When you push yourself hard, you have to make sure you're doing it for the right reasons.
I haven't been doing that.
I've been doing plenty of pushing. Hard, relentless pushing. I've thrown myself at everything I've ever done, because if there's one thing you can say with any level of certainty about me it's this: I don't half-ass anything. But was I pushing for the right reasons? Most of the time, no.
I've been struggling for decades with a bad case of Impostor Syndrome. No matter how good I am at something, I tend to feel like my success is not deserved. So I work harder and harder and harder, somehow thinking that if I outwork everyone then maybe that way I'll feel better about my accomplishments.
No, it doesn't work. And I only end up feeling worse. And exhausted.
Recently I found myself reading Hallelujah Anyway, by Anne Lamott. The book's subtitle is, Rediscovering Mercy, and that is what attracted me to it. Here's a great quote from it:
My rabbi friend Margaret said once on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, that while rabbis usually urge us to atone for our sins and try to be better people, she thought we should try to be worse. This would mean different things to different people, maybe to be more of a slacker, to be less efficient and less helpful, or conversely, to be more of a control freak.
I've needed mercy for a long - loooong - time. I've also needed to be less demanding of myself. After mulling this quote (and the rest of the book) over for a few days, I'm trying to give myself permission to relax a little bit. Work hard, yes. But not to punish myself. To show myself a little mercy and simply work because I enjoy what I do and want to be better at it than I was last week. Maybe having crazy high standards for myself isn't the answer. Maybe I need to be - not a slacker as such, but maybe less of a permanently dissatisfied perfectionist.
Maybe I don't need to outwork everybody else. Maybe I just need to work hard for the beauty of it and for the benefits it brings me. That should be enough.