Setting goals you can’t seem to meet?
Your “skinny jeans” make a mockery of your daily diet and your self-esteem. You visit your closet nostalgically, running your fingers over jackets and blouses that once made you feel like a million bucks. Your pencil skirts are a size 6 (and you’re not) and your favorite summer dresses, likewise.
Chasing “Success” and Making Excuses
Perhaps you inch close to success, losing 20 of the 30 pounds that you determine will make you comfortable, more confident, healthier. And you can’t get the rest of the way.
Or worse, you balloon back to where you started.
Maybe your fight is for renewed health or improved fitness. You want it, badly, and work the nutritional necessities with focus and discipline. You eat your berries, your dark green vegetables, your salmon and whatever else your doctors (or your own research) tell you comprise the proper course. You hit the gym, stick to the laps in the pool, the grueling regimen on the Stair Master or the treadmill. You manage successfully for months.
And then you stop.
Oh, you have plenty of reasons. The kids. Your schedule. The stress at work. The promotion you’re vying for, but there, too, you don’t get what you want. You come close, but don’t nab the prize, consoling yourself with solid performance in other arenas as you juggle marriage, income generation, volunteering, carpool. You weather the sheer fatigue of it all, and appreciate the good moments.
As for not meeting your goals? Not reaching the dreams you can’t quite shake? Your responsibilities and your limitations are reasons, you tell yourself. Legitimate reasons. But they’re also excuses.
Rationale for failure
I’m not just talking to you. I’m talking to myself. And offering some of my reasons that I am not successful in ways that matter to me.
- I run out of energy.
- I run out of time.
- I am a poor sleeper.
- I have chronic pain issues.
- I have financial constraints.
- I have no emotional or logistical support.
Believe me, I have more where those came from. (Ugh. How pitiful and childish I feel when I see them written out!)
And yet, each reason is valid objectively speaking, and conspires to render goals more distant. To be brutally honest, I cannot imagine what it would be like to have a partner cheering me on. I cannot imagine what it is to have family helping with children. I cannot conceive of the financial guillotine not hanging over my head.
Nonetheless, I know these statements for what they are. Excuses.
We all make excuses at times, to ease disappointment. We also stand in the way of our own success. Women in particular are masters of self sabotage, and food abuse comes to mind as a common example, and one I’m familiar with.
For years, I sabotaged my eating habits, a set of behaviors rooted in a strange and convoluted childhood, and issues of esteem and self-destruction. On those rare occasions when I was able to find a stable weight at which I looked and felt good, those closest to me grew uncomfortable. And something in me was uncomfortable, so I slid back. Or gave up the attention to nutrition, to exercise, to a level of self-care that I unknowingly felt I didn’t deserve.
Eventually, I vanquished those demons, but it took me into my forties to do so.
Occasionally, I dwell on the wasted years, on the damage to health and well-being, but not often. Bad habits rear their heads from time to time, but they no longer rule my life.
Everyone is afraid of failure; risking pursuit of dreams guarantees that we risk failure, and likely will encounter it in our efforts. No success is constructed without failures behind it; they are the sturdy steps, the necessary infrastructure of learning what works and what doesn’t. We keep climbing, if we are able. If we don’t give up.
Yet women sabotage in ways that are encouraged, and too often we start very young. As we become wives and mothers, we pour our precious personal ambitions into those of a husband and a family. We garner praise and pleasure in our roles and our sacrifices. We also wear the mantel of familial accomplishment: the crown of being a loving and supportive spouse, the barely balanced laurels of proper parenting.
We set aside dreams for later, or they’re sucked under into the muck and mire of everyday duties. A fortunate few have assistance – periods of calm, encouragement from friends and family. Dreams continue to breathe. Dreams of all sorts. Otherwise, our reasons for deferring dreams are sound, and socially acceptable. Our reasons, that for some of us, obscure self sabotaging behaviors, stubbornly circling a core of discontent.
On days when we are brave – or simply raw – we ask ourselves: Am I making excuses? Have I walked away from my dreams? Is there something more?
The melody of Dream Weaver floats through my mind this morning, as I wonder why I have yet to fulfill my earliest dreams that remain as pressing as they were forty years ago.
Instead, I battle ghosts. Daily. Nightly. Some are dead, while others are living. Some are places I cannot return to; others are emotions that cause me to run. We keep our distance from ghosts – if we’re smart, if we’re cowardly, if we choose an unruffled surface, or a refusal to confront the clear, hard truths of human failing. But ghosts populate our lives, bullying and threatening all the same, clouding our vision and forcing us to turn away from charted paths.
Perhaps this is the means to discover other roads to explore.
Maybe this is only my truth. Wishful thinking and an uninspired lecture on a day when self sabotage seems hardier than the sun beckoning, daring me to stand up for my child self. For my adult self. Challenging me to work harder, or differently, or both.
When other little girls imagined weddings and babies, I was keenly attuned to my dreams: to be a writer of literature, and to speak five languages. To inhabit a culture, a tongue, another’s mind and sensibilities. To move fluidly in and out of those transcendent experiences, and paint them on the page in fine letters. Vibrantly. Poetically.
All these years later, I remain incapable of burying my dreams or walking away from them, and equally incapable of attaining them.
I have reasons lined up in my own defense as I take my seat before the jury of my voices: parenting is harder than I ever imagined, as is solitude, as are financial burdens. Yet I have few regrets, and certainly not about motherhood. But I want more. I have always wanted more. And I here I am, saying as much, openly, after a morning of wrestling with tiny blocks of sound and significance to build a compelling sentence. I am angry at ghosts and reasons. I recognize them for what they are.
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