I’m an overachiever. I’ve always been an overachiever. Always took a full course load, honors courses, involved in multiple extracurriculars, leadership roles, volunteering, etc. They require one, I’ll do five. This personality transferred into my adult life and my career. It paid off fairly well as my drive to learn more, do more and accomplish more often resulted in recognition from management in the form of promotions and added responsibilities. I tend to be proactive, trying to think of how I can be more efficient. I am usually organized and productive in my tasks which leads me to have the ability to take on more tasks. The dark side of this personality trait is that I also have a perfectionist complex. I’ve been so afraid to fail that even a small mistake can cause an in internalized panic attack. I also feel guilty if I have down time between tasks and when I take time for myself. Outside of work, I put on pressure to accomplish other things. The double edge sword being I struggle to work on things because my perfectionist side thinks it’s not good enough so why even bother and the overachiever thinks I’m a failure for not working on anything. After years of this self inflicted pressure and the competitive nature of comparing myself to everyone around me, I got burned out. I wanted a change in lifestyle and I needed a change of pace.
Obviously, we know what happened next in my story to make those changes. I quit my job, I’m working on a masters and I’m living in a tribe of digital nomads. We’ve heard that part before. Making these major changes in my life led me to believe that this was exactly what I needed. This year was going to be great. Although not exactly a year off as I was still working on my career goals by pursuing a degree, this year was going to be a different pace. I was going to have free time to enjoy the journey. Take the time to reflect. Make amazing connections with my tramily for the year and have time to tap back into my creative side.
Two and a half months in and how do I feel? Like there is not enough time in the day to accomplish everything I’ve placed on my plate. I’m stressed. I’m tired and I’m putting the pressure on myself of saying I’m not being social enough and I’m not experiencing the places that I am in while I am here. So much for having a leisurely year.
I have understood in the past that a lot of the pressures that I have felt are my own. Nobody else is expecting me to live up to some high standard or some bar that is constantly moving. How am I ever supposed to reach a moving target? And I think the worst part about it is that I get so upset with myself when I don’t reach it that it translates into me thinking that I am not good enough. And now I find myself in the same pattern. Placing the emphasis of this year on what I’m going to accomplish versus what I’m going to experience. Thinking that I will need to reach certain goals, fill my plate with a number of projects to show how productive I was with this time. I tell myself that by the end of the year, I will improve my skills, learn new things and grow as a person. It’s exhausting and stressful and worst of all, it’s keeping me in this perpetual cycle of a negative perspective of myself for not reaching the bar. Even if I can grasp it, I no longer have the strength to pull myself up.
Last weekend, I spent a leisurely day at the pool. It was part of the programming that we have on Remote Year called local tracks. It gives us an opportunity to experience things about the city and the culture that you wouldn’t necessarily get to experience as a tourist. Yesterday’s track was exactly that. We went outside of the city to the home belonging to one of the member’s of our local city team. We hung out all day in the hot Spanish sun, eating the traditional dish of Paella Valenciana and had drinks by the pool. I told myself that I was going to give myself the day. No expectations, no pressure of the tasks awaiting me at home. I was not going to think about the laundry I needed to do, the homework assignments I needed to complete, the video interviews I needed to review, the editing, the photos or the blog posts I’ve failed to keep up with. I was going to enjoy the simplicity of the day. I was going to lounge on that giant inflatable swan and look like a diva in the middle of that pool. That’s exactly what I did and it was perfect.
One of my goals I had set for this year was to be more loving toward myself and what I realized from the past couple of weeks and particularly from my day off at the pool is that I haven’t been doing well toward working on that goal. I changed my life because I wanted something different. I wanted to feel differently about myself and I wanted to see things from a different perspective. I suppose I’m starting to head in that direction because now I understand that in order for things to be different, I have to start with how I treat myself. I need to allow myself to fail, to make a mistake. I need to give myself the time to take off the pressure and to experience this journey. This program is only a year which in the beginning may seem like a long time but seeing as we are already in our third month, I know the time is going to fly by and if I keep up the habitual patterns of the past, I am afraid I will blink and miss it.
The next morning I had a conversation over coffee with my roommate’s mom who was in town visiting. We talked about the patterns she observes of us putting pressure on ourselves to do more and to accomplish more. The underlying competitiveness of comparing ourselves to one another and the social pressures that result from this having to show something for our year and for our lives overall. She said to me,
“Remember, we are human beings. We are not human doings.”
I had never heard this before but it was mind blowing for me. That’s exactly what we as a society put pressures on for ourselves. Focusing on what we are going to do with our lives and what we are going to accomplish. But what is the point of all the things we do if we do not enjoy the journey? Going forth, I am going to work on finding the balance. I’m still working on my goals and my projects because I actually do like that I’m an overachiever but I have to understand that life is not just about all the things that I do but also about finding the contentment in the moments when I allow myself to simply be and experience the natural peace within existence.