The days are stacked against what we think we are. Jim Harrison said that. And as you read this today, your day is probably stacked against one exhausted human who is counting down the hours until she can switch on her Out Of Office and have a gin and tonic knowing that she doesn’t have to revisit her inbox for two solid weeks. The woman who will return, though, will be different. She will be motivated and motivating and interested and interesting. She will be the type of woman who runs every morning and meditates twice daily while maintaining inbox zero and her ideal jean size. She will deliver presentations with ease and never fumble her words in meetings and not need three coffees a day to function. She will require one. She will not be your current self, but your ideal self; because it is a New Year after all, which allows her to finally arrive.
I know this woman all too well because I think about her all the time. I will be good and confident and everything will fall into place once I am her. And as terrific as aspiration and ambition and striving is for our progression in this world, it also whispers something else. If Harrison – the American poet, novelist and essayist – was correct and the days are stacked against what we think we are, we currently don’t think we are enough. Our days, therefore, are stacked against our lack of enoughness. This issue has been quietly bubbling away in my mind for some time, but stayed put at the forefront earlier this month. I read Bri Lee’s book, Beauty, and in it she writes about the professional woman’s increasing obsession with an unattainable standard of physical perfection. She referenced Heather Widdows book, Perfect Me, which explained the idea of the dual self. There is the ‘self’ we are currently, and the ‘self’ we aspire to be. “Working towards the aspirational self with the kind of commitment I had been showing necessitated a disdain-borderline-revulsion for my actual present self,” Lee wrote. In order to reconcile her own perfectionism and self-worth intertwined with her appearance, Bri wrote, “I didn’t need to ‘let myself go’, I just needed to let that self go.”
“So reflect on current you this holiday, and enter the New Year, still you. See what she wants to do.”
While this dual self revolved around a sense of beauty and physical perfection, it is applicable and transferable to the performance in the rest of our lives. The more we focus on the aspirational self, the less we like our current selves. So as we approach the New Year and the resolutions that come with it, I do not discourage you from making promises to yourself. I do not hope to dissuade you from aspiring for more or planning for better. I only hope to remind you that your current self, the one that sits with you today, is enough. And the self that returns from holidays is also enough. I can also guess that they won’t be too different from one another. Maybe one is a little more motivated and motivating and interested and interesting and hopefully she only needs one coffee a day. But she will still be you. She will not be some aspirational ideal. So don’t hope to change yourself too much. Set habits instead of unachievable goals. Curate your current life down to what you like and don’t like, and try to do a little more of what you like next year. Pivot where you can.
The thing about our ideal self is that she always appears to be within reach but never actually is. That is the entire point of her. So make the resolutions and strive for better, but also remember who you have already become. Take the time to reflect on what that person has achieved. Recognise the path already walked on before you sprint ahead. Looking backwards as well as forwards loosens the grip you have on that ideal self, and allows your days to be stacked against a belief that you are enough already. So reflect on current you this holiday, and enter the New Year, still you. See what she wants to do. Jim Harrison also said, “Birthdays are ghost bounty hunters that track you down to ask, ‘Que pasa, baby?’” I think the New Year isn’t all too different. So take the time, do the necessary reflection, have the gin and tonic, and rest. Then let current you tackle the next question: ‘Que pasa, baby?’
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