As any young professional has experienced in the quest of seeking identity through career, the results don’t always pan out.
We form our sense of selves around what we do and to some, and if they don’t do it all, all the time, they feel like failures. This can look as different as the contrast between a successful lawyer, a pro MMA fighter, and an artist with big gallery representation.
When we find ourselves in this outwardly-facing validation mode, we never really rest. We do something that thing gets received by the world, and we either win or lose; it’s never neutral.
Even a win may not register as true joy, a moment of reprieve – it’s just another notch on the belt and a message to do even more next time. People take our wins and demand more. And if other people don’t, we do.
This sort of success-cycle leads to an insatiable void – a thirst that can never be quenched and a spirit that’s never rested. We try to fill that void by being great at everything we do, from texting our friends back to hitting the gym to keeping the fridge stocked with real groceries.
All the while, we’re always looking for that next hit of dopamine – a burst of success. We’re tired, haggard, and yet we won’t stop.
The requirements, obligations and achievements we’ve grown around us eventually build up and become like an inflatable blanket, a plastic inner tube – it surrounds us in a weird, constricting “comfort” but really leaves us with an urge to get. the. hell. out.
Let’s cut to the chase: we can’t please everyone and we can’t achieve perfection. It won’t happen. We’re human, we’re destined to rise and fall and repeat until we learn things, and we’ll never learn everything so the cycle will never end. Embrace it.
It’s easier said than done, even when we’re reflective creatures able to look back on our goals, relationships and interactions with a critical eye. The hardest, yet most important part, comes down to the ability to be honest with ourselves.
Does texting that person back make you happy? Maybe that relationships doesn’t actually serve you.
Do you really need to hit a five mile run every day or do you just not want to “fail” compared to your peers?
Are you pushing your way through the end of a book when you really want to rest your eyes and cry?
It’s ok! Nothing has to look a certain way. Sometimes we move all the way across the country before we realize what we really want is back home, the place we just left.
We’re in a constant state of growth, learning and self-assessment; the more grace you can have with yourself the better.