Wednesday, October 05, 2016

I will now punish myself without mercy

We spend all this time doing this crazy work, and then it fails, and then we start to wonder if we’ve killed ourselves for nothing. To the point that we throw our hands up in the air and think, wow, if this is what it feels like to give my best, why would I even bother to continue? 

It’s a dangerous cycle to be trapped in. One that lacks compassion and acceptance. And if we have any intention of making our dreams a reality, we have to embrace failure as a learning opportunity, rather than treating it as a source of shame. 

We have to change the way we relate to our own imperfection and pain, rather than treat it as evidence to confirm our negative expectations. 

And most importantly, we have to stop allowing external comparison to trump our own belief in ourselves. 

That last one is where I stumble most frequently. I resentfully scoff at other people’s successes and think two thoughts to myself. 

First, how am I not a millionaire? 

And secondly, I’m working way too hard. 

Blech. It’s no way to live. 

Festinger first pioneered social comparison theory in the fifties, which posited that people try to determine their worth based on how they stacked up against others. His research found that there exists, in the human organism, a drive to evaluate his abilities. And that process is carried out trough respective comparison with the abilities of others. 

The problem is, he says, is that these evaluations are completely subjective and unstable. Because they’re not based on expectation, they’re based on aspiration. 

Meaning, falling short of the fantasy perfectionist ideal instantly equates to failure. And the pain of being less than what we thought we ought to be is unbearable. 

Look, you’re doing fine. Really. Take time to acknowledge the success you already have. Trust that failure is okay when you know you’re on a long road. 

And remember, the fundamental condition of success is that your locus of evaluative judgment is internal. That the only social comparison you make is against the person you used to be. 

Does comparing yourself with others forcing you to forget the uniqueness of your own journey?


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Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
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