This fall, during my Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals fellowship, I learned about overcoming my inner Schweinehund, which means my inner Pigdog.
Basically, it’s the inner voice that keep us in our comfort zone and continuously sets our course on autopilot. Don’t cross boundaries, don’t try something new, stick-to-the-status-quo kind of stuff. Sometimes it can be very helpful and knows that jumping off that cliff is indeed a dangerous (possibly fatal) idea. But many times, it is the knot in our chest or the whisper in our ear, preventing us from overcoming our limits or tackling new challenges.
I don’t know if this idea is very German, just plain bizarre or both. Probably both.
Either way, when we had an intercultural training in September at the headquarters of the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit in Bonn, the guest speaker explained this very specific German concept. I recognized the feeling exactly. It was the fear I had about diving off the bridge into the lake, time after time. The hesitation rattling through my body as I stood on the edge. It’s the same fear that paralyzes many young professionals I know, preventing them from going abroad, because starting a career is more important, it’s the right thing to do, it’s what we should be doing.
At the end of the seminar, she asked us to name a single task we could start the very next day to develop ourselves and open conversation with that inner voice. I wasn’t exactly sure what to say so I joked about trying not to drop my metal water bottle in large, quiet public settings anymore (the event disrupted the training twice).
Even today I’m still not sure what to say. But I suppose I can be satisfied with the self-realization that I already take a lot chances in my everyday life. Moving here sliced open my safety net.
I find myself among people I’ve never known, in cities I’ve never been to, studying a language that’s nearly impossible to have under complete control. Yet, I recently rang in a friend’s birthday at midnight in front of the Dom with fireworks, cake, and champagne in plastic cups. I feel confident talking with my host mother about the refugees pouring into Germany. I understand complex proceedings when visiting a German court. These are all things I did in my first week.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever have complete control over my Schweinehund. I know the next several months will throw me into situations in which it’s telling me “no.” But at least now I recognize the autopilot, and know when to take control of the plane.
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This post originally appeared on Steven’s blog The Montero Project.