I just spent the last hour internet stalking people through LinkedIn, to see where people I know had progressed in their professional careers. I also stalked two of the staff members at the agency and confirmed that one was indeed, a psychiatric rockstar. Granted, my peers and other folks may have had a different path, a different goal, and hell, a few more years to achieve what they did than I did, but at the same time, I just stand in awe at what people have been able to accomplish.
It’s been tough for me to be in the environments I was in as a child. Years, I was compared to by everyone else that came into my parents’ lives.
“Why can’t you write pretty like N?”
“I heard that my cousin’s daughter did something great recently.”
“There’s no reason to not get A’s if you aren’t lazy. Don’t be lazy. Like your friends. They’re lazy. Why can’t you find better friends?”
“You just need to work hard and get a good job.”
“Why psychology? You will make no money. No job security.”
“Oh, you want to do social work? So you can find a county job? Yes, find a county job. They have great benefits.”
The thing is, I know they all have good intentions and they mean well, but for someone who grew up as a middle child and kept wondering if she’d ever live up to the prodigy that was her older sister, it was hard. I started to place myself to these high standards and when I couldn’t reach them, understandably so, I would blame myself for not having worked hard enough and then I became more unengaged. People commended me for getting decent grades or getting into a good school, but to be honest, I never felt as if I really worked hard for it like my peers did, like my efforts couldn’t match up to someone else’s efforts. If I didn’t sweat and toil, then it wasn’t work and I couldn’t count that as my own.
It’s taken me a long while and it will probably take me some more time to realize how to restructure and reframe my goals and how I measure them. I can’t continue to hold myself to high standards. Let’s be honest – I will most likely never be published in a peer-reviewed article because I just hate writing and research and trying to make myself sound academic. It’s just not for me. At least not any time soon. But I can’t compare myself to those that do publish articles; I am not them and their accomplishments cannot become my standards. The fact that someone was able to get into a great school on a great scholarship in order to do great work doesn’t mean that is me and that is my goal. My parents’ goals cannot be my own. My friends’ goals cannot be my own. Only I can set my own goals and I have to do them in a way that is realistic, but challenging. Maybe I don’t have to sweat buckets and labor under the intense sun, but it will be more than I do on an average day and maybe that’s going to work for me.
I am my own person and I have to find my own way to do things. I get really turned off when people suggest I do things that I probably should do. It’s a weird natural habit. You want me to eat healthy? Eff that, give me a fried chicken wing. You want me to go to the gym? How about… tomorrow? Or next week… or when my schedule dies down. It’s not that I’m incapable of doing these things, but if other people plant those ideas in my head, I cannot harness it on my own. I need to do it on my own and what would be helpful is to have those people supporting me. Maybe none of the “It’s good that you’re doing XYZ” but more of “Would you like me to go with you?” or “I heard this salad is bomb dot com. You want to try it?” No judgments, no “good” or “bad” things. Just… support.
Bringing it back to the standards and goals and accomplishments, yadda yadda yadda… I have to realize I have my own set of accomplishments. They are not the “standard” versions like graduating from school or anything of that sort. They are more like being able to have success stories. To report back and feel as if I’ve made it through somehow with a client. To know that I have become a changed person, that I can change everyday. To know that I am a very introspective person – I may not be able to connect myself to all of the appropriate social nuances right away, but give me the time to analyze situations and I’ll eventually get there. I take the time to care about people and to put thought and effort into the things that I do. Those are my accomplishments. That in the midst of the crazy world, I am able to be human, to hold and have compassion (except stupid and slow drivers on the road…), to know that when I love people, animals, and things that I do, I am able to put pieces of me in all of it and feel nourished and whole.