Unreachable Goals

There are a lot of platitudes that I have problems with because they over simplify the quest for peace, happiness, and good mental health.

This irritation of mine is funny considering how much I love a good inspirational quote. I mean, I took a hand-lettering class just so I could put my favorite platitudes down in my own ink.

AND YET. Some of them drive me BANANAS.

I’ve mentioned before my irritation with the idea of “Choosing Joy” as a commandment you can give and a decision you can make with ease. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about a certain category of platitudes. The quotes and commandments and advice that all revolve around the same idea…about how they ONLY person whose opinion you should care about is YOUR OWN. I’ve heard this one a lot lately. From RuPaul, “If you don’t love yourself, how the HELL are you gonna love anyone else?” to general questions like, “Why do you care what they think?”

These me for a lot of reasons. First, learning to love yourself is something people can spend DECADES in therapy trying to learn and never achieve. It’s about as easy as just “Choosing Joy” in terms of mindset adjustments. Second, how in the HELL does ANYONE seriously stop caring about what other people think? I can’t even wrap my head around that as a way of life. I think so much about what other people think about me that it causes me debilitating social anxiety. I have suffered from mild agoraphobia at times in my life when I was so worried about embarrassing myself or making a bad impression that I could BARELY LEAVE MY HOUSE.

I’m just blown away by the constant simplifying of those two facets of this type of platitude. If I could “love myself” and “stop caring what other people think” consistently I’d be the happiest person on the planet. I think the “loving myself” part of that is the easier one to achieve although I’m still no where near there yet. But I’m decades of therapy away from caring what other people think. I worry about the opinions of the cashier at Aldi that made me cry that one time, so I don’t know how I can make myself stop worrying about the family member who blocked me on Facebook. BUT I WOULD LOVE TO STOP WORRYING ABOUT IT.

And if you stop worrying about the bad stuff that other people thing, does that mean you have to stop savoring or putting value to the good stuff? Because I cherish compliments from other people and kind sentiments like they are my LIFE BLOOD. If I stop caring what other people think in terms of the BAD stuff, doesn’t that mean I have to stop caring about the good stuff too? BUT I DO NOT WANT TO! The good stuff counterbalances the days when I’m suffering under the weight of my own self-hatred!

I mean, I’m only 42. I do have time to learn to do both of those things. I’m not dead yet. BUT IF I HAVEN’T LEARN HOW TO DO THEM IN 42 YEARS, WHAT ARE THE ODDS I WILL EVER FIGURE IT OUT?

And it’s like finding out Santa is real when I hear people who have claimed to have figured it out. “I love myself and don’t care what anyone else thinks!” is as hard for me to stomach as someone who says, “I just feed my body what it needs and I never self-medicate with food.” WHO ARE YOU? ARE YOU AN ALIEN? HOW DO YOU EXIST?

I feel much better knowing most of the world struggles and when I find out someone doesn’t I assume they are A) a liar or B) a big fat liar.

10 Comments

  • Colleen

    I agree with you! Choosing Joy is about as easy as me choosing to be taller. I can sometimes stop my thoughts from going to a bad place, but often not. I was told for years at work to “Be more assertive,” almost always by me, but when I tried to be, I was then told to stop being aggressive. Later I learned that assertiveness in women is perceived as aggression. I do care what others think. Those who think well of me make my day! Those who don’t can ruin my day, or those who treat me like I’m not there. I’m 49 and haven’t figured this stuff out yet either. I wanted to let you know that you definitely aren’t alone!

  • Lisa

    (Oh, and also? My 75 year old mother tells me regularly to Choose Joy. Thanks, ma. Very helpful. And it hasn’t gotten any easier to tune her out, even as I find myself staring down 50. Maybe before I’m dead I’ll have figured that one out too….)

  • Cheryl

    The not caring thing got a little bit easier for me with age. Now it’s not so much that I don’t care what they think, I just have so much else going on that I don’t stop to ponder it too long. And as for those Choose Joy things, I guess I’m just doing it wrong. 🙂 I always assumed it meant, “when you aren’t sure whether someone is trying to screw you or not, and you can choose to believe one or the other, choose they’re not”

  • Cheryl

    The not caring thing got a little bit easier for me with age. Now it’s not so much that I don’t care what they think, I just have so much else going on that I don’t stop to ponder it too long. And as for those Choose Joy things, I guess I’m just doing it wrong. 🙂 I always assumed it meant, “when you aren’t sure whether someone is trying to screw you or not, and you can choose to believe one or the other, choose they’re not”. I’ve never been able to CHOOSE an emotion in my life.

  • kelli oliver george

    I think there is a fine balance with the “not caring what people think”. Caring what people think is an element of etiquette and polite society.

  • Rachael

    I’m in this place now where I place a lot of value on the ideal of not caring, while knowing that it’s easier said than done. I decided that 2018 is the year I stop caring about what other people think, but I also feel like it is a goal that will always have a gap. I just want to minimize the gap as much as I can. So, when I feel uncomfortable talking about something or displaying confidence or being how I am, I kind of try to just push through it and be me anyway. It’s taken a LOT of work to get to this point, and I don’t think it ever stops being work, but it definitely gets easier

  • Samantha

    I have had all of the same thoughts at one point or another. I think we all should care (and deeply) about what others think about most things. For example, I can’t go around physically hurting people and not caring what they think about it, and I don’t think anyone is suggesting that I should. I think the “not caring” thing is meant to reference not caring what someone thinks of my physical appearance. There should be a boundary there inside which I am allowed to be the way I want to be and no one is allowed to comment. Outside that boundary is open game for commentary. So I guess it’s about where you draw that boundary line. Like, how much I weigh and what I’m wearing and how my hair and makeup (or lack thereof) looks is inside my boundary, but me being an asshole to someone is not.

    As for choosing joy, I hate the implication that other emotions are unacceptable. I am allowed to feel sad or angry or hurt or embarrassed depending on the circumstances. BUT, I can also to some extent choose how I view those circumstances. I can either ruminate myself into despair, or I can (try to) break that thought spiral and focus on something positive. It doesn’t mean I’m walking around with rainbows shooting out of me, but it does mean I sometimes have to actively choose not to feel like crap all the time. And I do recognize that the inability to do that is pretty much the textbook definition of depression.

    Anyway, I always enjoy reading your posts so much because they help me think about things I maybe haven’t put into words myself before. Also, I am jealous of your hand-lettering skills.

  • Elaine C. B.

    Ah, I am a natural worrier but somehow I have learned in the last few years that I can control what I worry. It’s like something magical and I don’t take much credit for it, but it probably puts me in the category of one of those “choose joy” people. I still care what people think but I care more that I try to be the person I want to be so it’s easier to let go of other people’s opinions. And a lot of that has come with surrounding myself with people I care about because if we disagree I still love them. And I try to be better around them because I don’t want to hurt them or let them down, not because I worry they are judging me. I guess somewhere along the way I realized that there’s always going to be bad out there – bad news, bad actions, bad karma. And if you look for those things, you will find them. But I am equally convinced that there is always good out there, too. And if you look for those things, you will find them. So I try to spend my energy on those things instead, or refocus from bad to good when I can. Not that I ignore the bad things, but I dunno, I just accept them easier now because I can only control what I do, not what anybody else does or what happens to me. So in that respect, happiness or at least my attitude is a choice.Flip side, there’s still so much about me that I don’t like and I try to work on, but the biggest thing is I’ve gained 30 pounds lately and about half my brain wants to lose them and get back to the old me shape and fitness levels, but my body and the other half of my brain have entirely different ideas. It makes me wonder if I get fit again will I suddenly start caring more about my clothes and how other people look at me? I dunno. There’s a reason people make billions of dollars off self-help books. Anyway, that was rambly. I didn’t have much of a point there. But I enjoy reading your words!