A Tale of Regret

The blogging community I’m a part of has daily writing prompts, but sometimes you’re in a different headspace or you just miss a day, so I don’t feel beholden to jump on every one. There are two I’ve missed that have been stuck in my head a while, though, so I decided to write about them today. The two prompts were basically, “What’s one relationship you need to give more attention?” and “Tell us a story of something you regret.” (Or something to that effect. No time to look it up, I’m busy bloggin’!)

The two have been stuck in my head because both prompts led me to the same idea. I have plenty of regrets and plenty of relationships I’m sure need attention, but for some reason the relationship I think still needs the most work is the relationship I have with myself. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and a recent blog post by Donald Miller gave my stray thoughts a focal point. Basically the TLDR version of his post is that whether you know it or not, you’re in a relationship with yourself, so try and treat yourself well.

At some point, we all get to the question “Who am I?” That can be mind-blowing in and of itself, but if you take a step back from that thought you get a second question: “Who’s asking?” People like Peter Russell¬†and Deepak Chopra have given this a lot of thought, but for those of us who will fall asleep during a one hour youtube video about consciousness I’ll just default back to Don Miller and say: “You are in a relationship with yourself.”

It’s a relationship I’ve only recently started taking seriously, which is odd because I’m pretty selfish and egotistical. People who are actually humble don’t write blogs, haha. It’s the height of hubris to think someone should read what you write, and it’s the mental equivalent of that last huge wall you have to climb in an armed forces bootcamp. Climb over that wall and you’re halfway to becoming a writer. The other part is the hard part: now you have to actually write. Consistently. For a while. And no matter your hubris, you’ll still kind of suck for a (long) while at it.

I have a lot I want to say about this, but I’m also trying to adjust my blogging style to more focused writing. You can soon look forward to lists — both <ol> and <ul> — and lots of bold words (I’m only half joking about this). I guess I just want it to be helpful and make sense without having to wade through a thousand words to get to that one idea I really meant to focus on.

So, my tale of regret is this: I’ve basically treated myself like crap for so long I had to take extreme measures to jump start the relationship to a path of taking better care of myself. I’ve basically gone back and forth between hammering myself for every mistake and neglecting myself when I needed the most care.

Before I go on, let me just tell you that I’m actually doing great with this. A big part of my journey of doing a web development bootcamp (cough cough, Iron Yard!) was me doing doing something to shake myself out of this funk. It was also me betting on myself to make it happen. I’m starting my first interviews this week, and I know I made the right to choice both in finding a great group of people to push me (with so much encouragement it’s crazy) and in trusting that I had the ability to push through and change the direction of my life (a little dramatic, but I was going one direction and now I’m going another so I don’t know what else to call that).

But back to the dysfunction! The hammering part (please note I’m going to try and avoid the word “abuse” because I don’t want anyone to think I’m trivializing the term) happens when I mess up, or fail to meet any number of goals I’ve set up for myelf realistic or not. As soon as I fall short, or even when I think of falling short, or quitting, I yell at myself like a deranged drill instructor or athletic coach. I know I’m not alone in this so you may be thinking, “Yeah, that’s how you do it. What’s wrong with that?”

Maybe nothing’s wrong with the way you’re doing it. Maybe it’s a great motivator for you and you’ve seen a lot of success using this tactic. I have not.

I don’t respond well to raised voices. In fact, it usually makes me want to do the exact opposite of whatever the raised voice is suggesting, even when it’s my raised voice making the suggestion. I haven’t seen the movie Whiplash yet, but the trailer alone will give you a great idea at what my inner voice can sound like. If it’s not yelling, I usually try to sarcasm myself to action, just like famous dog trainer Dale Sturtevant.

The crazy thing is that I’m trying to help myself. There are a lot of reasons this is my default setting, but a big reason for this is what I mentioned above: neglect. I literally did not spend enough time thinking about myself or planning my day.

It was kind of like I was living in somebody else’s body, or my body was just this vehicle I could run with little fuel or maintenance. I wasn’t working out, or eating healthily, or even giving myself enough sleep. I would just yell at myself to push through and then refuse to give myself the resources to accomplish whatever task I was yelling about.

You can see why I was in a bit of bind. The problem was this bind lasted years. If you’re in this position, please know that you are not alone. Also know that the solution to your problem will probably not be reading another blog post (I mean, after this one, of course, haha).

It will only come from you asking for help, preferably from outside of yourself. Look around for a wise friend who will not jump to a quick solution and talk out some options for treating yourself better. For me it took the form of hacking away to learn web development for 60+ hours a week.

That may not sound like treating myself well, but to solve problems every day and build something from scratch that didn’t exist a few hours/days/weeks before is invigorating. When you get to do that with people around you, it’s amazing. When you get to share our failures with people who just nod and laugh because they’re right there with you, it’s even more amazing.

You’re in a relationship with yourself, and it is probably the most important relationship you have. Is it a good one? Can it be a good one? (Hint: it definitely can be a great one!)