You'll Be Perfect (Starting Tomorrow)

Caucasian man running in urban tunnel
Caucasian man running in urban tunnel

My potential--one to-do list away from being realized. Or, at least, that's what it feels like. Upon entering the workforce, I've been doing plenty of self-inventory. In the process, I came to a poignant realization: I'm never content with who I am at any given moment. I have my eyes on glued on who I want to be, but I'm stuck in a mire of self-perception and inner critique. And, while inner critique may seem like a productive way to improvement, it seems to be keeping me from getting where I want to go. 

I've noticed that I spend a lot of time doing two things when checking in with myself. One--I look back at past Becky and build her up to be some happier, more successful version of present Becky. I lament the loss of the expanse of time stretched in front of me at the beginning of college. There was just enough structure to accomplish something. Just enough resources. Just enough inspiration.  In my head, past Becky waded through fears with an "I can do this, I have time" attitude held high above her head.

Or, I play a game of catch up with the person I thought I would be by now. I flip through my earlier to-do lists and point out all the things I didn't accomplish. I tell myself to do better while making plans and schedules and swear that this time, yes this time, I'll check off every box.

Neither of those gives me much room to love who I am at the current moment. And I've always seen that as some sort of positive trait. Maybe not positive, but productive. It's the criticism that keeps us in line. Self-love is the worst nightmare of the perfectionist, right?

Is to love oneself to be content to the point of laziness? If I love myself, will I be content with who I am and stop improving? Or will loving myself make me want to improve? What even is self-love? Is it the self-obsession that our generation is so commonly pegged with? Is it the acceptance of one's flaws? Is accepting flaws becoming content with them? Does becoming content with them mean not trying to change them?

With a constant "you'll be perfect--starting tomorrow" over my head, I use a carrot-stick method to coax myself into moving closer to some unformed ideal version of me. The better version that I find in front of me and behind me, but never with me. Self-satisfaction is always one accomplishment away. But, moving the goal post every time you near the finish line isn't exactly the most productive measure of self-improvement. And, if I'm honest, it's burning me out and making the endgame blurry. Using self-criticism as fuel is ironically having the opposite effect that I want it to have.

The constant hunger to be something better isn't where my issue lies. That's productive. It's the fact that I never let myself feel satisfied with accomplishments, let alone let myself live down failures. I starve myself of positivity and, without anything to run on but hunger, how can I reach the goal posts I set for myself?

Love is solution-oriented. It finds a way to make things work. Self-deprecation is rarely fuel for solutions. I want to love who I am because that means living with the security that you love yourself enough to hold yourself to a higher standard. You love yourself enough to keep improving because you know you can do better. You deserve to do better. Self-love is a shield from letting failure paralyzing you to the point of never trying again. I want to love myself like that.

Yeah, that sounds nice.