“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” said one of my friends over coffee today. “Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it’s soft,” he laughed.
“It’s important to have goals and dreams and expectations, but it’s more important to have a sense of humour about them.”
I can expect a lot of myself. If I don’t feel I have got enough boxes ticked – be it my short-term or long-term work or study or sporting or social or financial objectives – it is easy to feel frustrated. I don’t think I’m alone in this.
“I just don’t know what I’m doing,” I complained, going on to list some of the random things bouncing around on my mind: “I have about a twenty library books waiting for me to read and haven’t touched any of them this week; I want to send my book proposal to publishers but I’m afraid they won’t like it; I have been walking to work all week and don’t feel I’ve lost a pound off my winter belly; I don’t want to get old; I want to pack my bags and run away; Last night I wore my favourite shorts from Peru even though the fly is basically broken and they are almost falling apart; I don’t think I want to let go of the past… ” The list went on. Oh woe is me.
Lucky for me this particular friend has written books and done presentations with children about self-esteem, and our morning coffee evolved into a little session of psychoanalysis.
“Are you breathing?” he said, “Yes. Well then you are ok. You should feel good that you are breathing, and accept anything more than that as bonus. And everyone gets attached to their favourite clothes…”
I laughed – maybe I was blowing a few things out of proportion.
He went on to tell me how all these goals we make for ourselves – these stories we tell ourselves that we think we should live up to – are not something that we should not connect with a sense of how good or bad we feel about ourselves. From looking tight in our bikinis, to getting good grades on an essay.
Apparently there’s a line of psychological thought that says that self-esteem is self-defeating. The idea of self-esteem separates you from your self, making you stand outside yourself like a judge with a score card.
Instead we need to appreciate the incredible expression of life we are a part of, which has nothing to do with anything we do. We breath and our hearts beat without us thinking or doing anything. It seems so easy, but it’s actually pretty incredible simply to be an expression of life. We should be happy about this, and while we can have goals we shouldn’t let the consequences of our goals make us feel better or worse about ourselves. All we have to do is be.
“It’s about unconditional self-acceptance,” He concluded. “Accept yourself, because you can breath. And whether your goals are attained or not, whether its hard or soft, don’t forget to laugh.”
Photo: In my opinion the best statue at this year’s Bondi Statues by the Sea.