This isn’t my typical science literacy or health education post. This is something that I’ve had on my mind a lot lately, and I felt the need to put it into words and share it here.
Here it is.
Stop compartmentalizing your life.
What do I mean by compartmentalization? By definition, to compartmentalize something is to divide it into sections or categories.
We all do it.
We act in different ways around different people. For instance, do you act the same way in front of your family that you do in front of your friends?
Do you expect that your behaviors on the weekend won’t affect your overall well-being during the week?
Do you mentally separate the people you talk to on social media from the people you meet in real life? Better yet, do you mentally separate the person that YOU ARE on social media with the person you are in real life?
In general, compartmentalizing your life is to suppress your emotions in different situations, no matter what the reason might be in said situation. But the way I see it, compartmentalization can also be mentally, physically, or behaviorally separating your personality into different sections, depending on the situation.
Let me be the person (maybe not the first) to tell you that THIS DOESN’T WORK. You are not many people. You are one person.
Decisions that you make in one area of your life are sure to impact another area of your life.
I’m no psychologist, but I do understand that my decisions one day will affect the outcome on another day sometime in the near or distant future.
Everything is connected. Don’t believe me?
Have you ever tried to suppress your drama from work while at home, but everyone in your household keeps asking you what’s wrong?
Have you ever tried to suppress the stress you’re experiencing at home while at work, but you can’t seem to get anything productive done?
Have you ever tried to lose weight, but you’re so overwhelmed with anxiety from something else that everything you try doesn’t seem to work?
Let me give you a personal story. You might already know it, so I’ll keep it brief. I am a graduate student, and I also like to hit the gym a few times per week. About two years ago, I compartmentalized who I was at the gym and who I was during the day in the lab. I thought I could keep my lab life and my gym life separate from one another, because that’s what I was comfortable with.
Eventually, my motivation in the lab started to decrease, and I became increasingly obsessed with working out. I had to find some sort of connection between the two. I needed to stop compartmentalizing my emotions that stemmed from the research lab or my poor body image.
Once I realized (over time, not overnight) that I am also a scientist when I design my gym/nutrition experiments (workouts and macros), I was able to reconcile my time in the lab with my time in the gym.
I started enjoying research again. I was able to stop obsessing so much over my next meal. I started to see how each part of me was related to the other.
While this is a minor example, there are ways that it can be more consequential.
Take it from me though, you cannot expect an outcome in one area of your life to be completely unaffected by decisions made in other areas of your life.
To put this into a positive context, you should always be looking for opportunity everywhere. Something that is seemingly unrelated to your goal might help you further down the road.
You should constantly be wondering, “How will the choice I make today affect my future self?”
I’ll end with a quote…
Where you are a year from now is a reflection of the choices you choose to make right now.