grumpy gray cat trying to relax on a rug

I was once blamed for toxic positivity, where one doesn’t acknowledge the very real feelings associated with thoughts about certain events, or worse, where one pressures people to suppress those thoughts and feelings or attempts to convince them that they are wrong. Mind you, it is okay to share your own different opinions, especially when you aren’t trying to sell your own agenda and when you’re respecting others’ different opinions, and meeting folks where they’re at – there’s a time and a place to speak your mind, and to hold your tongue or typing fingers. And folks who really know me know that I’m about as far away from chronic and convincing happiness as one could get. But really, toxic positivity isn’t what plagues me. That spot is reserved for toxic thoughts about how I should progress.

I’m constantly wondering … what should I be doing next? Where should I be in six months? Six years? What do I need to be doing now to make that possible?

Which is really stressful to me. I feel constantly bombarded by messages reinforcing the need to improve. Set goals. Take action. Reach your full potential.

Which all sound lovely.

Until they don’t. Until they turn on you.

Until they become fuel for these thoughts:

You’re not doing enough.
You aren’t where you should be.
You’re not on a course that will get you anywhere.
You’re backsliding, even.
Figure it out, already.
You know how to do this.
You’ve come so far.
What’s stopping you?
You must not be capable of more.

I’ve written and spoken several times in different places about some of my formulas, one of which is this: awareness + acceptance = power.

I can definitely be missing part of that formula, where I’m keenly aware of my current state, but absolutely do not accept it. And I can tell you in no uncertain terms that it takes away any power I have to do anything but obsess about that awareness.

Well, I once had someone challenge me to say this:

“I love and accept myself.”

And I couldn’t. Because I don’t. I mean, I do, to a point, but deep down, there’s the steady drumbeat of “what should I be doing next where should I be next year why am I not moving towards that what are my plans if I don’t get moving I’ll get nowhere and then what,” and that reinforces for me that I don’t accept myself now very much, and I certainly am already not accepting wherever I’ll be in the future, unless it fits some rigid image of perfection that I can’t even define for myself well.

So it seems I am at an impasse. Which I refuse to stay at. So my next goal is simply this:

Move closer to acceptance. If I can’t accept myself and my future self now, in whatever shape that future-self is, then this is the most important work for me to do.

When I feel like I’m failing because I don’t know what I want to do next, much less what I want to be when I grow up, and when I feel stuck because I’m not methodically working on making myself more successful, I’ll remember this:

My primary job is to love and learn. My biggest desire to is share and inspire others to do the same. As long as I’m doing that, then I’m doing it all right. I can let go of the race, and I can actually relax.

Which, interestingly enough, is when I’m most likely to progress anyway, while I’m enjoying the journey.