Jana over at Jana Says recently wrote about the Struggle with Enough. When I saw the title on Twitter, I thought it’d be about the common issue of feeling secure, like you have enough. Something I wrote about recently.
Instead, she was talking about enough, as in obligations. Not enough time with loved ones, not nice enough to others, not organized enough (boy howdy, I feel her on this one), and so on. Regular readers know that I have battled this issue for a long time.
Like me, Jana struggles with depression. So she has a “negative committee” — I call it my Greek chorus — in her head ever so helpfully pointing out just how much she’s failed on various fronts. How much she should be doing. All to the point of incapacitating her.
The problem with “should”
We all think about the things we should be doing, and I’m willing to bet that almost none of us gets around to all of them. It’s why I think “should” is one of the most dangerous words in the English language.
“Should” implies that we can somehow do it all. Not that modern society and Pinterest help the matter. Or magazines like Real Simple, damn them. (Why can’t I have an organized garage with mason jars full of nails/screws/washers and tools tacked to pegboards with helpful outlines? Besides the fact that we have like 10 nails total, no washers and a toolbox for the few tools we have.)
Point being, it’s easy to get caught up in your own head, which tends to be filled with the message that you’ve somehow failed if you haven’t managed to:
- Cook from scratch —
- Which you could eat off the floors you just waxed —
- While simultaneously spending quality time with your child,
- Taking your dog for a nice long walk
- Not hanging up on telemarketers
- And not scowling at the lady in line at the grocery store (you are cooking from scratch, after all) who is counting out the last $10 in nickels and pennies
Not to mention helping with homework, never overdrafting, paying bills on time, not forgetting appointments, never having a mess — mason jars, people! — and doing dishes.
When you actually spell it out, it’s ridiculous that we ever feel bad for not meeting these goals. Even for those of us without children or health problems, that seems pretty exhausting.
So why do we expect this of ourselves?
You don’t see the whole picture
Well, you know that saying about putting your best foot forward? We all do it. Even friends and family will tend to show you their best versions.
An example: An old neighbor of mine had recently given birth to a little girl. She took the baby and her three-year-old boy to meet a friend at the park. When she got there, the baby took a tremendous dump. She reached into the diaper bag and found that she had forgotten to restock the baby’s diapers. And that there was only one wipe.
She cleaned up as best she could and jerry-rigged one of her son’s pullups. Her friend showed up a few minutes later. She confessed that they were thinking about having another kid, too. But she just didn’t think she could be as organized and in control as my neighbor.
So yeah, that friend? The one who has you over for a wonderful meal and shows you all the did-it-herself repairs and upgrades to her lovely house?
She’s not mentioning that she has a maid or maybe only cleans when company comes. She’s not talking about how her kids sometimes drive her insane and that she feels guilty that she can’t spend more time with them. Or that she’s so busy that she never returns Redbox rentals on time or is consistently late paying the electric bill.
Depression rears its ugly head
Are you a depressive? Well, that’s not helping your self-esteem or your expectations.
Depression is a disease that convinced you you’re a terrible person. You’re not good enough and never will be. And it’s awfully hard to argue with your own brain.
Personally, I shake my head when these kinds of thoughts get going. Sometimes a physical head shake metaphorically throws them off track. When that doesn’t work, when my brain starts replaying all the times I’ve embarrassed myself or said something awful, then I just say “Stop.” Actually say it, by the way. Not just in my head.
Sometimes saying something like that out loud is enough to disrupt the thoughts. Other times, I have to go actively pay attention to something else. Because, like Jana, my Greek chorus can reduce me to tears and/or the fetal position (emotionally and physically).
So how do you guys cope with these feelings? How do you convince yourself you’re doing plenty? That you’re not a bad person? Do you have a trick to get out of the loop of mental accusations?