February 8, 2017

It’s not You, It’s your Goals.

Do you remember what it was like, being a little kid who was excited by everything, totally unafraid of failing and unconcerned with others’ opinions?

I do. It was glorious! When I was little, I only did things that really inspired me.

But then one day, I decided that I only deserved to do what I love if I proved my worth first.

So I started achieving. Obsessively.

In school, I was in all honors classes and got straight A’s. I held leadership positions in four different clubs. I was in the school plays. I was captain on the debate team. I volunteered, taught classes, started my own tutoring business and wrote for the school paper.

Still not good enough.

Soon, I decided I would also need to prove my worth with how my body looked.

So I started dieting.

But no matter how much weight I lost, it was never enough. I was soon diagnosed with anorexia.

Still not good enough.

In college, I graduated summa cum laude.

Still not good enough.

After college, I accepted a high-salaried, highly-esteemed corporate position.

Still not good enough.

One day, I was feeling extra not good enough. I went for a run, wanting to burn away everything that was imperfect and unworthy about me. I wanted to run so hard that my body had to consume every undeserving piece of me. I was trying to run from myself.

But it wasn’t working. I ran harder and harder and I wasn’t feeling any better. I started feeling tired and hated myself for being so weak. So, I ran even harder.

I wondered how hard I would need to run to feel good enough. To feel clean. I desperately asked myself, “When will I feel good enough? When will my worthiness return?”

And then, somewhere from the depths of my being, an answer came.

“It’s not coming.”

The thought repeated itself with every stride.

“It’s not coming, it’s not coming, it’s not coming.”

My worthiness wasn’t coming.

I had spent the majority of my life trying to achieve enough that I would feel worthy, and the worthiness was not coming.

This dawning realization made me stop dead in my tracks. I crumbled to a heap of sobs in the grass.

I had achieved everything that I had set out to achieve, yet I didn’t feel any better about myself.

And I suddenly understood. My worthiness wasn’t coming—because it was never lost.

In a flash, I realized how absurd it was that I had been torturing myself all that time.

And with that realization, I became free. I realized that I had been worthy all along, and that there was nothing left to prove. I realized that I deserved to feel good and do what I love.

I realized that for most of my life, I was stuck deep down in what I now call the Achievement Trap. Here’s how it works:

When we’re stuck in the achievement trap, we set goals under the false assumption that once we achieve them, the underlying feeling of inadequacy will dissolve. But the feeling of inadequacy comes from something that happened in our past that made us not feel good enough.

When we actually achieve a goal, we may feel good about ourselves for a brief time, but eventually the same uncomfortable feeling that caused us to set the goal in the first place resurfaces.

But when we’re stuck in the achievement trap, we can’t see the fallacy of our thinking. All we can think about is how we need to achieve that one…more…goal. We aren’t free to set Soul Goals, goals that inspire us and pull us forward effortlessly. We’re bound by our stressful goals.

So instead of trying to achieve a future-based goal to heal a past-based wound, allow yourself to feel your feelings of inadequacy. Do not numb them with achievements. They can only ever be healed in the present moment, where they live.

Look them in the face. Call them out of their hiding place. Write about them. Talk about them. Sing about them. Meditate on them. Feel them fully. They cannot hurt you.

Do whatever you need to do to witness them. Notice them. Give them the attention that they need. Stop running from them. Heal them.

When we no longer need to prove ourselves, we can do what we love. We are free to be our truest selves.



Author: Brandilyn Tebo

Image: Flickr/Amisom Public Information

Editor: Callie Rushton

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