Friday, January 21, 2011

What is realistic?

There is something I've been thinking a lot about recently. It has to do with realistic/unrealistic expectations I have of myself.

I've always been sort of a perfectionist - if I put my mind to something I wanted to do it well. This trait has usually hurt me more then it
has helped me. Mainly because there are times I have refused to try to do something because I knew I couldn't do it well, or because I have pushed myself so hard because I wanted to do something so perfectly that I ended up very stressed and unhappy.

So what I was wondering was this : where is the balance? When is it right to try to do something, even though it may not seem achievable at first, and when is it more prudent to quit instead of pushing yourself to do something you are just not made to do.

For instance some people are natural artists. I have long come to grips with the fact that I am not one of those people. Any picture I have attempted to draw ended up in the trash after 10 minutes and not a little frustration. I would end up feeling so disheartened, because I could never put the pictures in my head on paper. So instead of art being a calming, enjoyable activity, it was the cause of stress and dissapointment. Not a good idea for me.
(Thankfully I came to this realization pretty early in life - around the age of 11-12. So I haven't experienced these feelings in a while.)

Now lets examine a more recent example. I am currently learning how to drive. I am trying my best to be a good student, I really am. I study in my free time, I visualize potential situations, I try to observe how others drive and learn from them. But it just seems I can do no right in the eyes of my instructor. He calls me slow, and tells me I just don't have it in me to learn how to drive. Now a part of me wants to be strong and refuse to quit, yet on the other hand I wonder if prehalps I'm being foolish and naive. Maybe he's right and I'm wrong. I don't dislike him in general, but as soon as we get behind the wheel he seems a completely different person. I'm not sure if this is my fault, or his. And I don't know what to do.

(How I'm feeling inside every time I get behind the wheel )

On the one hand he's not a bad teacher. But on the other he expects A LOT from me. So I go between feeling like a failure that will never learn and wondering whether he is in the wrong. I am a slower learner then what he is used to, but does that mean I'll never learn?

I think the same reasoning could be applied to some challenges we give ourselves in recovery. I believe there is a point you can push yourself "too far too fast". Few people have the internal motivation to push themselves THAT far, but it does happen. And I feel sometimes it's important to realize your limitations and slowly start to work on them, as opposed to trying to do everything at once. That is impossible and usually will make you feel like quiting before you even really get started. You end up failing not because you are a failure, but because you set unrealistic expectations of yourself.

On the flip side sometimes you need a little "kick in the ass" to get you motivated. That's why it's important to have others to help you along this journey. A lot of the times you can't see objectively, you either are scared of pushing yourself harder, or your comfy where you are. Others can help motivate you, show you where your strengths and weaknesses lie, and help you get where you want to go. So an outside perspective is valuable as well.

All in all I think it's a matter of balance and knowing what is realistic for you, and what isn't.

Any thoughts on the matter?


  1. This is exactly why my blog is entitled "All of Nothing". For me it seems as if I go for things full-heartedly, with so much determination and effort that no one can stop me, or I don't do it at all.
    I'm the same way with arts and crafts as you are with drawing. I always hated these times during school & girl scouts. I preferred the sports because that was what I excelled at.
    However, like you said, we've got to find a balance. It's hard to see what we need to push through sometimes and when we need to give ourselves a little leeway.

    With the driving thing, though, just hang in there. It isn't a fast process, learning how to operate a vehicle! It's a big deal! And I'm sure your instructor isn't meaning to be overly harsh or judgmental on you. He's just trying to make you better. Keep up with the effort, though. I know that you will succeed sooner than you think :)
    I hope my response helps!
    <3 Haley

  2. My perfectionistic tendencies are definitely what led to my eating disorder. Recovery for me has been about finding the middle ground.

    Yes, I think that having outside perspective is really helpful. I've been faced with moving too fast and too slow in my recovery - there are times when I need to push myself harder, but there are also times when I need to be easier on myself and slow down.

    I have the same issue with driving. It terrifies me! There are so many bad and careless drivers out there. I'm gonna trust Haley here that it will get easier for us!

    I'm not an artist either, but I do enjoy some photography.

  3. I agree that balance is the key-once you find it that is. I've discovered in myself that if I don't constantly "kick myself in the ass", I get far too comfortable, and stop progressing. The logic I tell myself is that if I don't set my standards high, then there's no way I can't meet them. So I must remind myself that I also wont move along in recovery if I do that.

    Your driving instructor actually tells you that you are slow and don't have it in you? Geez, some nerve. I don't think you should believe that for a minute! Driving is not something you "have in you". I think it is something ANYONE can learn to do. You are doing your best, and that's what really matters. People just learn at different rates. I definately think you should stick with it; you will get there for sure. :-)