I mean, OK. I was in to see the doctor, complaining of anxiety, which may (or may not) be related to my desire to get superhuman strength, stamina and endurance and achieve all sorts of weird and wonderful things — I’ll leave that to you, or better — the medical professionals, to decide.
But I was shocked. After I left the appointment, I repeated this phrase to my fiancee in complete disbelief.
He just simply shrugged in agreement.
My mother echoed it a couple of weeks later. Completely independent and unaware of the conversation with my doctor.
A mentor had said it a year ago.
If you haven’t already picked up on it — because I hadn’t — it’s the story of my life.
Each time someone says this to me though, I laugh quietly inside to myself. And I reject it entirely.
Like, hahaha, that’s really funny — because if it were true, maybe everything would have been accomplished by now.
All the success. All the stuff. All the great sporting, academic & career achievements. And then, maybe then, I wouldn’t have to work so damn hard.
The dream would have come true already. I could stop chasing it. I could relax. Or put my energy into the next, bigger and brighter dream.
Well. Not quite, it would seem.
It does genuinely feel that this is how you are meant to do life — work hard, endlessly setting goals, being hard on yourself to meet them, and having impossibly high standards.
But some people seem to be telling me that it’s not the way.
I’d love to come at you with the answer here, all up on my high horse, like “of course there’s a better way to do it and I figured it all out.”
But in reality, I am still wondering what the doctor meant.
What do all those people mean when they take one look at me and say “you’re quite hard on yourself, huh”.
Honestly, what are you supposed to do with that gem of insight?
How does anything get done without big goals and impossibly high standards?!
If I let go of the reins even a tiny bit — well, the whole world would come crashing down. Havoc would be well and truly wreaked. Wrought. Whatever. The world would certainly stop spinning, or maybe something else terrible would happen.
Gah. Disaster. A complete and utter disaster. Right? Maybe?
Over the many years of hearing this though, it has begun to sink in a little bit. Ana Forrest said it so succinctly:
If punishing yourself worked, wouldn’t it have worked by now?
Well — if this isn’t a wake up call.
It’s not like I am out there making an actual rod for my back. Or flogging myself. Or deliberately putting myself in harm’s way, or pain or suffering. I don’t actually physically punish myself.
Except on the yoga mat, with excruciating twists and binds and headstands and that sort of stuff. But it’s yoga! Peace and joy and love!!
And I do other things.
I do achieve the things I set out to achieve, even if by the skin of my teeth, and then I strive harder. I set bigger goals. I want to achieve it all over again, but better. And more.
Much more, and much better. That sounds a bit like my mantra.
But there’s another way to look at this, I suppose.
Academic accomplishments. Striving for promotions (constantly). Volunteering. Fundraising. I do actually have a completed marathon under my belt. Even my yoga practice is notorious for attracting Type As.
But like any other introverted Type A I know, I vehemently deny it. I point to other Type As, compare myself in an instant, and if I don’t match up to these impossible standards — it’s just evidence that I can’t possibly be an A.
I’m clearly not good enough.
I can point to every single achievement and identify the myriad ways I could have done better.
Plus, and here’s the cherry — someone already has achieved all this stuff, and the rest — looking at you Oprah, Beyonce, Kino, Kathrine Switzer — so clearly these goals are not impossible after all.
So I must be a failure.
(I genuinely didn’t even know there was a Type B until 10 minutes ago. Type A or broke. See?).
Erm. Danger bells.
Alarms should be ringing.
These are other people’s livelihoods, goals, passions.
And I only have a tiny inkling of what they went through to get there.
Even when I do listen to these people’s stories, I understand, admire and respect their journeys — the hardship, suffering, obstacles, challenges, road blocks and all sorts of nonsense that they had to endure or overcome to get where they want to be.
But I maybe think that I don’t have to go through it myself. Maybe I don’t accept my shortcomings, or that life has ups and downs.
Maybe I don’t see that success is relative, personal, subjective.
This might work for other people, but these concepts aren’t really applicable, when applied 180, to myself.
Because I’m hard on myself.
I’m wired for it.
And the anxiety arises because of course it’s hard to stay the course, weather the storms, go through the trials and errors when the inner voice is ever present — judging, cajoling, comparing.
Hence the visit to the doctor.
So my advice to myself here — given that the doctor was unable to propose anything practical other than meds — is this:
Keep setting goals. (Obviously). I will not let anything take that away from me.
But be more B. (or Bey. I do love Beyonce). But actually, maybe be a little less Beyonce, and more me.
With a dose of forgiveness, patience, and self acceptance — those things that seem so foreign to A-types.
And with a healthy and realistic appreciation and recognition of what I have accomplished in my lifetime— lest I ever forget.
And opening up to more joy, and more relaxation, in my life.
I do relax, and I know I can nail savasana, but I’m still kind of learning about relaxing “off the mat” too. On the clock.
Like relaxing my expectations, or letting my perfectionism ease off a bit. Like letting myself have unbridled fun — without worrying what might happen, if the world will come crashing down, if too much joy is accidentally had.
And same goes for you too, dear reader, if you might be too hard on yourself.
You might just have to practice these things too.