How-To Life | dp Blog Series
How to Fight Your Battles and Win Every Time
And they say you learn nothing of value from video games...
As I’ve fought through the trenches of my problems and personal baggage, one of the major truths that often stood as an obstacle to any solution offered by a friend often came as a whisper in the back of my mind:
‘You don’t know me. You don’t know what I’ve been through…’
In hindsight, these words were a knee-jerk instinct to push away anyone that offered to relate to the emotional injuries I’ve suffered. Those scars were mine and as much as I didn’t want to admit to it, I would sooner give in to my personal demons than let anyone else try to take a peek at my feelings in an attempt to fix them.
Thankfully, I’ve grown since then and realize that not all battles should have to be one-on-one boss fights.
Still, I had already experienced also enough to know that, much like most video games, even if you do have a team of support, backing you up with chain attacks, health potions, and regenerative spells, it’s ultimately your final blow that kills the beast.
You’re the one who’s in control of the game and main storyline.
I’ve poured through self-help books, articles and had one-on-one conversations hoping to find a
fail-safe outlined plan on how to effectively get rid of my inner demons once and for all so I could go on my merry way and live life without having to feel, think, or say the word “depression” ever again.
Still, the problem I had with most of these self-help philosophies was that they had a habit of laying out your life in compartmentalized chapters.
To illustrate my point, I invite you to take a pause and to visualize your problems. I’m not talking about the small everyday stuff. I’m talking about the major questions and worries that weigh in on your mind on a daily basis.
Your hugest insecurities.
Your biggest fears.
You deepest scars.
Your largest failures.
You’ll start to notice that some of these pains cross and affect each other by maybe a certain moment, person, or action.
Most self-help reads will open with, “This was my problem, this is how I dealt with it before, this is how I do it now, look at me go, you can do it too!”
No matter how relevant and valuable the content the author puts out is, it can’t be applied with the basic, two-part before-and-after thought process. Any problem under the sun could be answered with a simple solution. How’s that at all helpful?
Once you do overcome the first significant milestone of admitting you have a recurring problem (insert blank with your story here), you’re then awkwardly placed on a pedestal by the self-help community–
‘These are your demons; here are the tools; now fight!’.
You’re then expected to smother this monster characterized by everything you hate and fear with what worked for John Doe, but it may not fit exactly as well in your personal life-puzzle.
Spoiler alert: It’s not as formulaic as you may have thought.
I didn’t really get to throw any winning punches at my problems until I realized in the middle of it all (literally in the middle of one of my panic attacks, mid-sob) that most of everything that I had spent my energy fighting was just another monster in my head, looking for a weakness in my reasoning to strike and permanently reside in the back of my mind.
As I tried to turn my issues into a laundry list of bad things I needed to get rid of, they continued to subtly and quietly multiply without being immediately noticed. Kind of like a bloodthirsty hydra.
I became a slave to each and every one of my problems like a geek hooked on Skyrim.
Every morning, I’d wake up addressing each of my current battles, and if I didn’t get to one of them by the end of the day, I’d just get to it the next day.
The problem with that is that for most of our biggest problems often act as repeated ripples of just negative energy produced by a puzzle you haven’t fully figured out how to solve.
This is why it’s imperative that however we do decide to address our daily struggles, we make sure to do so with complete and unforgiving ownership.
To be clear, I don’t mean you should blame yourself for all the horrible things you’ve experienced. I'm saying you simply have to accept that only you can defeat the final boss.
There’s no prayer, medicine, sage advice, or breathing exercise that can do it on its own. These act more as supplements (like Magicka potions or level-up perks) that you, as the hero of your story, are free to choose to help you on your journey to defeat that hydra that’s been slowly draining your mortal soul.
Instead of giving you something to repeat in your mind that probably only means something to me and nothing to you, I invite you to own your own routine, because only you know what works best for you.
What motivates you.
What inspires you.
What gets you going again.
You may still be at the point where you’re still thinking to yourself, ‘ I don’t know what inspires me…’ and that’s alright. Much like a hero in an RPG, you need to level up and find out your strengths before you head over to defeat the boss.
Some people prefer light armor over heavy armor because it makes them more stealthy and nimble.
Some people prefer battle axes over bows and arrows because they deal stronger blows in less time.
Some people prefer practicing mindfulness over going to a therapist because they’re an introvert, and not even a cozy couch can make them comfortable enough to share their issues with a certified stranger.
Catch my drift?
If there is anything that I can advise you on your personal journey to happier living, it’s this: Be a verb, not a noun.
“Oscar Wilde said that if you know what you want to be, then you inevitably become it — that is your punishment, but if you never know, then you can be anything. There is truth to that. We are not nouns; we are verbs. I am not a thing — an actor, a writer — I am a person who does things — I write, I act — and I never know what I am going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think yourself as a noun.”
Life isn’t a traffic light. It’s not as simple as good time, bad times, and ‘ehh’ times. We’re made up of more than just positives and negatives.
You’re made up of several experiences and emotions that paint the inner-you with several shades of human. Even though there have been approximately 108 billion people that have roamed our world, your individuality is still incredibly valuable.
Don’t let the monsters win by labeling yourself with a word.
You’re not defined by depression, anxiety, guilt, or the mistakes you make. You’re defined by how you choose to handle your human issues. So since you’re the rightful owner of your problems, you’re also the rightful owner of your solutions. Date yourself, love yourself, get to know yourself and level up if you haven’t gotten it figured out yet. It takes time; accept it.
Once you accept that these things take time, you’ll feel liberated. You’ll no longer be trying to finish levels while being timed, because it’s your own damn game, with your own boss levels as you go at your own comfortable pace.
If you rush to the boss fight without training, you’ll get brutalized, and joys will be sucked out of the game. Then you’ll stop playing the game altogether, and the hydra will be left to continue terrorizing your castle.
The world is filled with so many different ideas, philosophies, opinions, and approaches. Still, one thing we can all agree on is that we’re mortal and soon our story will end, with or without our bidding.
You owe it to yourself and the people you’d slay a dragon for to make the best out of each level.
When you do approach a new way to address the problems in your life, ask yourself these questions:
Be honest with yourself because no one knows you as well as yourself. Trust yourself. In all of the greatest stories, the heroes were only able to conquer beasts and villains because they believed they could, or at least understood the value in the result of doing so.
Frodo would have never made it all the way to Mordor without the loyalty and support of Sam, but it was his ultimate decision to fight Gollum off when it came to the actual action of casting the One Ring in the fire.
He could have let Gollum win in the very end. Putting myself in his perspective, I see the obvious temptation in giving in. I mean, of course, it’s less painful to let the bad guy win.
But this is your story.
You are the hero, and you get to write out your own path to slaying the problems in your life, whether still small and easy to ignore or the size of a twelve-headed hydra.
Some days will suck, but there’s no such thing as a story without challenges, even if you’re a level 50 illusion mage with carved Nordic armor.
I don’t have all the answers, but if there’s anything I could tell a fellow adventurer it’s this:
See yourself as the hero you are, and accept that even heroes lose battles sometimes. Once you do, you no longer have to worry about meeting anyone’s standards but your own; and when you do reach personal milestones or achievements, you’ll know it’s because you let yourself have it.
See, the amazing thing about taking true ownership of the demons you face is that you’re then enabling yourself to take true ownership of your achievements.
Growing up, I’ve played through Ocarina of Time with my brother’s help countless of times. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the game would never be as rewarding until I stopped passing off my controller to my big brother when it came to defeating Ganondorf in the final battle.
When I finally did come around to beat the game on my own, I quickly realized the complete satisfaction in slaying that red-haired villain all on my own with battle tactics that I had developed over time from observing more experienced gamers (including my brother).
I saved the day.
So can you.