Somewhere in your head is a vision of your ideal self. This is the version of you that drinks three liters of water each day, gets plenty of sleep, and never yells at your kids. Or your husband. Or the person who cut you off on the highway. Or the one who tries to sneak in an extra item in the express lane. Or the one—
I don’t need to go on. You get the picture.
Or more accurately, that picture is sitting in your brain reminding you that you’re not good enough. That picture says you’re lacking in any number of ways, and if you could just change your diet, exercise, and attitude, you’d be SO MUCH HAPPIER.
Seriously, fuck the ideal self. There is no ideal self. There is only one self—the one that is here, right now, dealing with lockdowns and cranky kids and people who cut the line and all sorts of other bullshit.
When we have that ideal self in our heads, it leads us to do all sorts of crazy things, like change our eating habits at the same time we start a new exercise routine all while we’re also taking care of aging parents and trying to hold down a job.
Whew! Just writing that sentence made me tired.
But that’s really my point. Thinking that there is somehow some perfect way to be is exhausting! Worse? It sets us up for failure. Real change takes time.
Change One Habit At a Time
Let’s say you have a wish list of things that you want to change about yourself. (Don’t worry. We all do.) When you’re focused on some ideal, it feels incredibly important to fix all of them immediately. In part, that’s because those things feel connected—especially if you’re talking about health stuff. But it’s true even if you add in other changes you want to make, like cutting down on social media or not biting your nails. We sooooo want to be better that we make the mistake of taking everything on at once.
Unfortunately, few people have the attention span, let alone the discipline, to develop several new habits at a shot. Instead, try being:
- Less concerned with perfection.
- More patient with ourselves.
Imperfection is kind of our natural state. Once you accept that, it’s easy (or at least, easier) to give yourself a little breathing room. Focus on the one habit that matters most to you and work on that. You want to eat healthier? Maybe make eating breakfast your first goal. And maybe make it a goal for one week. Then two. And then four. You get the picture.
And you’ll be surprised how one small change ripples throughout all the other parts of your life. That healthy breakfast might turn into more energy for a workout or a better attitude at work. Even better? You’ll have that awesome feeling you get when you’ve made a change for the better.
Life is a journey—and if we’re lucky, it’s a long one. You have plenty of time to get where you want to be, but the work is going to suck if you only think about what you’re not.
Wishing you all the best in health,