I have to be honest, I’m not in the best headspace right now. And for someone who writes blog posts about positivity and personal development, that doesn’t create the best environment to be creative. In my experience, I feel most creative when I am in a good mood, when my endorphins are rushing and I have so much energy I can barely sit still. When I feel glum, I don’t want to do anything, let alone write. My inner critic pops up telling me there’s no point writing; whatever comes out on paper won’t be worth reading. That voice prods at my confidence and eats away at my insecurities, pointing out that people probably aren’t reading my posts anyway. He’s the worst. Yes, I like to think my inner critic is a male because… men. Am I right? (Just kidding! Kinda…)
Here’s what been going on:
At the beginning of the month, I had high hopes of an amazing and wonderful year ahead of me where I would accomplish amazing goals and become the best version of myself. Unfortunately, as I said in my previous post, January didn’t get off to a very productive start. I hoped that the second half of the month would improve, but so far I feel like I’ve let myself down.
I signed up for a gym membership to start training for the triathlon (yay!), but haven’t been able to commit to a regular schedule (boo!). I bought a bathing suit to get back into swimming for the first time in years, but I’ve been stuck in my own head and haven’t so much as dipped a toe in the water. I published a measly two blog posts in January when I had hoped for one per week. I planned on working on the book, but all I did was move all my pages from Word to OneNote. I even stopped halfway through a 30 day yoga journey because I felt too overwhelmed by everything going on.
What’s at the root of all of this? My instinct is to blame external forces. Work has been pulling me in so many different directions: I’m teaching more hours than I ever have in courses that are new to me, and my advising work has been busier than usual. Because my brain is working overtime during the day, when I come home, I’m exhausted. All I want to do is sit on the couch and watch mindless TV.
For three weeks now I’ve been feeling like I’m just staying afloat, and that any minute now, a wave will come and pull me under. That wave arrived just as January was on its way out. I was behind on my lesson planning, a stack of tests and assignments to grade was piling up on my desk and my list of things to do was growing by the minute. Then I was reminded about how I hadn’t written in weeks, the de-cluttering projects I wanted to do were left untouched, my yoga mat was collecting dust and I hadn’t had a lot of social time. It all seemed to come crashing down.
Of course, after the storm, there is calmness and clarity. What was going on? I was getting in my own way and criticizing myself. For the past year I have been teaching the same course and now it’s something new. It’s only natural that there would be an adjustment period. And when one area of your life asks more of you, that time or energy has to come from somewhere. Why did I think I had to do it all?
It turns out, I haven’t moved past my perfectionist ways as much as I thought. I still talk myself into taking on more projects and doing more tasks all the while expecting myself to still do each of them perfectly. The logical part of my brain was telling me, “It’s okay to not be able to do it all. It’s okay to admit that you need to pull back”, but that other part that hates disappointing people, including myself, felt like a huge failure. I was devastated. Here I was, writing blog posts about what to do when you fall off course with your goals and how to be realistic about your expectation when I wasn’t even following my own advice.
I got home that night and finally said, “enough is enough”. Enough berating myself for only making it to the gym once last week. Enough criticizing the lack of writing I had done. Enough with all the negativity and self-doubt. Just, enough already!
I realize that I can’t do everything. It probably wasn’t the best idea to try to implement triathlon training, book writing, blog posting, new course planning and a daily yoga challenge all at once. Once again, I needed to cut myself some slack and give myself some credit. Instead of focusing on the things I hadn’t done, I needed to recognize the work that I had accomplished. I joined a new gym. I did some research into triathlon training. I tried a new class at my gym. I successfully planned 3 weeks of lessons. My students seemed happy. My computer was still at home waiting for me to start writing.
It’s so easy for us to feel disappointed in ourselves when we don’t meet our expectations, but often the problem isn’t that we came up short, it’s that the bar was too high to begin with. No one expects us to be super-human, so it’s time we stopped expecting it of ourselves. Show yourself a little love. Trust your gut – if it’s telling you something isn’t working, listen! Adjust your mindset and, if needed, adjust your plans. But, whatever you do, don’t let your head get in the way of what your heart is telling you!