Why Am I So Hard on Myself?

Monday, July 9, 2018


I took a 9:30am Harness Cycle class last Friday, cutting a little bit into my work day - but because I had a light workload for the day & had worked late the night before, I didn't think too much about it. It was also the Friday of a holiday week; who can concentrate then?! 

While in class, though, I started to feel guilty for taking time off work without telling anyone - yes, despite the fact that most of my work was already done & that I was still working the right amount of hours for a regular workday, just slightly out of order. As I rode, I started to beat myself up: What if someone needed me? What if someone needed me & I wasn't around & they thought I was a terrible, constant slacker? What if someone needed me & couldn't find me & told my boss & I got in trouble?

Who, whoa, whoa, self. Calm it down.

The ride continued, & my mind kept going. I started to fall into one of those weird brain spirals, the kind that has you second-guessing everything you do or have ever done: Why can't I wake up earlier to go to a class before work? Why do I stay up so late?Why am I so shitty at being adult?

And it was there, finally, that I was able to stop myself: Hey, wait, I'm not a shitty adult!

But I sure do like to tell myself I am.

I've been feeling out of shape lately, & I've eaten one too many slices of pizza in celebration of summer. What a slug, I told myself. But I've been working out - hard - two to three times for the first time in my life. Give yourself some credit, I reminded myself.

I've been feeling a little bit unsettled at work lately, & I have a a pile of stuff to edit, plus a webinar I haven't yet written an outline for. What a slacker, I told myself. But I've been doing a ton of work on our action around family separation, trans rights, & gun violence prevention, among others. Give yourself some credit, I begged myself.

I've been feeling like a totally unsuccessful writer lately, & I've got a freelance piece due on the 16th that I haven't started yet. What a procrastinator, I told myself. But I just finished a 1,200-word personal essay on mental health, to very positive feedback (& minimal changes!) from my editors. Give yourself some credit, I implored myself.

I am so quick to chastise myself, to insist that I could be better. I could exercise more, I could eat healthier, I could be neater, I could clean the bathroom more often, I could wake up earlier, I could go to bed earlier, I could do more work, I could work more hours, I could save more money, I could, I could, I could, I could.

But what about all the things I'm already doing?

What about the cycling classes I've finished & the work I've completed & the freelancing I've done & the activism I'm engaged in? What about the three blog posts a week & the mostly-clean apartment & the loving marriage & the relationship with my mom & the money in my savings account? Why am I so quick to dismiss my successes - even the small, everyday ones?

Life is a challenge - all of it, for all of us - & those small successes deserve our recognition & appreciation as much as the large ones do. When you put them all together, they're one big success. They're a life.

For someone who has struggled with mental illness, especially, it's all too easy to insist that I could be so much better. In that moment, though, in the middle of that ride, I thought to myself: I am pretty damn good.

And now I just need to remember it - like, all the time.

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