Avoidance of self-discovery.

As of writing, it has been over 12 months since I last sat in silence with my own thoughts. In hindsight, this is rather worrying. In my day to day, I am often overstimulated. I wake up and often check my emails in bed prior to the Formula 1 paced rush of getting ready for work. I should probably begin my preparation the night before by lining out my clothes and packing my bag. Yet, I never seem to do it.

After checking that the cooker is off about 5 times, my eyes focus on my headphones like a predator hunting prey. I never leave the house without my headphones on, embracing their comfort like the return of a long-lost lover. With this, music will play through my consciousness throughout much of the day. It could include mood lifting classics by Bob Marley and the Wailers, something with a bit of swagger like Green Onions by Booker T & The M.G’s, or something a bit more aggressive. However, during the work hours it usually encompasses stuff with a more repetitive tone to help me get into a motivational groove. Dance music in some description usually takes centre stage. Then it’s the – luckily minimal – walk to work. A day in the life of a scientist is always diverse. Creativity can crash through the brain like a tidal wave or trickle like a stream. It depends on the day. Staying up to date with the scientific literature is a crucial stimulant for new research ideas, even if they turn out to be too grandiose for our lifetime (teleporting coffee devices anyone?).

Generally, though, research takes up most of the day. Right now, my focus is aimed on the collection of protein samples following the stimulation of neuroimmune cells with various drugs, ranging from inflammatory inducers to chemotherapeutics. Although experimenting on cells in a dish is hardly reflective of the galactic scale of complexity that the human brain displays – after all, there are more neurons in the brain than stars in the milky way! – it is a crucial approach which can be fundamental to new discovery, including the identification of new proteins, or reporting new functions of previously classified ones. Expansion is possible of course, using stem cells derived from human patients – these cells are special. With the induction of a precise concoction of chemicals – ‘sugar spice and everything nice’ comes to mind… – stem cells can be differentiated into any type of human cell. Liver, kidney, muscular, neuronal. It is an invaluable tool for translatable research. However, when we need to look at systemic effects of disease – our lab primarily works on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease – whole organism models are vital. As such, mice are often the primary animal of choice, including for my own in vivo work.

Alongside this, additional weekly seminars, reading multiple manuscripts per week, two meeting per-week, preparing ideas for grant proposals, peer-reviewing other researchers’ manuscript while also preparing your own… phew. The time for lunch, let alone self-reflection, is incredibly limited. My music obsession helps me manage my workload more effectively. It assists in preventing my work following me home. Although, returning to lab to finish experiments during the twilight hours is not uncommon.

This passion for music continues into the evening, wherein my main hobby is to sit down and try my hand at making some tracks. While not an expert, I have been lucky enough to have some of my records signed to a few prestigious dance music labels. But what does this all equate to? It means the creativity brain doesn’t really stop. Even in times of physical exhaustion, when the trickling stream has dried up into an unquenchable drought, I try to continue.

So, when do I take time to reflect and process my own thoughts and emotions? Well, I think I have gradually grown to intentionally try and avoid it. A few weeks ago, I decided to give myself 15 minutes to just lay on the couch with some classical music and reflect on the last decade. I turned 30 earlier this year which, obviously, is quite the milestone. I reflected on what I had achieved during that period. I graduated college, twice. I officially earned by PhD and became a doctor – sorry, I can’t help you if your body fails, but I’m sure I could take a crack at a diagnosis. I’ll test my hypothesis in a dish and get back to you in 20 years. I have also lived on three continents, in three cities. I have loved, lost, and loved again. I continue to love. I am grateful that I will always continue to love. Unfortunately, expansion of those emotions towards myself appears limited.

Don’t get me wrong, I am exceptionally proud of the achievements I have collected since 2014. However, there is an overshadowing question that I cannot seem to avoid: Does this self-admiration translate to self-perception?

No. No it does not. Why do I not sit with my thoughts? I think that is the answer. I can sit down and appreciate the life that I have. I love the people around me. I am selective with my ‘inner circle’, as it were. More critically, earlier this year I was resilient and strategic enough to muster the courage to eliminate a toxic shadow that has been plaguing my existence. Though, that is an entirely different chapter.

I have a genuine distaste for my existence at times. While that sounds incredibly morbid – and by most standards, it is – I am not sure what it means. I also do not understand why. I try my best to be a good person, and I do feel like I am one. I treat everyone how I would like to be treated, and I would bend over backwards for anyone I truly love. Yet, not for myself.

A question I have been battling for many years is ‘what makes me truly happy?’ Happy right down to the core… the bones. It remains a question I simply cannot answer. I’m not sure I ever have. I do know that nature has always been a peace inducer. Embracing nature is beautiful. All five senses heightened by humanity’s silence. Appreciating what true beauty looked like prior to our global domination and noxiousness. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not intending (nor do I want to) become a nomad and just disappear into the wilderness and never return. Although, I do think I am truly at peace when I am in and around nature. Like most of us, I need to have a purpose. My work and my fiancé give me that purpose.

So then… what is the issue? The million-dollar question. Unfortunately, I cannot cash that ticket. Will I ever be able to? After all these years, I don’t think so. Although, I have not entirely lost hope. Perhaps it is time I began an excavation of my historical experiences and identify a root cause. Yet, I do not think any individual’s personal battles are as simplistic as this. Compare this, for example, to marriage. Excluding something unforgivably devilish, does a marriage end in divorce because of one singular event? Absolutely not. It often presents as a poisonous aggregation of pathological problems that manifest due to lack of ability, interest, and/or maturity to rectify the situation.

For me, perhaps this is a life-long journey. I know definitively that nobody other than myself will identify these issues. My mind is a chaotic mess of self-defeatism, deflection, frustration, rage, and intensity. It explains why I never tend to sit in my head too often. For example, earlier this week I asked myself: ‘What happens if I develop an incurable disease?’ My immediate response: ‘Phew. That’s a partial relief’. I think I’m so mentally overloaded that on certain days I have just had enough. It’s exhausting.

I need to explore my mind further, although it’s the last thing I wish to infect myself with. Because I spend most of my days keeping so busy, I never actually give myself the chance to initiate this assignment. It is intentional, I’m sure. Although I am beginning to spend 10-15 minutes a week in silence, thanks to the incorporation of a ‘health’ to-do list. During this period, I try to select remnants of negativity and pessimism and piece them together to curate some clarity… a bigger picture. Almost like a psychological jigsaw. Right now, though, it feels like kicking the hornet’s nest. Hopefully things will improve with repetition. Following an infamous quote by Thomas Wolfe: “I have to see a thing a thousand times before I see it once.”

For those of you who also ignore reflection, I impede you to do it. I wish I was better at it. I do truly believe it will help most of us find a measure of solace. For me, every day is a contemporaneous flux of the positive and negative. Which one will win? I guess I’ll find out.

“True ignorance is not the absence of knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it.” – Karl Popper

Do not let our insecurities define us.

Insecurity is something that we all face. It is an inevitable part of life. Whether it is a physical or personality trait, it can be something that hinders us from progressing forward with our daily lives. It is inherent to the human condition.

To this end, I wanted to emphasise to my readers the commonality of insecurity and inhibition. To do this, I asked people of different ages and job descriptions to open up about their biggest insecurities, so I could accumulate their responses anonymously, before posting them here.

However, I feel it important to first open up about my own biggest insecurity. For as long as I can remember, I have had this intrinsic yet entirely irrational hatred towards myself. I am not entirely sure when it manifested, but it is something that I just cannot shake. I am 27 years old, and a post-doctoral neuroscience researcher.

Here are individual responses:

“I would say my biggest insecurity is my shyness, especially when meeting new people and starting conversations.”Age: 19, Profession: DJ.

“I think it’s the lack of being confident in the work I produce and being nervous about what people say about my work.  It’s mainly the confidence and uncertainty that play with my mind when it comes to work. Hence why I haven’t applied for bigger jobs or positions. It is a ‘am I good enough’ to push onwards and upwards.” – Age: 26, Profession: Graphic Designer.

“My biggest insecurity has always been other people’s perception of me. Whether that be friends, family or another professional.”
Age: 25, Profession: Clinical Animal Behaviourist. 

“I would say my greatest insecurity is “imposter syndrome” or the constant feeling I’m not actually capable of being where I am, and that I have deceived everyone into thinking I have, or it is chance.”
Age: 22, Profession: Trainee Accountant.

“I do not like my lips. It is where my eyes immediately go in every picture.”
Age: 26, Profession: Public Relations.

“My biggest insecurity is probably me not achieving enough. No matter how much I do in a day, I berate myself internally, telling myself that I could/should have done more. This is tied in with the constant desire to be productive, which can be harmful, as I know rationally that it’s important for our mental health to not be ‘productive’ all the time.”
Age: 27, Profession: Composer.

“I have body confidence issues.”Age: 37, Profession: DJ.

“I got good grades in school and university, but I am not sure I’ll ever do anything that makes a lasting positive impact on this world. I am also afraid that people doubt my intellect, either because of my gender, race or job. They do not hand out grades when you are an adult to prove you are smart, and my job does not actually require intellect.”
Age: 24, Profession: Advertising.

I would have to say that I am very insecure about whether people like me or not.” Age: 25, Profession: Lecturer in Bioscience. 

“I work in the beauty industry so I would say body image. I’m constantly around beautiful, almost perfect looking people. It can sometimes make me feel like I’m lacking something.”Age: 25, Profession: Aesthetician. 

“Whilst I have many insecurities, there are two main ones. My first is constantly suffering with my body dysmorphia, no matter what I do I’m never satisfied about how I am. Second, I always feel inadequate, again this is because of number one. It is a constant cycle.”
Age: 26, Profession: Warehouse Assistant.

“I am worried that I will go nowhere, and I won’t succeed in my chosen career and will not achieve my aim in life.”
Age: 24, Profession: Medical Systems Specialist. 

The commonality of insecurity within society is undeniable. It is important that we all communicate more openly about what inhibits us, as this may eventually help to set us free.

It is time to crucify the self critic.

Self-criticism. It can be one of the most disabling components of our psychological wellbeing. Unfortunately for most of us, we will always be our own worst-critic. Relationships, friendships, work progression; self-critical thoughts can make us second guess our ability and worth in all of these areas. Continue reading “It is time to crucify the self critic.”

The disaster of getting inside your own head.


I am sure we can all relate to this. Whether it’s insecurities which have built up as a direct consequence of our scrambled society, or perhaps due to previous exposer to a singular toxic perpetrator; self-criticism can cause undeniable havoc and internal conflict. The constant flux within our culture, alongside a concurrent addiction to unrealistic expectations has led to the manifestation of many young individuals feeling like they will never be good enough. Continue reading “The disaster of getting inside your own head.”

Don’t let the past dictate your future.

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Most of us understand that an upsetting childhood can affect our adult lives. Depending on the nature of the trauma and the resilience of the individual, resulting consequences can sometimes lead to misery, which often manifests itself through extended depression and anxiety. This is especially the case if no professional help is sought. Continue reading “Don’t let the past dictate your future.”

The art of creating problems that do not exist.

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Overthinking. We all do it. We all try our best to stay positive and remain optimistic. Occasionally however, we fall through a trapdoor infested with negativity that all too frequently emerges beneath our feet. That persistent obsession to worry about, and over-analyse past experiences – experiences, by the way, that we can’t just miraculously eradicate from existence. Current stresses on the other hand, we CAN adapt for. Nevertheless, we still read into things that just aren’t there. If you often find yourself doing this, psychologists refer to you as a ruminator, or overthinker. My defining example of this would be the stereotypical ‘first date’ scenario – and due to its relevance, I will use myself as an example. Continue reading “The art of creating problems that do not exist.”

Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.


It’s kind of a rule of thumb for me to self-doubt going into any kind of project. I always think that I shouldn’t be doing it and I don’t know how to do it and I’m going to fail and that I fooled them. I always try to find a way out.’ – Heath Ledger.

Self-doubt is debilitating, and it effects everyone. From Oscar winning actors to promising young students. It is one of the major obstacles that inhibits us from living the life we truly deserve. An unbearable weight to bear; soul destroying, and ambition denying.

Our emotional growth, then, appears to be retrograde: shrivelling as we age. Let us put this into perspective for a second. As children, whilst learning how to walk, whether we fell 10, 100 or 1000 times, self-doubt never crept into our minds. Why then, do we now consistently believe we are trying to be something that we are not destined to be? Continue reading “Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will.”