Right now I’m in this weird in-between phase of my life in which I am not where I want to be, but neither am I where I was one year ago. I have accomplished many things in my life for which I am proud, but at the same time there is still so much that I have yet to achieve which often leads me to feel unsuccessful. It’s as if the successes of my past pale in comparison to the successes that I want for my future. But once I achieve those successes they are no longer enough.
I’m a very goal oriented person and while I truly believe that this characteristic gives a lot of meaning to my life, it becomes problematic when coupled with the perfectionism that I also possess.
On the one hand, even getting out of bed in the morning can be a personal success when I’m struggling with my mental health. But on the other hand, when I finally do achieve big milestone goals in my life I often feel as though I should have done something to be even better than I was.
There is a constant battle between considering my successes for what they really are (huge accomplishments!!) while at the same time feeling as though I should have been better in one way or another. While it is healthy to see room for improvement in our lives, it is not so great when you begin to struggle with acknowledging the achievements that you have reached.
As someone who is struggling to overcome an eating disorder, I can honestly say that I see connections between my goal oriented personality and the disease that controls my eating habits. Essentially, the eating disorder tends to have a stronger hold on my life when I find myself unable to make progress towards my aspirations in life. For example, right now I am in between school ventures and it is driving me absolutely bonkers that there is nothing I can do in order to speed up the admissions decisions of the universities I am applying to. As a result, I find myself setting other goals for myself; caloric goals; weight goals. I find myself fixating on goals that I can achieve in the short term in order to give myself some semblance of meaning.
Realistically, I know that this is illogical and dangerous. But at the same time, my disordered thoughts are strong and I am easily drawn into the need to have a goal that I am working to achieve. This is something that I’ve been working on in therapy. I’ve been setting smaller goals for myself in order to distract myself and focus on something healthier than restricting my food intake, but even this seems futile in comparison to the eating disorder. The calorie goals just seem to matter a lot more than a goal to read 50 books by the new year. These smaller goals that I’ve set for myself really hold no meaning for my life. I need to set goals that will make a contribution to my future. The eating disorder contributes by giving me some semblance of control in my life, which evidently I need right now in order to manage the anxiety that I’m experiencing while waiting to know if I will get into grad school.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I define my personal success based on my goals for the future and my success in working towards those goals. I’m proud of my past successes, but I’m also fond of the idea that my past does not define me. I need to be continuously successful throughout my life to consider myself successful. I can’t rest on my laurels.
It’s a bit odd, really, to put so much emphasis on achieving goals but then those achievements are no longer enough to make me feel successful once they’re complete. I need to constantly challenge myself. But there’s nothing wrong with working towards self improvement!