A very dear friend of mine sent me a message the other day saying I needed to drop everything I was doing and go listen to a podcast. Seeing the overly happy ultra American middle aged woman on the thumbnail I thought ‘wtf is this’ but the title caught my attention. “Are Your Goals Selfish or Destructive” definitely was something I wanted to know, to explore, to figure out for myself. So I started listening.
“Some people have a drive to broadcast to the world, everything that’s been accomplished in their life. “
This was one of the first sentences said on the podcast and it made me feel uncomfortable. We live in times where we are constantly connected and it doesn’t always mean you’re vain and only live for internet fame. For a good portion of the intro she talks about people renting Bentleys for Instagram photoshoots and generally living a fake life. Even if the luxury goods do belong to these people she criticises them for ‘showing off’. Sure, I get it, it grinds my gears too sometimes. But how do you know what motivates them?! Yes, I am sure there are people who only just do it to prove to others how much better they are but measuring everyone with the same stick isn’t fair.
Next she goes on to denounce bucket lists. “If it doesn’t make you more money or makes you a better person then why do you want to do it” – apparently these goals only serve the purpose of making us feel more valuable and more special. Ok, fine, and what’s wrong with that? Don’t we all want to be special? Aren’t we all special? I don’t understand why running a marathon or learning a language that no one uses, therefore, it doesn’t serve any purpose, is a bad thing because you want to do it for yourself? Again, I am sure there are people who run a marathon or turn vegan for a week and go on bragging about it for the rest of their lives. Yes, these people can be annoying. But shitting over someone’s personal goals or ‘bucket lists’ isn’t cool. We all do what we do to somehow make our lives better, to feel better about ourselves for us, not for others. And even if you do it for the attention of others, does that automatically make you a bad person? We all have different experiences in life, so if by doing something we hope to gain the appreciation of others what’s wrong with that?
I am pretty positive not many people buy a yacht and expect to be admired just for that. But I’m sure people may learn Chinese or to hold their breath for long periods of time to maybe have a little ‘wow’ thrown at them here and there. I don’t think self improvement is something to be frowned upon. Self indulgence and narcissism maybe, but not trying to better yourself.
“I know that that goal doesn’t make sense for my business, my family, my true priorities but would only serve my ego”.
YES THAT IS FINE! Does everything have to have some higher meaning? What if the higher meaning is just you being happy and proud of yourself that this time last month you couldn’t swim one length of the swimming pool, today you do 30. It’s like when people ask what meanings your tattoos have and being disappointed or almost offended it is not to commemorate your dead grandma. And what are true priorities anyway? Happiness? Fulfilment? Completing an otherwise ‘useless’ goal can definitely help with that.
“Many of us never got the confirmation that we needed and that often starts in early childhood.” she says and acknowledges that when you sometimes talk to adults who are still trying to prove something and they think back they realise they are repeating the pattern. Some of the feelings of needing someone’s approval come from knowing that in your early years you had someones approval when you did XYZ and those things really impact the way we still need to be validated even as adults.
She encourages to reflect on what is it that you set out to accomplish, what is it that you set out to PROVE. And says the problem is in fact that, that we are trying to PROVE something. To whom?! “Honestly we’re trying to prove it to ourselves, we think we prove it to the world but in fact we prove it to ourselves.” – great, thank you, finally you’re talking some sense.
She said she hesitated to do this topic on the podcast – and rightfully so. She didn’t do a great job. She says she wants to teach us how to be our best selves and create the lives we desire based on the feelings we want to feel. So why then she goes on for 25 minutes telling us the feelings of appreciation or self accomplishment are not the right ones, not the noble ones we should feel. That doing something not for money but for self recognition is bad?
“I’m not suggesting that you hold back and not try to be your best, what I’m suggesting is to look at whats motivating and important to you and who is motivating and how does it make you feel.”
Going back to the feelings and situations from childhood, she mentions that for our children, we should make them feel that they get our love and appreciation unconditionally, not only when they accomplish something. Well, I don’t know about you, but it wasn’t always the case for me. I am used to having to be the best or at least in the very top. Not because I particularly wanted or needed that for myself, but that was the requirement. To keep my family happy, to get the attention or affection I probably desired as a young child. Telling me I do something to be the best is really unfair and hurtful. I never wanted or needed anyone’s admiration, not anyone except my parents. If I want to learn Hebrew (which I will never do or never use) it is not to be the coolest amongst my friends to learn some weird language, it is because I feel that I want it. For NO reason. And no one gives a shit whether I do it or not, I don’t need to prove anything to anyone.
The only thing I ever wanted to ‘prove’ to anyone but mainly myself is that I am worthy. Of the grades I got, of the friends I had, of the jobs and money I received. And years and years long I never felt like I deserved any of it. I still don’t, I still constantly feel not good enough. So if I run a marathon it’s not going to change it. And if people tell me that it’s great it won’t make me feel any better. The work has to be done within me but criticising the things I or anyone does on their journey to healing and self improvement simply isn’t fair. You don’t know what goes on in people’s heads, what motivates them.
Maybe my goals are selfish, selfish because I want to be better for myself, in my own eyes. And if that hurts you, I am sorry, it was never my intention. We all try to live our lives the best we can. I’m sorry you don’t like me going vegan or buying a Ferrari. It’s not for a show. It is in, often futile, effort to repair myself.
PS. If you made it this far and by some coincidence are able to read German, here’s an article about a guy who challenges this whole concept of instafame. Ironically he actually is pretty #instafamous.