Take it easy on yourself. Expect more from yourself.

I’m a resolution, goal-oriented kind of person. I’m very attracted to 30-day challenges, training plans, lists of top ten tips.  It’s easy to jump on the treadmill of self-improvement when books, blogs and other forms of news media are brimming with stories of people who are doing really amazing, creative things (I want to do amazing things too!), not to mention the ever-growing genre of self-help literature.  It’s everywhere! — in fashion magazines, in blogs, in bookstores.  It would be nice to be one of those people who can turn away from the wailing sirens of self improvement, to be the type of person to laugh at Oprah and Martha’ Stewart’s empires of self-actualization, but I am not one of them.  My desire to want more, to do more is rapacious — perhaps it’s the new life stage I’ve entered, the decade of action (my thirties!).  I know that there is a large industry making a mint off of these desires — particularly because of the anxiety that drives their insatiability.

What do I want?  I want to be healthier, to be fitter.  I want to express my creativity.  I want to integrate myself into British culture while simultaneously being proud to be an American.  I’m also a bit old-fashioned — I want to be a good home keeper, a decent gardener.  But I’m forward-looking too: I want to be adept at using technology, and curious and open minded to progressive and interesting new ideas. I desperately want to maintain links with the precious family and friends that I have overseas.  I want to be a supportive wife, a loving daughter and sister, a responsible pet-owner, a hard-working and reliable employee.

Is this asking too much?  Because sometimes, it feels like those goals are merely the baseline, and when I don’t meet them to my satisfaction, I feel the remorse of falling short.  I’m open to the idea that, at times, if I set the bar too high, the answer is not always to pray for wings, but to lower the bar, clear it gracefully, and then set the bar a smidge higher next time.  Writing that feels like surrender, though.  This “happiness contradiction” of expecting more of yourself and taking it easy on yourself is so difficult to negotiate.


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