I am not a patient person. Especially with myself. When I set a goal for myself, I want it done as quickly as possible, aka, RIGHTNOWRIGHTTHISMINUTE. This is so true that it even applies to the goal of being more patient with myself. Because once I decide that, then the next time I catch myself being impatient with myself– about forgetting where I put my phone AGAIN, or about eating too much chocolate AGAIN– I’m all, “Dude! What happened to being patient with yourself? Why aren’t you being patient?! I thought you were better than this! Where’s your patience? Where’s your dedication to the goal?? WHY AREN’T YOU BEING PATIENT ALREADY???”
It’s a vicious cycle.
What’s frustrated me about the self-help materials I’ve read over the years, be it on exercise, organization, writing, or spirituality, is that they always seem to imply that there’s an end point within reach. They make it sound like, if I just follow their steps, by the end of the book I’ll be perfect at x, y, or z. And then I’ll never make any mistakes in that area again: I will be a fit/organized/creative/Jesus-loving expert. There’s a program, and there are checkpoints, and they’re universal.
But I never made those checkpoints all the way through because they were too rigorous. Or I found the end of the program came before I had really formed new habits. Eventually my therapist planted a new thought, Maybe I’m trying to go about this in a too linear, too struggle-oriented way. Maybe I should be more circular and generous about it.
So I took myself off any timelines for self-improvement, and made my goals– contrary to all other advice– nice and broad. I started addressing my weight issues, for example, not by getting myself on a proper eating regimen, but by journaling more about how I felt anxious about my parents’ marital struggles. Once the fog lifted a smidge I felt brave enough to try drinking more water before meals. And that made me less dully ravenous for food. Etc.
If I told people about this strategy, though, they’d kind of look at me strangely, like, why didn’t you just stop eating so much ice cream? And I’d feel ashamed, like maybe I was actually being lazy. Maybe I should have just stuck with the programs, or maybe I just needed to start new programs. Maybe I should have been better at them. Maybe I was just a failure.