“Screws fall out all the time, the world is an imperfect place” The Breakfast Club
This blog post was knocking around in my head through the holiday season and resurfaced in the new year. During Christmas, there were many times I felt inadequate. How many gifts is enough? How many holiday gatherings is enough? Should I do more? Can I do more? Worry about all of these questions causes me to miss out on the joy that comes with gatherings and gifts. To abate the guilt, I wait until the 2 weeks (even 2 days) before Christmas to buy gifts so I don’t struggle with whether I am doing enough. And I participate in every gathering.
New year for change
I remind myself every New Year’s Eve that I have more time on my hands on January 1st than any other day of the year. I avoid making big plans for big changes in the new year until January 5th. But, in all honesty, the resolutions I reach are never enough. At least in my mind. My workout routine will never be enough compared to my days as a personal trainer. My eating plan will never be enough compared to my pre-parent days. Forget the tidying up.
There is always something
In the movie Elizabethtown, there is a phrase, “if it wasn’t this, it would be something else”. When I eat “healthy” according to my standards, there is always something else I can improve. And advertisements remind me of this all of the time. Advertisements say you can do more, be more, make more. When I ignore them, I have a tinge of guilt that I am complacent.
As an attorney, I practice in a service business. The stakes are high regardless of how straightforward the case. Something can always go wrong. Even if I think I have done a good job, my inner critic says “never enough”. Then there are other people’s expectations which can end up as a form of criticism. This often happens if I don’t revisit expectations or when I don’t ask for feedback. Add external criticism to the inner critic and it creates quite a mess.
What is enough?
The energy, time and care for myself, my job, family, and friends is always up to me. But I have to know what is enough so I can stop when I’m nearing the boundary. I do well when I have guidelines to follow. When the guidelines only involve me and my behavior, I do well. For example, I don’t have e-mail on my phone. Saturdays are always for fun. No Facebook before I get out of bed. These are pretty easy to determine if I’m doing them or not. I don’t do well with guidelines for things that involve other people. How soon to respond to an e-mail. How long to leave dishes in the sink. How frequently to volunteer. How much to donate.
Write it down
It is difficult to be accountable to myself when I keep everything in my head. I can change my mind depending on how feel. I can lose focus when I get busy. And I can use the excuse that it doesn’t matter anyway - the world is an imperfect place. My answer to feeling like I’m never doing enough is to write down what is enough. If I write down guidelines to follow I will know when, according to my own standards, I have done enough. Writing down what I want to happen makes it real and will save me from my inner critic when I feel inadequate.
If you are struggling with other people’s expectations, make sure that you write down the expectations you have for yourself.