Frequently in life people will attribute their way of thinking, or the way they react to things, on someone else in their life. Sometimes it is a parent, who can find a flaw in every bit of work that is presented to them. It could be a teacher; maybe a teacher that was stricter on you than others because they saw potential and tried to push so you could see the same potential in yourself.
That person for me, the one harping away incessantly, was neither a parent nor a teacher. Actually, my parents frequently tried to convince me to ease up on myself.
My teachers would hand back my papers with rave reviews. Not good enough. It is never good enough. I am constantly waging a war with myself. I'm not talking about a Saturday night pay-per-view fight where there are oftentimes powerful punches thrown to end it in one round.
My battle is more along the lines of one that lasts for twelve rounds. Both competitors fight. And fight. And fight. They're both bloodied and bruised, their breathing labored. The sheer exhaustion visible as they seem to almost stop and lean against each other for a pause before they start swinging again.
I will always be my harshest critic. My parents were not the strict kind of parents. They didn't force me to sit and do my homework. They didn't push or use bribery to help me make honor roll. That was all me. In fact if I didn't do well on something I would let them know I was punishing myself and would not be going to meet my friends at the mall.
My teachers put me up for student of the month in high school. In college my university paid me to take notes in my classes so they could be copied and given to students with special needs. I was honored by those acts, but always tried to find a way to talk them out of it. I would tell them the aspects in which I was failing. In the end that's what it always came down to for me: it is not my wins, it is my losses.
At 23-years-old a writing association for my state awarded me first place for investigative journalism. I was elated, but I also thought, 'there it is. You peaked already. You cant top this.'
At 28-years-old I had a piece included in an incredible anthology that is part of a New York Times best selling series. It did phenomenally and made it to number 2 on Amazon. Pièce de résistance, right? Not to me. Instead of looking at it in terms of the fact out of countless books released at that time the one I was part of hit second, I viewed it as still not good enough.
This past September I had another piece released in an anthology that is the sixth in the series of the first book I was in a few years back. It hit number one on the hot best sellers list on Amazon and has rave reviews.
Yet here I sit. Figuring out a way to downplay this incredible experience and achievement. It is damn near impossible to break this habit. It is a back and forth banter. Instead of a devil on one side and an angel on the other I have pessimist me on one side and optimist me on the other side.
Me: you are in a book that is a best seller. It is everything you have ever wanted. You have been waiting for this since that faithful day just shy of two decades ago when you found your soul mate in the lovely Microsoft Word.
Also me: yeah, true, but people probably skipped your piece. You went for earnest with this when satire and comedy are typically more of your thing. People need to laugh right now. They don't need a piece to drag them down.
I am the one who needs to figure out what exactly makes me this way. More so what can I do that will finally be enough in my eyes. What in the world do I need to accomplish in order to pat myself on the back? Or to look in a mirror and say, 'you did good, kid' instead of, 'add that to your list of failures.'
This dreadful outlook spills over into how I view myself as a Mother, too. We could wake up at sunrise, have a delicious home cooked breakfast, go for a walk, spend the afternoon playing in the garden, sit and have a picnic outside for lunch, finish the afternoon off with a water gun fight, then end the day with a four course meal with the night capped off with reading a few chapters of a bedtime story to my five-year-old son and i will STILL pick apart the entire day once he falls asleep. I should have made this for breakfast instead of that. We should have skipped playing outside in order to work on school work. If you asked my son he would say we had the best day ever and he is excited to have another day like it soon. He won't see all the issues with it that I see and I know it is one hundred percent completely on me, but I'm trying my hardest to make sure he never sees me struggle or rip myself down. In his eyes I am a super hero and I desperately want to remain that way for my little buddy,
I know I'm not alone in this struggle. I would venture a guess that nearly everyone has aspects of their life they doubt or are unhappy with for one reason or another. I'm going to keep working on myself. I'll take everything that comes my way and celebrate it by lifting myself up instead of tearing myself down.
Everything in life begins with one motion. One brick laid builds a house. One step taken can lead to a marathon. One kind, positive word to yourself might just be the avalanche needed to really kick self love off on the right track. For those of you attempting to try this: if you get tangled up along the way, look behind you. I'll be there cheering you on every step of the way.