You can do hard things and not hate yourself

You can do hard things and not hate yourself.

DUH.

I don’t know about you, but hating myself hasn’t gotten me anywhere good. Believing that I am unworthy and not good enough has led me to make bad decisions, be a hurtful person, get into bad relationships for the wrong reasons, make mistakes and hate myself more and make more mistakes and left me crying on my floor. It’s generally not a joyful or successful way of living.

So I read this article “If It Doesn’t Suck, It’s Not Worth Doing” because the premise sounded OK.

As I runner and an endurance athlete, I do things that suck all the time. Running in 80-degree heat pretty much sucks all the time. Racing can often suck. It hurts. Sitting on my couch is way easier, but I find that the reward from doing difficult things is greater than the easy payoff of sitting on my ass. Doing difficult things, like running marathons, makes me feel alive. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and joy. Yes, there is worth in doing things that suck. While there was a lot I agreed with (like doing hard things brings more joy than immediate impulses), one thing was just ridiculous.

The author writes: “The self-esteem movement of the late 20th century is an enormous contributor to America’s faltering success.

People are taught to love themselves regardless of their performance. Thus, they justify mediocrity.”

Complete bullshit. That is not at all what self-love is, a fundamental misunderstanding of this practice.

Self love is not accepting mediocrity. I can love myself and also want to improve. I can accept where I am now without judgment and also want to get better. Self-love and hard work are in no way mutually exclusive.

I believe the opposite.

When I have filled myself with the opposite of self-worth, which is shame, I have made myself physically weaker and convinced myself that I cannot succeed because I’m not good enough. And then I’m really not going to succeed at my goals because Henry Ford was right when he said, “Whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right.”

Loving myself means I can treat myself with kindness when I fail. Because I will fail at things. I will come up short. I will make mistakes. I am not a perfect person, and perfectionism is simply an iteration of fear and shame. Telling myself I’m an inferior person only makes get up, dusting myself off and trying again more difficult. Self-love is accepting that something I’m doing right now is not the best path to success, whatever that success is. It’s looking myself in the eye, accepting that and then finding a path to improvement, but without telling myself I’m a terrible human being who is not worthy.

Getting up is hard enough; I don’t need to put on a 20-pound emotional weight vest each time I fail.

Elite runner Tina Muir has something to say about this.

When I finally shed much of my shame and stopped telling myself how terrible I was, I blossomed! I began to approach life with joy and lightness rather than heavy darkness. Life became an opportunity instead of a struggle. I find more joy in what I do, especially the tough stuff because my self-worth doesn’t hang on the outcome.

And guess what? I still do hard things every day! I still want to reach my goals! I still want to get better! It’s just that I start my journey from a place of love. Love is stronger than shame, every single time.

The other day at masters swim, I was just exhausted. I wanted so much just to stop and get out and go home and sleep. I didn’t tell myself I was too slow or not good enough. I kept showing up. And I finished that session with satisfaction. Next time, I’ll want to do better.

Dude, I can have my cake and eat it, too.

This writer mixed up self-love and self-esteem, too. He writes confidence must be earned, which I entirely agree with, but doesn’t seem to know that self-worth is not the same as confidence.

Look, I’m sure the Puritans got a lot done, but have you ever read about their lives? That shit sounds awful! Shame everywhere! I would give up all productivity and conventional measures of success if I had to live like one of the characters in “The Crucible.”

And then the guy went on went on: “Unlike in other parts of the world where hard work is seen as a virtue, the repeated phrase in America is: ‘Don’t work too hard!’ Success these days is to get as much as you can for as little work as possible.”

Uh, that’s not the America I know. Sure, there are always, always exceptions, but I don’t see many people living life like that. Most people are overbooked and burned out from doing too much. I don’t think America on the whole is doing too badly.

This guy also said most marriages fail, which is not true. It’s about 30 to 40 percent, which is a lot, but it’s not most. Can we stop saying most marriages end in divorce? (and separately, can we stop looking at lifelong marriage as the only way to have a successful one? I digress.)

Maybe we’re now seeing a culture that doesn’t always call success achieving a monetary goal or a productivity goal or a conventional transactional goal. Maybe success is being a good parent and working less to spend more time with their kids. Maybe we see people who don’t want to live in a bad marriage because it’s not worth it. As playwright and performer Sarah Jones said on Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast, “What if joy is my only metric of success?”

Truth be told, I would much rather measure my success in joy and love than in a dollar amount or a time on a clock, even if I want a raise or to hit a specific marathon time. What makes these achievements worth it is the joy and satisfaction I got on the way there, and the resilience I found when I failed and then tried again along the way.

He writes, “The longer you sit with the boredom, pain, and discomfort — and actually create something meaningful, the more confident and successful you will be.”

Yes, I believe this. I live this way. But I don’t need to make this shit harder than it already is. I can love myself and accept my whole self, flaws and all, on the journey.

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