Are you stuck in a constant cycle of self-criticism, overthinking, and generally feeling a little bit crap about yourself? You have got to be your own motivation, but it’s easy to take that to the unhealthy extreme.
I know I do it all the time, I finish at the gym, I look in the mirror, and all I see are the body parts that I hate looking at, I don’t see the arms I want, I don’t see the defined chest, I see the flabby stomach, the lack of real delts, the uneven traps, the fact the V-shape I want is looking more rectangular. But it doesn’t just stop at the gym.
I score 80% on a test, maybe even 95%, and all I can dwell on is the questions I get wrong. It’s difficult to strive for perfection when your idea of what’s perfect is constantly evolving. 5 years ago when I was at school, I’d have loved to look in the mirror and see what I see now, know what I know now, have the life that I have now, but now I’m living in this moment, the thought of staying like this forever is sickening to me.
And I’m not saying that all of the time this is necessarily a bad thing. If you looked in the mirror and every time you saw yourself you just went “Yeah, I’m okay with this”, you’d never have any incentive to change, or be a functioning human. You must have a minimum level that you’re willing to accept before you think “Yeah I’m alright” – and some people can leave it at that.
Some people are happy with where they are at, and where they are in life, how they look, their family life, their income, and that’s great, I am genuinely happy for any person that can look at their life now and just know that they’re content with where they are.
However, I’m sure even for the seemingly happy people, there’s often something in the back of their mind that they wish they could improve on.
How far do you take that though? That’s the question that I’m trying to answer, everybody has a minimum level of acceptance that constantly evolves, but at what point does it become an obsession, where you’re picking out every single issue? At what point does “being a bit of a perfectionist” become a genuine problem where you’re always in search of that unicorn of a goal.
If it wasn’t for this feeling, we wouldn’t have the concept of eudemonia, that feeling of happiness that comes from the comparison of the hardships it took you to get to that point. I have talked about this concept before, so I won’t go into too much detail, but anybody can tell you that after you finish a workout, you feel amazing, the problem is that most people want instant gratification, most people can’t deal with the concept of delayed gratification, most people can’t cope with putting work in for something they won’t reap the benefits of until 6 weeks, 6 months, maybe even a year down the line. And that’s why most people aren’t great leaders, that’s why most people aren’t great entrepreneurs, and that’s why most people don’t follow their deepest, wildest dreams. That, and fear.
Essentially, people do stuff with the intention of feeling good, but, it’s too easy to feel good now, and sometimes the things that are good short term carry some pretty long-term negative effects. Let’s take the obvious examples, alcohol, people work all week just to go out on a Friday/Saturday night for that little feeling of freedom, do you feel good doing it? Yeah probably. Do you feel good the next day? Fuck no. Do you still think about something embarrassing you did when you were drunk 6 months after it happened? I’m willing to bet most people have at least one or two memories like that.
Another example, eating chocolates and ice cream – do you feel good when you do it? Do you feel satisfied? Yeah! And this isn’t an attack at anybody, I drink and I eat chocolate and ice cream, I’m not trying to be hypocritical, I’m trying to outline the problems I need to fix in hopes that even one person will relate and maybe just even consider making one positive change. But I do it all the time, I sit at work, bored, I open a pack of biscuits and next thing I know I reach in to grab one but there’s none left, and I don’t do this because I’m hungry, I do this because I’m bored, and I feel good while I’m eating them, I don’t feel good afterwards, I don’t feel good when I look in the mirror and I count a stomach roll for every chocolate digestive I’ve ever eaten, but I do it because it feels good at the time.
Then there’s the opposite of this, going to the gym even when you aren’t seeing results, just because you know in 6 months, you’ll look better and feel better, saying “no” to going out on a Friday night because you’re at homing working on your own little project. There aren’t many people on this planet that bought a private jet by partying every weekend, they just see that as celebrating when you’ve not really got anything to celebrate for. Again, I don’t fly around in a private jet either, I can’t tell you how to get to that point, but I can tell you a few reasons why I know I’m not at that point yet.
There isn’t really a lesson to be learned here I think because everyone has different thresholds for what they deem successful and what they’re aiming for in life, but I suppose the one thing to take away is don’t always put the instant gratification first, don’t cut it off entirely, but also, don’t be too hard on yourself, from time to time, we all look in the mirror and see something staring back at us that we don’t like; that doesn’t mean that you won’t get rid of that one day if you keep working towards it.
Which does bring me on to one last point, make your goals attainable, if you’ve never ran before, don’t aim to run a marathon in 8 weeks’ time. Aim to run your first half mile without stopping, then your first full mile. Then try and take 10 – 20 seconds off your time, set yourself some little goals that when you achieve them, you’ll have that eudemonia to drive you forward. It’s important to feel good about yourself, and it’s important to make sure you do that in the right way.