gratitude

Trying To Be “Good Enough” Is Total Bullsh*t

“Only something as insane as human beings would ever asked themselves if ‘I’m good.’ You don’t find oak trees having existential crisis. ‘I feel so rotten about myself. I don’t produce as much acorns as the one next to me.’” ~Adyashant


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The feeling of not being good enough is a problem that affects everyone from time-to-time, regardless of age or social status. I’ve struggled with feeling like I’m not good enough for most of my life, especially in high school and my early college years. As a blogger, I’ll see the the success of others around me and immediately feel bad about my blogging journey. As an entrepreneur, I’ll see someone hit it big by what seems to be overnight success, not taking into account the road they had to travel to get to where they may be. I’ve met many of my peers who are successful and that’s when those feelings of inadequacy begin to creep in.

Sometimes I feel inadequate about my abilities, where I am in life, and the state of my career when I look at everyone else. You should never ever do that because your journey has absolutely nothing to do with someone else’s, but that’s easier said than done. When I’m trapped in the little bubble that is my mind I feel like I’m the only one dealing with this, but when I look around I see that’s definitely not the case. Most people spend their entire lives trying to be good enough, to be liked and appreciated, many times without actually succeeding at filling that void within themselves. It’s insane to see how everyone tries so hard to be “somebody”.

Society has conditioned us to tie up our self-worth to how much we “contribute”, and these supposed “contributions” often refer to the amount of money we earn or the social status we have. It creates an artificial duality between “successful” people and others, which leaves most of us feeling like outsiders. We then load up on self-help books, articles, and even conferences that tell us we have to do everything in our power to “get better”. We have to read more, learn more, strive more, push harder in order to get to where we want to be. But I’ll let you in on a little tidbit I’m just now realizing:

Trying to be “good enough” by “getting better” just doesn’t work. 

When we feel we’re not good enough—not successful enough, not smart enough, not attractive enough, not rich enough, not accomplished enough, just not enough—our efforts to break free from that state of mind by “getting better” are doomed to fail. Why? For three reasons: the Hedonic Treadmill, Goal Pursuit, and Social Comparison.

 

The Hedonic Treadmill

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This is the psychological process in which we readily adapt to improved conditions—and promptly take those improvements for granted. Let’s say you’re stuck at a job that you absolutely hate, and your dream is to change careers and open a bakery. You finally quit your job, lease a space, and create the uber chic bakery of your dreams. At first, you feel overwhelmingly happy and truly blessed that you were able to accomplish something so amazing, not to mention you left that boring, dead-end, crappy job behind for good. As time goes on, however, you find going to work less exciting and pleasurable. And eventually, you return to the same level of happiness you were at when you were at your last job.

Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The Myths of Happiness, says, ” The more we attain, the happier we become. But, at the same time, the more we attain, the more we want, which negates the increased happiness.” The upside of this process is that we adapt surprisingly well to worsened conditions. But the problem is that the improvements of our circumstances, whatever they may be, shift our reference points (the standards which we asses ourselves, our performance, and our experience of life). This doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy these improvements, that enjoyment just doesn’t last as long as we think it will and they aren’t as fulfilling either.

 

Goal Pursuit

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Goals can be great motivators, but they can have some unexpected consequences with the power attached to them. That power can have the ability to render the journey towards reaching them less fulfilling, which can be a huge demotivator. Chrisitan Jarrette, editor of The Psychologist magazine, warns, “Stay focused on your goals and you spoil your experience of the activities you’ll need to pursue. In turn, that makes it far more likely that you’ll drop out early and fail to achieve the very goals that you’re so focused on.” Lyubomirsky also notes, “The empirical evidence reveals that the critical factor in whether goal pursuit makes us happy lies in enjoying the journey and not in realizing the end-goal.” The problem here is that we generally view “getting better” as “not there yet”, which causes us to fixate on the goal and how far away we are from it, instead of the process and the most recent steps we’ve taken.

 

Social Comparison

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We Earthlings are deeply social creatures, we’ve evolved a reflexive predisposition to think about other people. This impulse is so deeply rooted that neuroscientists believe that thinking about others is our brain’s default activity. As we look around us to understand what others are doing—and how they’re doing—we inevitably use this information to assess ourselves. The issue here is that comparing ourselves to other people is the primary culprit of those feelings of inadequacy and discontent. So if you’re comparing yourself to a high-achieving person, “getting better” is a surefire way to never be “good enough” because there will always be someone who’s accomplished more than you have. So stop setting yourself up for the same L over and over.

 

So what can you do? Manage your aspirations. I know that sounds like a total load of crap after reading all of that, but there are specific things you can do to achieve this. For starters:

 

Cultivate Gratitude 

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  • Reflect on the shortness of life and how blessed we are to be alive in the first place. Are you healthy? Gainfully employed? Do you have a roof over your head? If so, you’re doing a hell of a lot better than most people are. Be grateful for that.
  • Consider how much worse things could be and how good you have it.
  • Focus on the present moment and resist regret (which pulls you into the past) and anxiety (which pulls you into the future).

 

 

Set Goals Wisely

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  • Focus on micro-goals and celebrate small victories along the way.
  • Adopt a growth mindset and learn from your failures, which are inevitable (sorry, boo).
  • Recognize your incompetence as a temporary thing and prioritize learning and growth, which go hand-in-hand.

 

 

Live Your Values

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  • How you manage your time shows what’s truly important to you, so use it wisely. We each have the same amount of hours in a day, days in a week, and so on; how effectively are you using the time that’s been given to you?
  • Ask yourself, “What has my attention right now?”. Your attention needs to be focused on one thing at a time. We can pay continuous partial attention to multiple things, but we can only truly focus only on one subject at a time.
  • Let your values (what you judge as important in life) inform your vision of yourself, not your accomplishments or set-backs.

 

There are loads of people who are regarded as “successful” from society’s standards, but aren’t from an objective point of view. Take Cult45 (Donald Trump), he’s filed bankruptcy six times, has had two people close to his campaign for presidency indicted on twelve counts including fraud, has went on record admitting he grabs women’s genitals without their consent, has absolutely no f*cking idea what he’s doing, and somehow people still see him as a successful business man. So if that can happen for him the sky is the limit, trust me.

And being a complete “failure” under society’s standards can never make you a failure as a human being. Nothing can turn you into a not-good-enough person without your consent. Sure, you’ve failed at some things and some of your friends may be more “successful”, but does that really mean you’re not good enough? That you’re not worthy? If you buy into society’s expectations, then yes. But if you don’t (which you shouldn’t), it’s a clear “HELL NO!”. Trees don’t have self-esteem issues, and wine (one of life’s greatest treasures) doesn’t ask itself, “Am I good enough?”. So why should you. That question is irrelevant! Strike it from your thought space. You are who you are, and that’s damn good enough.

 

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Reality Check: Time To Get In Formation

” Your winter is someone else’s summer.”

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That quote unleashes some very visceral emotions inside of me; things I’ve kept tucked away while I try to keep up with the day-to-day busyness of adulthood. But it’s high time I let them go because holding on is doing me absolutely no good. I’ve realized, while amidst the thick of the fuckery I’ve been through this year, that I have a high propensity for being a perfectionist. It’s so high, in fact, that it keeps me from going after the things that I want and need to do. I’ll set out to do something and, midstream, I’ll freeze because I think whatever I’m doing isn’t good enough and the follow through ends up being super wack.

I haven’t updated my blog, worked on my business models, or any of my interests because I’ve allowed my circumstances to get the best of me. This year has been pretty tough, definitely the coldest metaphoric winter I’ve ever experienced. I’ve been homeless, I was assaulted, I’ve been abandoned several times, heart broken more than once, and many other trials and tribulations have ensued. I’ve let those things mold me into someone I don’t recognize when I look into the mirror, and that terrifies me. I’ve allowed myself to become this person who, when standing face-to-face with obstacles, she gets emotional and has a pity party for herself long before she attacks them. And when I finally do, I’m exhausted from the roller coaster ride I put myself through. I’m at the point where I’m sick and tired of not being in control of my own destiny. I’m completely over just existing and I’m ready to start living again.

I’m not sure what point you’re at in your life as you’re reading this. Hell, you could be doing great in life, and if you are good for you. Do that shit! But if you’re stuck in the same old rut and you’re ready to get back to where you were before, or even transcend beyond that point (which is always a good idea), then I’ll offer you three pieces of advice that have jump-started my will to live life more abundantly again no matter what my circumstances are. You can Google the phrase “How to get your shit together” and easily find 1.3 million articles on how to do just that, each one offering fifty plus ways to turn the lemons life has hurled at your poor peanut shaped head into lemonade (all hail #QueenBey!). But I think three is a good place to start. There’s something about that number that resonates with me; I think it signifies harmony, and we could all use a little more of that. Plus, I think these three things open the door to many more good habits that can and will help push you into the right direction. So, let’s begin.

  1. Get objective feedback from a trustworthy source.

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Emphasis on trustworthy. So not that one coworker who’s always having money problems, or your cousin Ray Ray who can’t hold down a job for longer than sixty days, and definitely not your super “independent”  man hating aunt who hasn’t had a bae since ’86. This person should be close enough to you where they know exactly what you may be going through, but are far away enough to see the bigger picture, and wise enough to point you in the right direction. You could be focusing too much of your attention on a problem at work or a relationship that doesn’t serve you, and that person has the ability to come in with a fresh pair of eyes and give you the perspective you would’ve taken longer to achieve on your own.

I have friends who keep me moving forward even when I can’t seem to pull it together sometimes. When I’m dealing with a tough situation in my personal life, or I’m entertaining something or someone that is challenging my self-worth (it really doesn’t matter what it is) one or all of them will individually or collectively say to me, “Bitch….no!” And they will proceed to snatch my wig to and fro until I get myself back into formation. They’re present enough to know the details of whatever the problem is but also able to take the emotion out of what I’m telling them in order to help me come up with solutions that will work to solve said problem. I am so grateful for them because I tend to be very dramatic all the time  sometimes and I have this annoying habit of making mountains out of molehills. Silly me.

2. Acknowledge what’s working

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You are incredible! You are a work of art, absolutely divine, and so so talented. Never allow yourself to lose sight of how special and unique you are. Focusing on the deeper reality of the spirit instead of where your ego is just may be all you need to pick yourself up and keep moving forward. It doesn’t matter how many times you think you’ve fallen short, it’s really about your perspective. You could be bombing at one thing but blowing something else out of the water in another area of your life.

One of my biggest adulthood boo boos is not saving enough money. And by enough, I mean none at all; I’m the worst at that. I’ll have the best intentions when I’m planning out my bills but then I’ll get so anxious and overwhelmed about deadlines and such that saving goes completely out the window. I have really bad anxiety about being homeless again. It’s at the forefront of my mind when I think about and handle money. “Oh I can’t get those shoes, gotta save for rent. I can’t be homeless again” “Nah, I’ll just eat at home. I can’t be eating out, gotta pay my rent so I’ll have a roof over my head” “I gotta get it together man, I can’t go back to that shelter”

I’ll get so caught up in what could go wrong if all the bad shit I cook up in my head happened simultaneously (which never does), that I rarely acknowledge all the things I’m doing right. For one, I actually care about paying things on time. That’s a win, because a lot of people really don’t give a shit. I’m responsible (did you hear that Mom and Dad?), or at least I try to be as much as I can. And as much as I panic about it, I do pay all my bills. I’m actually coming up with ways to say money that will have many long term benefits instead of short term ones; another step in the right direction. Doing that helps me focus on the future and gets my brain thinking about how I’m going to achieve my next set of goals. When I’m in this frame of mind I’m in problem solving mode instead of panic mode, which does wonders for my nerves. Instead of holding my face in my hands saying “Oh my God, oh my God. What do I do?” repeatedly I ask myself “What am I doing now that’s gotten me to this point?”, “What do I want to see happen in this area?”, and “What can I do to turn this shit around?” And then something amazing happens. I’ll remember that I’m pretty damn awesome and I can do anything I put my mind to. Perspective.

3. Meditate on gratitude and appreciation.

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It may sound super cheesy, but a little gratitude goes a long way. Frustration has a way of making everything seem really really shitty. Your boss may have been a total douche to do in front of some really important people, and you’re so pissed off that you sit there and stew over it all day, then some jerk cuts you off in traffic, and you’re so hell bent on getting home that you forgot to hit up that one place you love because they’re having a 25% off sale on your favorite wine. Then you finally get home, after all that, only to trip over an ant playing soccer on a cotton ball and you hit your pinky toe on that same corner of the coffee table that you have at least two hundred times minimum. Stupid boss, this all your fault.  You work tirelessly to be amazing at what you do and your boss never shows any appreciation at all. You come in early, you leave late, you blow the roof off the place, and you get nothing in return. Not even a nod. Your life is absolute shit and it’ll never get any better, plus you won’t have any more functional toes left because of that damn table. It’ll never get better, right? Wrong. Sometimes a brief moment of stepping out of a disheartening situation to an appreciation of something general, no matter how small, can take you forward a few steps to detaching from what isn’t working. And when you do that you create space that gives you room to shift towards a better view.

I get so bogged down about bills, and adulting, and how I should be so much further along in life than I am right now. I beat myself up about not writing enough, or not having the funding to start my businesses, or about how bad I am at remembering to do laundry that I forget to be grateful for all the things that I do have and have been blessed with. I have a great living space that’s warm, and inviting, and it’s my sanctuary. When my mind becomes cluttered and I can’t think straight, I’ll look around and see that the state of my thoughts have manifested themselves into my living space. So I’ll clean it up; wash dishes, do laundry, clean my bathroom, reorganize my closet, everything. And when I’m done I get this overwhelming feeling of pride and gratitude; I’ll look around and say to myself “Wow, this is my place. This time last year I was staying with this person and that person, then I ended up living in a hotel, then a shelter, then somebody else’s place, then a place where the roof was leaking. Now I’m here, safe, warm, and back on track. Thank you Lord”.

That one moment gives way to many more that allow me to see just how far I’ve come in such a short amount of time. I thank God for everything, and every time I do the Universe takes note of it and I attract more great things my way. When I spend money, on whatever, I always thank God and the Universe for allowing me to have it; and I say to myself “There’s more where that came from”. When I’m cleaning up and I find a dime or a penny I say thank you out loud. When I make some bomb fajitas, I say thank you (out loud), because God didn’t have to bless me with the resources to make that party in my mouth happen but He did and I’m grateful. Gratitude really does go a long way and soon you’ll begin to realize just how much you really have, which takes the focus off what you don’t have and that makes room for you to get what you want to have. See how that works?

Life can serve a pretty mean uppercut, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle with getting your ass kicked everyday (bob and weave my G). I promise if you do these three things every time you face a problem, you’ll get through it and with a level of style and grace that may surprise you. It’s 2:30 in the morning and, as I’m writing this, my problems seem to be much smaller than I thought they were before I started this post. There’s freedom in that, I feel lighter. And my goals seem much more attainable. The same can be true for you, all you have to do is apply what I mentioned above and you’ll be Gucci. So go knock it out the park, kiddo.

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