An Old Journal, an Old Proverb, and a Yardstick

by | Writing Exercises

I wrote this Chinese Proverb in the inside cover of my journal years ago:

“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”

I ran my fingers across these neatly written words I wrote when I was 23 and thought how these words ring so true in today’s culture.

We are driven to excel, outperform, “win,” and achieve all sorts of accolades. But, for what purpose exactly? And at what cost? Our extreme achievement-oriented and “let’s be/do better than our neighbors” attitudes fuel anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. As a what-I’d-like-to-call a recovering perfectionist, I also fall in this trap to be or do more. Luckily, I continue learning there’s another way. I’ve experienced the peace and self-acceptance that comes from measuring my success and worth according to my own yardstick: did I live according to my values today, am I authentically giving and receiving love every day, did I live today with integrity. Most days, the answers to all these questions are a strong yes.

Yet, how often do we fall into the “yes, but…” syndrome and negate all that we do accomplish every day! How wonderful would it be to live in the space between self-compassion and pushing ourselves to continue growing; to live in the space that encourages self-acceptance and promotes blossoming into our best versions of ourselves without such tension and anxiety.

So, who are you, and what yardstick are you using to measure yourself?

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