Instead of just "being" in the world, I’m trying to "be good."
This is something my client said to me and it moved me so deeply. I know she's not alone, because I myself can relate and I think it's something worth discussing.
There’s nothing wrong with trying to be a good person. But what my client is referring to is the constant striving she feels—unable to just rest with herself as she is, but rather always trying to reach this ideal version of herself she’s created in her mind.
Now there’s also nothing wrong with having goals and striving to reach them. In fact, it’s a beautiful skill we have as humans to assess where we are, articulate where we want to be, and make a plan as how to get there. This is a huge part of any coaching relationship. However, the trouble is when this is our default way of “being”—or more precisely, default way of “doing.”
This looks like constantly scanning situations in your life assessing areas that could use a little tweaking. Perpetually trying to close the gap between where you are and where you want to be. And not just in one area of your life, but in multiple areas. Always needing to do MORE and be BETTER. But the goals you are trying to hit are moving targets because your idea of what is “good” or “perfect” changes.
You may have moments when you achieve or perfect what you think you need to and you're on top of the world! You lost the weight! You got the degree! You checked everything off the list! But it isn't long before you need to achieve something else.
It's like chasing the fog. As soon as you get there, the fog is further away and you must keep going. How exhausting! Now imagine catching the fog is what determines your worth. Eek.
Because we can’t both be present in the moment and simultaneously planning on how to make future moments better, we ultimately miss out on living our lives when we’re operating in this mode.
If that isn’t bad enough, IT’S SO PAINFUL. And what makes it worse is that to everyone else, you just appear extremely motivated and successful. So you suffer in silence thinking that perhaps you are simply ungrateful or that you shouldn’t feel this way. After all, look at all you’ve done!
If this is you, my heart opens wide to you. You are my people. And I know from experience that it’s possible to get off the hamster wheel.
Though it’s safest and most effective to have a therapist/coach/teacher guide you through the process, there are some things you can do on your own to care for yourself in the meantime:
Recognize this behavior when it arises! If you identified with this post, then you’ve collected some knowledge that will help you identify this behavior when it arises within you. Do your best to be mindful of what “striving” feels like to you and recognize when it arises.
Be kind. When you notice yourself operating from this place, try giving yourself compassion. You’re being hard enough on yourself as it is. If you are unable to be kind, try to at least drop the judgment around it. Can you just let it be there without making it “good” or “bad”?
And lastly, celebrate your damn self! The fact that you can identify with this post (and I’m assuming you can because you’ve read the whole thing) means that the light of awareness is turning toward this aspect of yourself. And that’s worth celebrating! Transformation can only happen once we become aware.
So hear this: You don’t have to suffer anymore. You are enough without all the striving and accomplishing and attempts at perfection. Your worth isn’t dependent on what you do. You are worthy of all the love in the world just being who you are. And if this sounds dumb to you, good. Read it again. Something in you needs to hear it.