Disappointment

Before I start this one, I would like to preface it with the fact that I am okay. I am not depressed, and my self-esteem is doing just fine. Just so we’re clear and I don’t have my mom calling to ask me if I need to go into counseling (Hi, Mom!)

I’ve gotten into a habit of setting timelines up for myself. When I’m on summer/winter break (depending on what time of year I’m making this promise to myself), then I’ll start exercising and getting healthy cause I’ll have all that extra time. Once I’m a student teacher then I’ll have all of my crap together and magically be organized and a functioning adult. And on the list goes…

Except it doesn’t work that way. I can’t bank on my future self to be something that I’m not working on right now and this is all really just a form of procrastination.

Okay, fine. Down with the idealized future self! I should work on those things right now.

But it’s not just the future me that’s been idealized. I’ve suddenly realized that many aspects of my identity either aren’t true, or aren’t quite as true as I’d like them to be. The me I’ve constructed in my head is a crafty, creative, bright, thoughtful and compassionate person that over the last couple of years has become increasingly informed, reliable, organized, intentional, and sociable.

I’ve spent this week taking note of when I live up to those characteristics, and frankly, it hasn’t been often. I don’t say this to get down on myself, but to be more realistic. Have you ever seen statistics of how people rate their own qualities? Whether it’s driving skill or professional performance, generally about 70% of people rate themselves above average, and often a good 20% rate themselves in the top 5-10%. That’s just not statistically possible – we consistently over-inflate our own ability and how well we do in comparison to others.

So while that list up there consists of things I strive for, I recognize that I miss the mark a lot. I’ve grown up with a generation that has learned to chant that I am awesome, I am good at everything, I deserve the world, and I’ve gotten fed up with all of the talk about boosting self-esteem. Even though I am not always good at something and I am not always the person I want to be, admitting that does not mean I am going to get an eating disorder, start cutting myself, or get into an abusive relationship.

The gentle part of my brain is quietly reminding me that I’m 20 and have a long life ahead of me to work out the kinks, but I would point out that generally, most people do not change that much over a lifetime. We may have quick bursts of change, but they’re rarely sustained.

Case in point? The last couple that stayed here were kind of our poster children, the ones who turned out okay and got their lives back together. But even with a network of support and suggestions for how to keep the momentum going, within several months of leaving here they turned back to old habits and are now finalizing a divorce.

That’s not the only example either, though the most recent and most disappointing one.

So I’m faced with this scenario: The person I’ve claimed to be isn’t really where I’m at, and I would like to get there at some point but even with my whole life ahead of me I still might not make it.

While there’s the hyped up self-esteem solution where I shut my eyes, clamp my hands over my ears and shout “LA LA LA I’M AWESOME LA LA LA!”, there’s also the comforting, if fatalistic, “I’ll just never be an adult.” approach (and that really is comforting – just reading the comments on that made me feel better because I’m not the only one who functions like that).

I think I need something in the middle, recognizing that I suck and probably won’t change a whole lot, but still find some way to keep trying, even if in vain. I don’t really know how to do that, but at least now I can stop feeling guilty for not being the Super Me I’ve been pretending to be.

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