Hi, there. My name is Ashley and I blog at Writing To Reach You.  When I asked for opportunities to guest blog, Anna offered me some space here and suggested that I write about some of the challenges I’ve faced.  I had to think about it for a while, not for a lack of struggles, but because I feel like I’m currently in a transition period where so many of the battles I’ve been fighting for years are suddenly over and I don’t yet know what happens next.

For years and years, I thought things like, “Once I get through this, then everything will be okay” and “As soon I have this one thing, then it will all be perfect” and “I’m just going through a difficult time right now, but things will soon go back to normal.”  It took me a really long time to realize there was no normal, I was always going through something, and no one thing or person ever made everything okay.

The good thing about these lies is the hopefulness that’s so wrapped up in them.  I was always so sure that things were about to be amazing.  The bad thing is that you’re always delaying happiness until you have that one more thing and then the thing after that and then just one more with a cherry on top.  At a certain point, you have to look around and realize things are already pretty awesome or you will never be happy.

Several smart and happy people told me this, but either I didn’t believe them or I was scared to see what would happen if I stopped.  It’s kind of embarrassing now to look back and realize all that time I thought I was working toward something, I was really just at war with myself.  I was trying to be perfect, but mostly just succeeding at making myself miserable.  I distracted myself with all of these external challenges, but I never could internalize any of those accomplishments.

The safe thing about being super critical of yourself is that no one can ever say anything about you that even compares to the terrible things you’ve said to yourself. But, when you don’t like yourself, you don’t always make decisions in your best interest.  You punish yourself because you don’t think you deserve better.  You don’t hold yourself to a high standard, because you don’t want to deal with the disappointment of real failure. It’s easier if you sabotage yourself by not really trying.

I don’t know what happened.  I think I finally just tired myself out.  I didn’t recognize it right away. I still used all the old words, but the things I said to myself didn’t ring true anymore.  That will freak you out for a second.  Strange the way you can take comfort in even destructive habits.  Criticizing myself for everything was my way of being in the world; planning out how to be perfect next time was the way I handled disappointment.

Things are different here.  I’m nice to myself and it feels authentic. I like being me. I’ve stopped apologizing for it.  But there’s an adjustment period that comes with losing some of your strongest defenses.  When I fail, it hurts worse because I really did try.  When other people disappoint me, I have to feel that pain, because I don’t just blame myself anymore. It’s like getting stronger and yet more vulnerable at the same time.  

But that’s to say nothing of how awesome it is to be at peace with yourself.  To feel that whatever happens, you’ll be okay.  To really fight for what you want, because you’ve won that battle with yourself. I’m happier.  I’m having more fun. I think I see things more clearly.  And and and I’m excited for what happens next.

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