Pondering Pride

Only now am I making the connection between my childhood and the way I celebrate myself. It’s interesting to think about. When I was a child, I was exceptional. I didn’t realize it at the time, having no perspective on the matter. But now that I work with children every day I understand why so many adults in my life (my teachers, colleagues of my parents, etc.) seemed so amazed and excited about me as a person. I was always able to outperform my peers in nearly every way. I was incredibly intelligent and curious. I was creative and quite talented in my artistic endeavors. I even got straight As all throughout school, even in college.

Despite the showers of praise I got from so many people, my parents and family members never seemed too impressed. Because of this, I assumed the other people were just being polite or kind, and didn’t take their compliments to heart. My parents always treated me like I was a normal, average child. While other kids in my class got money for a report card with Bs and Cs, I never got anything at all for returning home with perfect marks. I was barely even patted on the back. While this was frustrating, I still believed it must just be because that was expected of me and I wasn’t doing anything special or impressive.

I’ve come to find out that, despite my parent’s apathetic reactions to my childhood accomplishments, they were very proud of me and knew I was gifted. In their minds, they didn’t want to make me arrogant or conceited with constant positive reinforcement. While they meant well, this approach definitely had other unintended consequences. Namely, as an adult, I find myself unable to give myself credit for my accomplishments or feel proud of anything that I do.

I never learned how to celebrate and enjoy personal success. Instead when I succeed I merely think that’s what I’m supposed to do, so it’s nothing to be especially pleased about. I find myself looking at other people’s lives and thinking I would be so happy and confident if I were them, but in reality I don’t think I would be. After all, I have a lot of amazing qualities and achievements myself. I just don’t acknowledge them. In fact, I even feel rather guilty when I try to tap into a sense of pride for who I am and how far I’ve come in my personal journey. I guess my parent’s fear of me developing an inflated ego has seamlessly transferred into my own mind.

Today, no matter how uncomfortable it might make me at first, I want to take the time to consciously note all of the incredible things I’ve done and continue to do on a daily basis. With the perspective of an outsider looking in, I’d like to try to adopt an objective perspective of my personal growth over the years. Maybe then I won’t feel so guilty about “doing nothing” or being “lazy” all the time. So here is a list of some things I think I should feel proud of.

  1. Bachelors Degree in Psychology, Minor in Writing: I’ve learned a hell of a lot about the human mind and my own internal biases and blind spots through my education. Sometimes I forget that the general public is not privy to a lot of the information I now use to guide my everyday life and decisions. While society doesn’t seem to value my degree very much, I’m still glad that I chose the major I did. I’m also proud that I graduated at the very top of my class, Summa Cum Laude.
  2. Certified Yoga Instructor: It sounds weird, but I feel so unworthy of this title that I often forget to even think of myself as a yoga teacher. I still remember idolizing my teacher in college and having a pipe dream that maybe I could teach yoga one day. Well I did it! I’m that incredible, beautiful, spiritual person that I once looked up too. And damn it, I deserve to give myself all the credit in the world for accomplishing something I hardly thought would ever be possible.
  3. Healthy Habits: In my late teens/early twenties, I really aspired to form healthy lifestyle habits. I would watch YouTube videos and follow Instagram accounts of people that I saw living the life that I so wanted to emulate. I really put people that could wake up early, exercise, and eat healthy on a pedestal. Yet, now that I’ve been waking up at 5AM and working out before work everyday and doing yoga and meditating religiously for years, I feel like it’s no big deal. It’s helpful for me to imagine how elated my younger self would be with the life I’ve cultivated for myself.
  4. Veganism: Being vegan is another goal that I had for a very long time, but never thought I would be good enough to manage it. Now that I’ve been vegan for just under ten years, it is just second nature. Even though it’s ridiculously easy now, I have to remember that this is an impressive feat to a lot of people, my former self included.
  5. Creativity: Despite not feeling very creative or talented most of the time, it’s still impressive that I manage to find time to dedicate to my creativity and imagination every single day. Even people that loved to write or paint in this youth often have given up these endeavors entirely once they transition into adulthood. My own sister, who is a phenomenal artist, no longer paints because she can’t find the time. I might not be a great artist or ever make anything that will have an impact on the world, but I think it’s beautiful that I make an effort to foster that artistic nature that we all have within.

While these things are not the only things that I’ve accomplished or think are deserving of my pride, they are a few of the most important to me. When I start feeling down on myself, like I’ve never done anything worthwhile with my life, I plan to look back on this list, add to it, and remember that I’m still an extraordinary individual.

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Acknowledging Our Accomplishments

As the new year quickly approaches, everyone’s first instinct is to set new goals. January is all about self-improvement and fresh starts. It’s always exciting to feel like you can start again with a clean slate. We have high hopes and big expectations for ourselves for the annual opportunity to recreate ourselves and refocus on what’s really important to us. However, what ever happened to the goals you set last year?

This is something not as many people care to think about. I’m definitely guilty of giving up on all my new year’s resolutions by the end of the month. While the first few days are filled with promise, it quickly devolves into disappointment and self-criticism. Then we really don’t want to think about our shameful failure for the rest of the year as we await yet another chance to start again. Checking back in my bullet journal for 2021, I was so beaten down by 2020, that I didn’t even set any yearly goals. Still I think we owe it to ourselves to reflect on the things we were able to accomplish at the end of each year, even if it’s just something small. Besides, what’s the point of setting goals if we never take the time to appreciate all the work we put into achieving them?

So today I wanted to make a conscious effort to give myself credit for my progress in 2021. Even without clear intentions for what kind of improvements I wanted to make, I manages to make some really significant changes in my life this year. And I don’t want to take them for granted. I encourage you, before the end of December, to set aside a few moments and make a list of at least a couple positive changes you made or lessons you learned in 2021. Here’s mine:

  1. Stopped taking Paxil for my anxiety.
  2. Overcame my eating disorder.
  3. Found an amazing partner and fell in love.
  4. Learned how to use my new drawing tablet and software.
  5. Cleaned and organized my home.
  6. Began calling mom and grandma once a week.
  7. Started making positive affirmation coloring pages for kids.
  8. Began listening to podcasts.
  9. Bought my first car.
  10. Stopped smoking.

Even if you feel like you haven’t done anything, I’d still recommend taking the time to reflect on the past year. I had no idea I’d end up having so many things to write until I tried. Without sitting down and thinking about it, I wouldn’t have thought twice about a lot of these accomplishments. They would have remained obscured behind the various new goals I want to set for the year to come. It’s easy to feel like you haven’t made any progress when you are always focusing on the future. I think it’s also a lot more common for us to focus solely on the places were we fell short rather than the places we have succeeded. Before you even begin to worry about all of the things left undone or all the improvements you want to make in 2022, give yourself the gift of acknowledging how far you’ve come. You deserve that self-recognition. That will be the fuel and the reassurance you need to take on all that awaits us next year.

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Giving Yourself Credit

As I was driving to work the other day, I couldn’t stop beating myself up for all the things I wanted to improve, but was still struggling with. Then I realized something, I’ve come so far in the last few months. Not very long ago, I would have been smoking two cigarettes on that half-hour drive to work. Now, I hardly even have any interest in smoking my vape. Some days I completely forget about it until late in the evening.

I started thinking about how rarely I give myself credit for the things I do accomplish. Once I reach a goal, there is never a moment of celebration. I go straight on to the next goal. I switch automatically from criticizing myself over one thing to criticizing myself over something else. In the back of my mind, I always think I’ll be happy, I’ll be able to congratulate myself once everything is perfect, once I’m perfect. It’s hard to acknowledge that that “perfect” moment, that “perfect” me, will never exist. There will always be things I want to work on and aspects of myself that I want to improve. That doesn’t mean that I can’t be proud of where I am right now.

This time last year, I was a heavy smoker, I was deep in the grips of an eating disorder, I was more depressed and anxious than perhaps any other time in my life. I have made so much progress since then. More than I ever thought I would be able to. I had nearly lost all hope of redemption. Now it’s been months since I’ve bought a pack of cigarettes. Not only have I been recovering from my eating disorder, I’ve been practicing mindful eating. My mental health overall has improved so much that I’ve even started taking a lower dose of my anxiety medication. Soon I am going to be dropping it down again, and hopefully will be able to wean myself off of it completely in the next few months. I’ve also taken my art to the next level by buying myself an electronic drawing tablet so I can more easily edit my drawings. Despite my initial fear of failure, I’ve gotten surprisingly good at using it.

All of these things are incredible achievements that I deserve to acknowledge and take pride in. I may not always meet my goals as quickly as I plan to, but I keep trying anyway. I am always working to improve myself and my life. My commitment to the effort alone is worth being proud of.

I don’t think I’m alone in this hesitancy and difficulty regarding giving myself credit for the good things I do. From a young age, many of us are taught to be humble. And while that may be a virtue, it’s also important to be able to acknowledge your talents and accomplishments. Not only will that make a significant difference for your mental health, but it will also make it easier for you to keep pursing your goals. If you never allow yourself a moment of rest to appreciate all you’ve done, how can you expect yourself to maintain motivation to continue moving forward?

Today, give yourself the gift of self-reflection. Particularly, try to reflect on all of the positive changes you have been able to make in your life. Just for today, try to focus on the things you’ve done or are currently doing well. Remember that it’s not about perfection, it’s about progress. The things you still want to work toward will be there waiting for you tomorrow. Today you deserve to rest and enjoy how far you’ve come.

Reframing Our Goals

The Science-Backed Reasons You Shouldn't Share Your Goals

I have a lot of big plans to start working on tomorrow. I’m really trying to get myself excited about these changes rather than feel overwhelmed by them. There is a thin line between eagerness and anxiety. It’s important for me to stay focused on the process rather than the end result. The process is where I’m going to be living, after all. I have to keep reminding myself that there really is no pressure. I’m only doing this for myself. I’m free to adjust and readjust as many times as I need to find the framework that best serves me moving forward. The most important part of all of this is making sure I practice loving kindness toward myself along the way.

1. Give Yourself Credit:

One of the ways I’m doing this is by taking the time to reflect on all the progress I’ve already made. I finally stopped smoking cigarettes again a few weeks ago. My inner voice wants to minimize this accomplishment by telling me things like: You shouldn’t have been smoking in the first place. You don’t deserve a pat on the back just because you stopped actively poisoning yourself. But that isn’t fair, and I know it. I deserve to feel proud of myself. It was a really difficult step for me to take. I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do it. Now not only have I switched back to vaping, but I have absolutely no desire to smoke cigarettes.

In addition to that, I’ve also managed to pull myself out of a serious eating disorder after only a year. I know that might not sound like much of an accomplishment, but just listening to other people discuss struggling with similar issues for over a decade made me really appreciate myself more. I loved myself enough even in that toxic headspace to make steps in the right direction even if it meant gaining all the weight I lost back again. This time my inner voice says: You still have an eating disorder. You’re just eating abnormally instead of not eating, binging, or purging. Now you’re still fucked up and you’re fat. But once again, that’s not a fair assessment. My eating habits may still be far from perfect, but they are definitely better. This isn’t the end of my journey. I’m even ready to start taking the next step forward.

I often find myself falling into the trap of never-ending self-improvement. I am always looking for the next thing I can do to be a better version of myself. The problem is I never take a moment to appreciate the accomplishments and victories I have along the way. I am a strong, resilient person. I’ve done so much more than I ever thought I could. What’s the point of even having these goals if I never take a step back to enjoy my progress and assess how far I’ve come?

2. Get Excited

Part of the struggle of working towards new goals is just that, viewing it as a struggle. This is where the reframing comes in. Somehow even when we are the ones setting the goals, it can feel like something we have to do rather than something we simply want to do. Keep reminding yourself of all the reasons that you want to be working toward your goals. For me, my intention is to start living in a way that is more loving and compassionate toward myself. I want to live in alignment with my ideals and treat my body and mind with the care and respect that they deserve.

Even more than the words themselves, try to get in touch with the feelings behind those words. Logic alone may be enough to help us act, but it’s the emotion that first inspired us to change that is going to keep us energized and excited about the journey. I like to visualize how good I am going to feel once I’m living in a way that is more true to my values. I’m curious to find out how my body will feel, how my mind might change. This is an adventure that I cannot wait to embark on.

3. No Pressure

Often when I set new goals, I get caught up in putting far too much pressure on myself to achieve them. Instead of visualizing how good I’m going to feel or remembering why I started in the first place, I imagine how shitty I’ll feel if I fail. This is where it’s important for me to remember that no one is there to hold me accountable except myself. There is no reason to fear failure unless I give myself a reason to. It doesn’t matter how long it takes or if I ever even get to where I’m trying to be. Would it even be worth it if I got there by being cruel and hard on myself? There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting off track or making mistakes along the way. That’s all part of learning what works best for me. I’ve just got to stay curious. Why didn’t that work? Why might that have worked better? Is there a way I can make this easier or more fun for myself? No matter the end result, I’m guaranteed to learn a lot about myself along the way. And that is its own form of success.

Setting goals for ourselves shouldn’t be this scary, daunting task. It’s fun to try new things. It’s fun to have something to work towards. It’s fun to learn about ourselves, what motivates us, what sets us off track, what makes us happy. Let your goals be a game. The best part is, as long as you’re trying, you can’t lose.

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