Pushing Yourself Too Hard

This morning when I woke up to a soggy wet winter day, the first thought that went through my mind was, I’m not going for a run today! That’s how the day started, and the mood was set. Negative and irritated. Cue the negative self-talk – I should go for a run, I haven’t gone for a run in a while, I should get fresh air, I’m being lazy and on and on. The “I should” statements were loud and annoying, putting me in a dark frame of mind and discouraged me from being motivated to doing anything at all. I fell down the rabbit hole. This brought up an interesting thought about motivation and the fine line between encouraging yourself to be motivated and pushing yourself too hard.

I have been told in the past, by many people that I am too hard on myself. I think this mostly stemmed from my inability to make proper life decisions and lack of values. So, I concentrated my energy on everything. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I changed my degree at University three times, had multiple long-term relationships with various boyfriends, dabbled in art, had numerous precarious jobs and was wandering from one interest to the next. I wanted to master it all. I gave myself so many tasks to complete by a certain age that I can tell you that almost none of them were completed and most of my accomplishments are only variations of what I expected I would achieve. I think this is where the pushing too hard lives. In the idea that something is “supposed to be”. The “supposed to be” lives in an imaginary concrete world and my life is not so black and white anymore. My motivation and goals are not defined by time. Motivation is something I live every day. 

As my values started to solidify my interests narrowed and it was easier for me to understand what my priorities are. I don’t have to master everything I try. I have goals, but I don’t attach too much expectation and keep an open mind regarding the process. The end product from any goal is almost always something of a variation of what you expect not the exact thing and that is ok. I was chasing an expectation and a certain outcome. Today, I am grateful for the learning process of anything I am studying or reading, any physical activity I am doing and embrace any new situation I am met with, because that is all I can control really. Relinquishing my need to control situations and dropping the rigid timeline has helped me to feel less anxious about the future and I have learned how and what motivates me.

Recently I became a new mom, and this was one of the steepest learning curves I have ever faced. I was anxious and upset that I didn’t know how to be a mom. I asked myself, why I didn’t know how to do this with ease? Simple answer, because I am a new mom. I am so quick to find short cuts to the learning process. There are no short cuts to learning something new! There are no short cuts in life! Read that last sentence again…I am still learning to be a mom.

That is the lesson about pushing too hard. Time will help you learn what you need to know. Be patient. Your values will lead you to where you need to be, the people around you will tell you who you are, and your body will tell you when you want to rest. I think our culture glorifies pushing ourselves to our limits. This in turn puts unrealistic expectations of what we can actually achieve. I’m not a super mom, or super wife or super anything. I take it in one moment at a time and learn from what the moment is trying to teach me. I reflect back in gratitude and see now that despite not checking off what I think I should have done today or ten, fifteen years ago, my experiences shaped and carved out my precious life today.

If you cannot take a moment to appreciate the hard work that is behind you, then the pushing too hard will never end. There lies a fine line between dissatisfaction/survival mode and complacency. Sometimes we need to stop, rest and appreciate where we are before pushing harder. I take pride in honouring what I have been through, how far I have come and look forward to everyday, even on the days that I forgo exercise to sit, broody, on the couch, with a warm blanket and a hot turmeric tea.

Building Healthy Boundaries or a Wall?

I’ve always struggled with the word No!

Saying no to people and to myself doesn’t come easy. I like to be a yes person. Always stacking too much on my plate. Draining my energy. Looking for room to always say yes to something or someone, thinking I’ll miss out if I don’t agree. This changed when I started becoming more mindful of my energy and my time. When I put my health first, I also scaled back on agreeing to every request that came my way. It was just physically impossible to do it all. I tended to my body and my well being first before anything else and then noticed I was putting up a wall and not setting healthy boundaries. I didn’t know how to express my wants without coming off as rude or annoyed.

I had some really big expectations of people. My annoyance came from the position that people should know what I am feeling and anticipate my needs and wants.

Of course, why wouldn’t someone know exactly what I am feeling that day??

Oh wait, stop! Here comes my ego once again. My insistence of people knowing how I felt and my expectation of them to read my mind created distance. Instead of simply expressing my needs and wants with words, walls were built instead. As more situations grew to be worse than better from building these walls, I realized that one core element was breeding this behaviour. My lack of assertiveness and low self-esteem. This was especially true when I was younger. I was unable to simply say no without feeling guilt and dread. I didn’t have the power to take responsibility for my emotions and express what I really needed. I learned over time that taking responsibility of my emotions and expressing my needs despite the feedback I might receive, actually benefits all parties involved. Meditating helped with this notion.

Meditation sucked the first few times I sat on the cushion. I battled the process. I didn’t want to do it. I really didn’t see a point to it. I felt sorry for myself, that I had to sit on a cushion in silence and do nothing for ten minutes. The victim part of me came out and threw me a ten-minute-long pity party. Slowly, over time the victim disappeared and got replaced with a more self-confident, assertive person the more I meditated. I created some distance between my negative thoughts and negative self-talk. I was able to step into a place where I was more aware of my own needs and emotions. This allowed me to make a blueprint of what I wanted out of my relationships and set some standards for the things I needed from the people in my life. This map helped me navigate healthy boundaries in relationships, so I am able to build relationships as they grow over time. For the first time I was able to achieve intimacy in relationships. Instead of attaching unhealthy expectations, attachments, and unrealistic standards on people, today I take responsibility of my own needs and wants and the rest falls into place. My relationships grow organically. Some stay and some don’t.

Building healthy boundaries takes practice and patience. Something I still struggle with today. Nowadays I do say no without guilt more often. I do speak my mind as situations arise in my life. I do find that I receive push back from people still, mostly from those that have not set healthy boundaries themselves. There really isn’t anything I can do for anyone else’s development in seeking healthy boundaries as long as I can express my boundaries to the best of my abilities my wish is that at least maybe someone can learn a new tool to use to get what they need out of life through the way I conduct myself. I will not please everyone and will probably hurt some feelings along the way and know that I cannot determine how other people feel. I don’t want to control anyone’s emotions but to support self-actualization and growth. This is key to healthy boundaries.