I am a big fan of self improvement. Whether that means spending time in the gym getting fitter and stronger, practicing mindfulness, planning my work schedule to be more efficient. I set high standards for myself and seek to always match and exceed them. I have always believed this to be, though extremely difficult, very important and worthwhile. In fact I almost see it as vital work in my life. Not only do I benefit, everyone around me does too. I am more at peace, my girl gets a sexier man, my employers get a better employee, it’s a win/win. Surely…
The reality is that my drive to always be better has often had negative implications for me. Firstly, I never live in the present. This is due to the fact that very few of the goals I set in life have a real “end game”. There is no final form for me to reach, so I never appreciate any progress made. Even when a goal or project has a clear end date, I rarely if ever celebrate my “success”. It’s happened now, so what? Move on. As you can imagine this leads to very unhealthy levels of self obsession, constantly existing in a space where nothing I do is good enough for me because there is always something else to achieve. Something else to improve. Yet as draining as this is, it is not the most detrimental fallout stemming from my “driven” mentality.
Simply put, my inherit sense of value is somewhere between worryingly low to nonexistent. I strive to improve not so much because I want to better, but because in doing, I gain a sense of value. That is not in and of itself a bad thing. It is the flip side, in which from not doing I gain a strong sense of worthlessness. If you told me ten things you like about me and one you did not, I would only see the one. It is something I am not doing. Something that I see as failure. I could simply take it on as something to work on without the added pressure and self loathing. I could even go a step further and accept that I am in fact not and never will be perfect and be at peace with my perceived flaws. But I don’t. I don’t give myself room to be imperfect, room to be appreciative of myself, room to simply be.
In the last three years many aspects of my mental health have improved. But my ability to pick apart every single piece of myself has stubbornly stuck around. It manifests in discussions with my girlfriend, it popped up at my work three month assessment (no joke, two questions in I had to tell my manager that we will disagree because I judged myself more harshly than anyone). It impacts my relationship with family. And most of all my relationship with myself. I recently returned to therapy with the main aim of addressing this very issue. Progress is slowly being made. Slowly. Being, for lack of a better word, successful at this goes against the very nature of how I have lived my life for about ten years now. It’s a total change in mentality and one that often feels overwhelming. But this, the ability to like myself without have to go out and prove something, without being perfect, this is something vital to me now. And credit to me for at least trying to break the habit of a decade. And any day you try has to be seen as
A good day