I made a commitment to healthy living after my birthday in February. If you read yesterday's post, you've heard the whole Sweat Everyday And Don't Put Crap In Your Body spiel. I had improved my diet considerably and bumped up my exercise regimen. I was losing weight, building a little muscle, and physically I could already see results.
Mentally, it was clear that still had plenty of work to do. I was being really mean to myself. No matter how hard I worked, I could always do better. No matter how healthy I ate, it wasn't healthy enough.
You fat piece of shit, I'd tell myself, as I ran on the treadmill. You ugly piece of shit. No wonder she left you.
You're old and ugly and fat, I'd say, as I looked in the mirror. Nobody will ever want to be with you.
You're a failure.
You're better off dead.
Undoubtedly, a part of this was the dietary change talking. I was still working out how much I needed to eat to keep myself going through the day.
And in a way, what I was telling myself was comforting; it removed the responsibility from my shoulders if my life wasn't working out how I wanted.
Of course she left you; just look at you! You're ugly and unlovable.
If I was all of these terrible things, then nothing was my fault. I was a victim, of bad genetics and bad luck. There was nothing I could have done to stop my partner from leaving.
It's a comforting way to look at the world, but it's not very productive. There's no impetus to change if you believe all of your problems are unfixable.
And clearly I believed something was fixable; why work out and eat better and read books about resilience if not?
I realized I was falling into a trap that I often fall into. It's the I'll be good enough/happy/successful when mantra. Often, this is the motivation that pushes me forward. It's why I started this blog, for instance. As soon as I accomplish this task, my life will be better.
As soon as I get a book deal, I will be successful and happy.
As soon as I lose thirty pounds and get six-pack abs, I will be good enough to start dating again.
As soon as I meet the love of my life, my problems will be solved.
Every day I worked out and ate right and looked in the mirror and hated my belly fat and didn't see abs and I was so freaking mean to myself.
The thing was, I knew from experience that this thinking is flawed. I have a successful career as an author, and one of the first hard lessons I learned is that all the critical acclaim or commercial success in the world isn't going to make you happy if you don't address the root cause of your unhappiness.
In fact, it might make you unhappier, because you've put so much stock in this miracle cure that one day you wake up and you're on the New York Times bestseller list and you're still miserable, and this time, you don't have a clue how to fix it.
I wanted a six pack. I wanted to get toned and lean. I thought if I had shredded abs for the summer all the women would flock to me, and I'd finally be happy, and I hated myself in the meantime.
And then one day, it clicked.
You are good enough.
I try to avoid mindless platitudes here, but it happened just like this: I was walking out of the bathroom, drying my hands, having just lifted my shirt to study my belly in dismay.
You suck, I started to tell myself. And then I stopped.
Nah, fuck that. You are good enough already.
Your six pack won't define you any more than your career does, or your depression, for that matter.
You are a kind, thoughtful person with a good sense of humour and a commitment to self-improvement.
You are a good man.
It's hard in a way to tell yourself these things, because, like I say, it puts the responsibility back on your shoulders.
Do you want someone to fall in love with you? Go out and meet people and make yourself vulnerable.
The abs won't do it for you.
And honestly, you'll be a lot happier in the meantime if you just show yourself a little kindness instead of mentally kicking your own ass all the time.
I resolved to be kinder to myself in the month of April. To show myself compassion and forgiveness, to work out and eat healthy for healthiness's sake, not to satisfy some harmful, artificial standard I set.
I resolved to bolster myself mentally, not just physically. I would like to date again, in the summer. I'll need to make myself vulnerable to other people if I'm going to do it.
And I'll never put myself out there again if I don't first build a culture of kindness within.