letter #007 | dear younger me: good questions > “right” answers.

good questions > “right” answers.

Letter #007

February 20, 2023 | 11:54pm

is it perfectionism or a fight against unworthiness?

There's no reason for me to lie, so I'll just come out and say: it's been another hard week. Somewhat surprisingly, it's been an even harder week than the last one.

I feel like I have hardly taken a moment to rest.

I can be very good at pushing myself.

But there is a law in physics that states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

You can only stretch so far.

You can only push so much.

What happens when you stretch a rubber band beyond its limits? It'll go and go and go and then...

It snaps.

I feel like I'm nearing that.

Some days, I feel so exhausted, I could cry. And some days I do.

I get teary-eyed because it becomes difficult for me to find clarity in why I do a lot of the things I do.

I've thought a lot about perfectionism over the last few weeks. My experience with this newsletter has played a good part in that because for the last few weeks, I've put out things that were not quite as "together," per se, as I would have liked.

It's made me really upset and anxious some days, to tell you the truth.

I can get extremely worked up over the presentation of the things I do, to the point where I'm now asking myself...why?

Why is it so important to have no typos in any email, letter, or text message I send?

Why is it so important to never have to ask for 5 extra minutes when driving to a meeting over an hour away?

Why is it so important to me to look so flawless and polished and put-together 100% of the time?

What is it I'm trying to prove?

And to whom?

And for what?

I have wondered for many years now if the exceptionally high quality of work I try to produce, both personally and professionally, draws from a sense of having not felt enough as I am since I was a very young girl.
The demand I place on myself to show up, without error, without "negative emotion," without inconsistencies, and to do so 100% of the time, is not only exhausting and defeating, it is unhealthy for me.

Now don't get me wrong: in some respects, I enjoy going to great lengths to make others feel special and loved and to create things I find beautiful, valuable, and helpful to myself and others.

But I need to learn to be mindful of the tipping point—the point at which the strength of having these high standards for excellence and meticulous attention to detail begins to become counterproductive and even harmful to me (and what I'm trying to create).

do i accept myself?

Okay, so no.

Lol. I don't.

In some respects, yes.

But let's see, if that day is not tied to some sense of accomplishment or great productivity, do I question its value? My value?

Do I talk down to myself and become unkind to myself when I make any type of mistake or substandard choice?

The answer is usually yes.

I am working on letting grace and acceptance envelop and move through me.

Sometimes these concepts feel very foreign to me.

But with practice and patience, change feels possible.

what am i afraid of?

Oh dear God. An easier question to respond to is, what am I not afraid of?

The answer is not much.

I'm afraid of a lot of things.

A few that top the list would be:

  • discovering the (negative) things I've been told about myself in the past are actually true
  • suddenly losing another person who I am extremely close to without having the chance to say goodbye or make sure they knew what they mean to me
  • feeling bad forever
  • being truly vulnerable, either in private or publicly, like this

what does it mean to truly be vulnerable?

Yesterday, I had an impromptu heart-to-heart with one of my clients. We talked about mental health and I shared with her that I have Bipolar I disorder and talked about losing my best friend to mental health struggles.

By the end of the conversation, she told me something that I've been thinking about since:

  • She said, "Wow, I'm sure that must have been hard for you to share and you probably don't tell that to a lot of people."

The truth is I'd talk about that to the grocery store cashier if it came up.

It's an important part of my story. Mental health is something I think needs to be discussed casually and regularly and not just during crisis or post-crisis situations.

But also, the topic of mental health and illness and my experiences tied to it are not hard for me to talk about...at all. I don't feel brave sharing them. It feels almost as commonplace as telling someone what my favorite candy is.

Something I find interesting about myself is that if you ask me to tell you something positive about myself, such as what I like or appreciate about myself, and it couldn't be tied to what I can do for others, I would be hard-pressed to answer you.

That would be a harder thing to share than talking about my experiences around mental illness.

From that viewpoint, I think vulnerability may just be subjective to the things that you carry shame, guilt, or judgment about and that's going to vary from person to person.

what's your favorite thing about yourself?

When starting with a new student, I always ask them to tell me their favorite thing about themselves. Oftentimes, it's tied to a sport or hobby, like, "I'm good at drawing." or "I'm good at soccer."

And I wonder about that a little...because for most of my life, I was praised for what I accomplished, what I had (namely intelligence), and what I looked like.

Compliments surrounding my character or personality or just...my humanity were much less frequent.

But funnily enough, those were the ones I wanted to hear most.

I wanted to hear people tell me they were proud of me.

I wanted to hear people say that I didn't have to *do* anything to earn their love or positive feelings about me.

That I was worthy and deserving of them just by virtue of my existence.

These days, I'm working on telling myself these things. It will take some time to unlearn the opposites of these phrases, but that's okay.

After all, what's the rush, right?

why am i so impatient?

Honestly, I feel like it's because I'm still trying to prove things (e.g., my worthiness) to people and maybe I think, the faster they can accept me, the faster I can accept me, too.

It's an exhausting and endless game that I have been losing for years now.

Many of my goals tend to come with deadlines attached to them.

But beyond that, they come tied to conditions for loving myself and finding peace and fulfillment in my life.

  • I'll be so happy when I make X amount of money.
  • I'll love my body again when I reach X lbs.
  • I'll be kinder to myself once I finally get X and Y together and start doing Z consistently.

It is exhausting and limiting to live like this.

The question I am answering these days is:

why not [love myself] now?

I don't want to reserve the love and care and joy and appreciation I offer so many others for these lofty and often arbitrary goals that extend so many months and years into the future.

For what?

I do not want to continue to postpone my joy, my love, my peace for some distant, hazy time in the future that may not even come.

I'm worthy of loving myself now.

And although that felt corny to write, it's true. May not be exactly how I feel now, but it's how I want to feel one day. And I know I'll get there.

how long can you give to others what you don't give to yourself?

As I spoke about my best friend Mitsu to my client yesterday and described what a brilliant and beautiful, talented, and supportive person he was, I mentioned to her that it saddened me that he would genuinely and so enthusiastically hype up anyone who needed it... He'd give them the pep talk and push they needed to pursue their creative endeavors or just anything that would make them truly happy.

I told her how he gave so much love to other people, but it made me wonder how much of it he returned to himself.

Mitsu and I always had such a tacit and beautiful way of communicating.

We could finish each other's sentences in a non-annoying way just because we thought so similarly and experienced the world in the same uncommon sort of way.

We were strong in similar ways.

And we struggled in similar ways.

I am in my last two weeks of being 26, the age he was when he passed away.

As the days bring me closer to this next year of life, a part of me just feels grateful to have made it to see a new year.

But an equal or even greater part of me feels beholden to my beautiful friend to really practice caring for myself in a nurturing, nonjudgmental, and gentle way this year.

Despite these hard weeks, I am filled with gratitude.

I have a good life.

Thank you God.

I have a good life.

I’d love to hear from you.

Have any thoughts about this letter? Did anything resonate with you? Got an idea for something you’d like to see in a future letter?

Just reply to this email to let me know. I’m happy to hear from you and respond to every message.

I hope you can find something kind about yourself this week, Reader. I appreciate you being here and I'll see you Monday.


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