Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Originally I had a more educational post in mind for today, but this is what’s on my mind, and let’s face it, I’m gonna write about what I want to write about.

I always feel like when I start to make real progress towards a goal, I always manage to screw it up. There’s a definite trigger for me though. That trigger is: Giving myself, or accepting, credit for what I’ve accomplished.

As soon as I start to feel good about progress I’ve made, whether it’s from genuine self-validation or from outside appreciation, I almost instantly slip back a step or two or twenty. It’s like I feel I’ve earned the right to relax my diligence.

For example: I’ve been doing exceptionally well watching what I eat and getting high quality and effective workouts in every day. To the point where I woke up yesterday, looked in the mirror, and wasn’t disgusted by what I saw. In fact, I was becoming happy with the progress I was making. I even told Tech Boy how well I thought I’d been doing.

Then later that very same night: Sabotage. I was all alone. Depressed about my last few days living with Roommate and she hasn’t been around much at all. I had a few drinks (I haven’t been drinking almost at all lately!), ate way too much = beyond the strict regime I’ve set for myself and went to bed much too late for my body to get adequate rest. See? Sabotage. It really is. It’s clearly some kind of self-sabotage. Like subconsciously I don’t believe I deserve to feel good about myself. I just, don’t understand why I do this?

It happens with everything though. Work? I’ll make tremendous amounts of progress, be proactive and aggressive in my projects, start to feel good about the work I’ve done and BAM, it’s like I hit a mental wall. I feel so good that I feel like I’ve earned a reprieve to lean back for a minute. Except when I lean back I realize the railing is too short and I fall right over the edge from productive to utterly distracted and incapable of focusing.

I have a theory that it’s directly tied to my level of anxiety. When my anxiety is high, I push myself. I push myself hard. Anxiety is a great motivator which is one of the evolutionary reasons we developed the ability to be anxious in the first place. Yes, there really is advantage to anxiety. For those of us with an anxiety disorder though, it’s extreme beyond reason. However, receiving recognition lowers that level of anxiety. I lose that chemical motivation to push. I relax. I reset. In order for me to be productive again I have to wait for those anxiety levels to rise back to a properly high place. But in the mean time I feel like I’m lagging. I’ve lost so much progress and productivity. I’m disappointed and depressed by how weak I was. I lack the motivation to fight back until the problem has reach epic enough proportions that my anxiety is triggered.


It’s so frustrating and I get so down on myself. I have very specific goals that I want to reach and accomplish. I have the ability to reach to them. But I can’t manage to get out of my own way sometimes. It’s infuriating.

All I can do is:

-          Recognize the relapse. Take note of it. Acknowledge it.

-          Let it go.

-          Start Again. The very next day.

Letting it go is the hardest. I like to beat myself over my own head with my “failures”. Somewhere I still believe that I should be a superhuman cyborg that has the ability to be perfect with no flaws in my programming. I have to actively remind myself that I’m human. I have bad days. Everyone has bad days. But:

It’s just one day.

There’s always another.

It’s never too late to start again.

I need to remember to take a look at how I slipped up. Make note of it so that I can potentially avoid it in the future. If I can remember how it made me feel, the next time I want to engage that behavior I’ll be less likely to continue with it. A lot of my problem comes from not being able to hold onto how I feel about things. I forget and detach. If I can maintain an idea of how something makes me feel then hopefully I’ll be less likely to keep doing it. Write it down.

Then forgive myself. Forgiving myself is the next hardest thing to do. I’m good at acknowledging my mistakes. Forgiving myself my mistakes is something I’m terrible at. I have a very punitive idea of how to deal with myself and it’s usually punishment, punishment, punishment. Ironically this is a bad, bad, bad way to approach myself. I’m human. Human. It’s okay to mess up. Sometimes I feel silly because I actively have to give myself these pep talks. But if I don’t, I mired myself in bad thoughts and feelings and that’s even more defeating when it comes to making progress. When you can forgive yourself, it allows you to be in a more positive mindset that encourages you to do better next time. Refusing to forgive yourself only mires you in a perceived failure, which lowers your desire to accomplish at all because it makes it very hard to find hope for accomplishing your goal. How can you succeed if you think you’re a failure?

Slip ups. Mistakes. They’re only failures if you forget to learn from them and they stop you from continuing on the path you’ve set for yourself. Acknowledging, forgiving, and learning from mess ups can actually make you a stronger person because now you’re more prepared to deal with what life can throw at you. Mistakes are OK.

Taking a step back is okay. Just don’t turn around and walk away completely. 

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