Is your life good only because it’s not as bad as it used to be?
This is something I’ve been pondering for a few weeks now following an interview I did with LoveFrom magazine last month. When asked about self care, I opened up about how my life used to revolve around the opposite of self care – self harm – and I had a bit of a weird epiphany.
When you go through such self hatred at a young age, to come out of the other end is a blessing. Anything beyond that point feels almost like success because you’re not slipping into the void again. Have you ever experienced something like this that seems to alter your inner benchmark for life?
This mindset can be applied to so many aspects in life – relationships, jobs, health etc. It feels healthy to think like this because we’re constantly being told to stay humble and practice gratitude, but actually this ‘better by default’ attitude is causing us to settle for situations that hold us back.
Resilience or regression?
It’s hard to admit that issues we’ve previously overcome might still be influencing us today, but it’s important to readdress things that could be stunting your growth. Are you comparing your current situation to a previous lived experience? Of course we naturally do this because happiness and sadness are both subjective. We need to have bad and good experiences to gage our reaction to new experiences. It’s like the old saying goes, you can’t have a rainbow without any rain.
However, this becomes a problem when your benchmark is outdated and too low. Remembering how things ‘could be worse’ is more more damaging than looking to the future and thinking how amazing it could be for you. It’s time to unpack your benchmark and figure out if your history is holding you back. Importantly – This doesn’t mean you’re regressing. You’re not still battling those bad experiences, you’re just looking at them through new eyes. You’re not the same person you were back then, so don’t be afraid of confronting any lingering feelings.
This isn’t Pandora’s box. You have the lock & key, you’ve closed the lid before.
Now consider how your ability to overcome your hardships has skewed your perception of life.
Sure, you might not be in a violent relationship anymore, but is your current partner meeting your needs?
No, you might not be self harming anymore, but are you addressing your anxiety and depression before it gets overwhelming?
Yes, you may have moved on and found a job that pays more but is your new workplace a toxic environment?
Now in my case, I have a warped sense of self care that I need to address. I falsely believe that I’m doing a great job with my self care purely because I’m no longer self harming – despite the fact I’m currently self loathing, self sabotaging and binge eating. Of course, I’m not harming myself anymore (and I haven’t for about a decade) but it’s not as if I’m doing the best job of looking after myself either.
It certainly isn’t just me who suffers from this accidental ‘better by default’ mindset. I know this mainly because I’ve watched many of the women around me settle for mediocre relationships with gross men after bouncing out of a violent relationship. Once you’ve experienced something so horrific, it doesn’t take much for a new relationship to seem like an upgrade.
“Just because something is better doesn’t mean it’s the best you can get.”
Right now, I don’t feel ashamed by admitting an issue that plagued me when I was 13/14/15 still has an impact on my life 10 years later. I do feel frustrated though.
An issue like this exposes a dark side to gratitude and humility. To turn on yourself and say ‘put up with how things are now because you’ve been through worse’ isn’t growth. It isn’t resilience. It’s faux positivity and it’s coasting.
Your bad history doesn’t have to become your personal glass ceiling. If you’re capable of coming through hardships that have a lasting impact, you’re fully capable of striving for more beyond your recovery.
So let’s stop thinking about how things could be worse and revel in how good things could be. No wait, revel in how good they will be.