When I was home from school as a kid, I watched a show in which the happy 3 used to wave goodbye to the children watching: “Bye-bye!” “See you soon!" They never invited me over to play. I guess at the time, in the ‘80s, I wasn’t very popular. Thousands of dollars and years of therapy later, I am over it.
That said, I have that same feeling whenever I have heard some talk show host speaking passionately about the importance of having goals and milestones that you can check off after having achieved them. The camera always pans to the audience, heads bobbing with understanding and recognition of this essential truth. Once again, I feel like the speaker is not addressing me, or people like me, who need to resolve to aspire to something else: dialing it down a little.
Don’t get me wrong—there’s plenty of room for improvement over here. I’m a constant tidier, leave projects undone and get way too anxious when plans change abruptly. I’ve yet to send out any birth announcements (they are now twelve, ten, seven & four) and I can’t tell you how many times a week -one of my friends stop in for a minute -and I scour the walls for a moment looking for just an inkling of inspiration to finally decorate because they all have more ideas than I. They're probably ones who also remember to dust.
I could aspire to improve those things, and I suppose I do. Goals are useful and important, and without them we’d all be sitting in a pile of dirty laundry, and spilled meal leftovers, on our sofas.
But I have a twisted history with self-improvement, one that has included an eating disorder and a highly vocal internal critic who is like Kip in the Napoleon movie—no matter how much she gets, she’s never satisfied. For a long time, I felt that I was never thin enough, easy-going enough or perky enough, and if I didn’t improve in all those areas, I could add lazy and ineffective to my list of faults. Even though I’ve learned to think differently and go easier on myself, perfectionism is my default. I sometimes have to consciously remind myself to cut myself the same slack I cut others without even thinking about it.
I know too many women who use self-improvement as a bludgeon, and aspirations (which on the surface seem positive) as an excuse to be unkind to themselves. I’d like to see people like me resolve to aspire toward aspiring a little less, or at least a little more gently. At the very least, keep your aspirations attainable, and don’t always move the bar a few inches (a few pounds, a few dollars, a few whatevers) out of your reach.
I made a goal 12 years ago to lose those first 55 lbs. Today, I finally achieved this goal.
This year, I’m aspiring to appreciate what I have and what I’m good at (which, happily, is more than things I fail at) even if I don’t always have an effective duster when I need one. I’ll leave that for someone else to achieve.