It’s the middle of January now, a couple weeks after many people made resolutions for the new year. Some of us might be nearing the reality check stage of our resolutions. For some, it could be called a reckoning. And some people are off to a good start with the goals they set, on track for a year of whatever it was they resolved to do.
I love goals. I don’t exactly make resolutions on New Year’s, but I definitely indulge myself with all that fresh-start, new-me, forward thinking and planning. I love the ambition and the taking inventory of what I want and what’s important to me. Not even just at New Year’s, but all year long, I’m a big fan of setting goals and finding your purpose and all that. Self improvement – or at least daydreaming about self improvement – is kind of a hobby of mine.
But if you’re a person who is currently on a self-improvement kick, and maybe especially if you’re a person who is not on a self-improvement kick but thinks you should be, I have something I want to tell you. This is something that is important, and that I promise you is true. The thing is this: Whatever your goals are, however and whoever you are right now before you’ve reached those goals, and whether or not you ever reach those goals, you’re actually okay how you are right now.
It sounds stupid to just say it like that, as if it’s obvious. But think about where you are in your life right now. Then ask yourself when you will be okay. And I don’t mean okay like surviving. I mean okay like a person who really is just fine the way they are, who deserves to be happy, who deserves to be proud of their accomplishments, who deserves to love and be loved, who deserves to sleep well at night, and relax, and rejoice. When will you be okay in that way?
If you’re like many people, you might say, “Yes, of course I’m okay now,” but you also probably feel like you’ll really, truly be just fine when you get (or quit) a certain job, or lose (or gain) some amount of weight, or graduate or start school, or get married (or divorced), or get out of debt, or clean your house, or stop smoking, etc. There are probably ways you wish you were different, and you might be waiting for those things to change before you let yourself be loved and happy and confident. Before you let yourself put down your shame. Maybe even before you let yourself feel like you deserve your spot on this earth.
That’s the problem with self improvement. It’s good to have goals, but what about the meantime? Who are you in the meantime, before you’ve met your goals? I call it the Mean Time of self improvement, because it’s when we’re mean to ourselves. Most of us would never judge others half as harshly as we judge ourselves for falling short of our goals and ideal selves. Telling yourself, whether in words or just in the emotional sense, that you are not okay, not deserving of joy or love, that you’re bad or wrong or shameful for not being or having or weighing a particular thing is mean.
And the worst part is that when it comes to self improvement, the Mean Time is always right now. While we have goals, we’re not there yet, otherwise they wouldn’t be goals anymore. So we’re always in the Mean Time of self improvement. Never good enough, never worthy, never enough. At best, we’re just waiting to be better, and for many of us we’re also carrying shame and guilt and worry about it.
So what I claim – what I promise is true – is that there isn’t anything about you that makes you unworthy of love or happiness or peace. And you’re not doing anyone any favors by carrying around all that shame. It’s really a lot of pain for nothing. Hating yourself isn’t how you earn your right to your humanity. Just being you is. You belong here in this world, just like you already are.
If you want to change stuff about yourself, I’m not trying to discourage you. By all means, set goals. Set them high, and work hard at them. And if you fail at some, keep setting goals and trying anyway. But in the meantime, please remember that you’re already okay. Just like this. I promise.