Sometimes I can be really harsh on myself.
In this age, we are surrounded by success stories that seem beyond our wildest dreams of achieving. Wherever we care to look, there’s somebody doing better than us. These people seem almost inhuman in the efforts they go to be successful, executing the “Top 10 habits of successful CEOs”, the “Morning routine HACK that changed my life” and “How writing a blog everyday helped me find my dream life” (okay, you got me).
The business of self-improvement literature is incredibly lucrative, alluring and dangerous. Everyone can be happy, wealthy, successful, just as long as they apply these tried and tested methods to unlock their full potential. The market for these stories is, well, who doesn’t want what these people are selling? And funnily enough, yes, incorporate those 10 habits, write a book about it, sell a million copies; then just work 4 hour weeks, it’s easy.
Even the Stoic take on it - look for and be happy with “good enough” - is a hard pill to swallow. Today an old classmate of mine shared this article on “The Good-Enough Life” from the NY times. Harvard scholar and graduate, perfect grades in school, incredible physique, popular, funny, interesting and genuinely kind - yeah, I guess that is good enough. That guy spouting Stoic advice on his blog? He makes 6 figures a year from book sales and ad revenue. Even the original Stoics, like Seneca, were so successful as to be relevant 2000 years later. It’s hard to look “good enough” in the eye, when life certainly is good enough for those selling it.
Perhaps the reason that our generation suffers so much from anxiety, stress and mental health issues, is that nobody really wants to be mediocre. We’ve grown up in a world of influencers, even our own peers - sharing a perfect window into their perfect lives. And even the Stoics held individuals responsible for their actions and self-discipline.
So you embark on a journey of self-improvement, filled to the brim with information on how to crush life with your new habits; you’re going to be happy, disciplined, successful. The first week, you feel fantastic. You’ve achieving all your goals and have embraced the Stoic philosophy of calmly accepting things beyond your control.
Until life smashes you in the face. Hard.
Only this time, there’s noone to blame but yourself. You didn’t get up early because you were too lazy or stayed up too late, instead you hit the snooze button and now you feel more tired than ever.
You can’t focus. You want to do something productive, but you know if you try whilst feeling like this it’ll be shit. That’s inefficient, a waste of time. So you should take a nap, but then you’ll have even less time in the day to do anything. You should go to the gym, but gym was supposed to be this morning while you were snoozing. And you lie there, incapable of even resting as the feeling of indadequacy grows. With every second you lie there, you feel more and more inadequate, but less and less capable of achieving anything.
Sometimes it’s important to take a step back and reconcile with the person you are now, rather than the person you want to be in the future. Sometimes, you need to take a look at yourself, and think “hey, I made it this far being just the way I am”. And yes, I’m trying to be better, I’m trying to be future me. But right now, the only me that exists is me right now, so I have to look after myself and accept the way I am. Sometimes I’m lazy. A lot of the time I am. And that’s ok.
Sometimes, you can be the worst person to yourself. And you have to accept that too.
p.s. this gem ^^