I'm not sure if this resonates with you, but I've often found myself living out my days anxiously searching, striving, reaching, pushing. This "hustle" is something that is extremely valued these days. We are constantly fed messages that we should be always focusing on self-improvement; always trying to get to that next level; always working to build our best self. We are taught that it's noble to work more, sleep less, and sacrifice our happiness in an attempt to get to that promise land out there - a place where we can finally say, "I've made it!" Yes, I'm finally good enough. Now I can relax and enjoy life and be happy.
I'm guilty of it, too. A lot of what I talk about in my blogs and Instagram posts revolves around building your best self and pushing for your next level both mentally and physically. This desire to want to improve and level up is not inherently bad. What can be destructive, though, is the place where this desire comes from - whether it is motivated by love or lack. This simple distinction makes the difference between whether your self-improvement quest builds you up or burns you down. And it's the difference between living every day with happiness and a sense of being whole, full, complete in your self versus a life of constantly aching and reaching for something outside your self.
The latter is something that can never be realized. You attempt to motivate yourself by thinking, "I have to get to this certain level and achieve this certain status in order to be happy. If I can just have a dance career like [insert favorite dancer here], then I will be worth something." But, while you search for this external fulfillment, this idealized life outside your self, this imagined life of happiness somewhere on the horizon out there...you are left with anxiety and unhappiness in your current existence. And, what burns even more is that chances are those dancers you compare yourself to and measure your success against aren't happy either. They have their own demons to deal with. This hunky-dory life you think they have doesn't exist except in your imagination.
Worse yet, if you are constantly reaching for fulfillment outside your self, you're playing a never-ending game that you cannot win. Let's say you do get that goal of joining your dream company. Then what? Do you think you will be happy all of a sudden? No. Then, you are going to want to move up the ranks to soloist. Then, you will need to prove your worth by becoming a principal. Even then, you are going to be paranoid that someone better will come along and push you out of your position. If you are looking to reach fulfillment and get validation from outside sources, you will never get "there." You will always feel that pressure to prove yourself. There will always be more for you to do. There will always be a higher level to get to in order to feel like you are worth something. This strategy of motivation leads to no fulfillment or relief, ever. In other words, you are playing with fire...and it will burn you.
When you are on this path of self-improvement motivated by lack, you are left feeling constantly uncomfortable in your own skin. In order to escape this disturbing, restless feeling, you turn to all kinds of distractions to take away your pain. Enter the struggles you deal with in your life, whatever they may be - addictions, food issues, depression, disengagement, self-destructive behaviors, obsessive fixations, body image issues, social anxiety, substance abuse, ect. All are distractions your subconscious mind creates to escape the pain of feeling unfulfilled and the anxiety of needing more to be complete. While you might fool yourself into thinking you are being noble and hardcore while you strive to be good enough and earn your self-worth, you are really just adding to your suffering.
So if reaching for success outside of your self won't fulfill you...what will?
What if you are already enough? What if you are already completely whole and not just enough but perfect? In this scenario, you start to motivate yourself through love versus lack. With the lack mindset, at the end of the day, you will feel like you still aren't there yet; you're still not enough. And so, you reach for food, alcohol, TV, exercise, more work, or whatever it is you use to cover up, numb, and fill this lack of self-worth. In contrast, if you believe on a deep level that you are already enough and everything you do is just enhancing what you already have, you're going to feel very different at the end of the day. You can still enjoy your food, TV, working on your body and mind, ect...but it has a very different effect on you. Instead of adding to your self-sabotaging mindset, it fuels you on your self-improvement quest. It allows you to experience pleasure fully and get to higher levels in your life because you love your self and want your light to shine as brightly as possible.
It's a constant battle to be in this positive mindset motivated by self-love. If you're like me, you've practiced the other way most of your life. So, it can be difficult to flip the switch and overcome that feeling of lack and needing to earn your worth. Plus, society is constantly feeding you the lack strategy through marketing and media - you need to look like this, own that, do this, experience that in order to have self-worth and be good enough. But, just having this awareness of the distinction between self-motivating through love versus lack is a huge part of the battle. Then, you can start to address the demons that show up in self-sabotaging behaviors and ask yourself what purpose they are serving in your life.
Having said all this, I still fully endorse striving, hustling, reaching, pushing and wanting to be more. But, the key is that this self-improvement quest has to be fueled by love - from knowing you are already whole and perfect just as you are. You then use that love to build the best version of your self. It's because you love your self that you want to learn more, experience more, be more...not because you have to earn that self-love. Big difference. You are already enough - so, think of your self-improvement as a quest to shine as brightly as you can so you are able to share your gift with the world. That is where your true happiness lies.
Does this resonate with you? Do you find yourself pushing to be better because you hate who you are and you have yet to earn your self-worth? Do you use food or other vices to escape or numb? Comment below or email me with your story. And, if you haven't already, sign up for more tips on how to break through your demons, learn to love yourself, and find happiness.