelings is something I strongly believe in. It is forward-looking, and prompts you at looking at possibilities. Yet, 'shifting' takes a great deal of practice. And only when we have honest conversations with ourselves and go "Hey, this isn't working", can we then start the uncomfortable but potentially life-changing process of 'shifting'.
Having moods is okay. But making the other choice to stay in a certain state, even as it is unhealthy, doesn't help matters.
Moods, States, Shifts.
For me, it was anxiety to calmness and stability (and with that I also gained confidence because now I can tell myself "I did this. I can do this again.")
I'm typing this as I wait for my next lesson. The wind is really cold out where I'm sitting so I'm gonna Shift now (haha, joke intended) and head indoors.
I will blog about my experiences in the recent trip to Italy I did soon.
Till then, ciao!