I have a confession to make: I am notoriously hard on myself. I am always holding myself to impossibly high standards, trying to accomplish an unbelievable amount of things, and quite often feeling like (if not a “failure”), that I’m just simply not trying hard enough.
I am never content with what I am doing. If I write one blog post one week, the next week I need to try for two. If I run 4 miles, I should be able to do 5. The need to achieve is a wonderful, driving force, but there are times when it can drag you down. I’ve felt it. I live it. And I know many of you do, too.
“Contentment” is not a word we people with high ambition are comfortable with. Why relax, we reason, when there are tasks to be completed, laundry to be washed, and important things to be done? We watch our Type-B friends crack open cold ones, sit back, and truly live in the moment, while we stand, looking around, making to-do lists in our head and wondering when the appropriate time to leave is so that we can go home and get things accomplished.
And no matter how much we do, we are never truly satisfied.
Don’t get me wrong—there is nothing inherently bad about wanting to succeed. It’s a great thing to be goal-oriented, to be ambitious, to constantly be challenging yourself. But there is also something to be said for being able to relax and enjoy what’s around you, without having to feel that you need to be somewhere else, making a name for yourself.
I wish I could give advice to those of you out there who are like me. But to give advice, I’d have to first be able to take it. I know the benefits of being able to fully relax, to “let myself off the hook” of accomplishing the things on my to-do list. However, I find that whenever I try to take a night off, to watch a movie or a Netflix show, or let myself eat an impossibly greasy piece of pizza, that the guilt involved with these activities is far greater than the peace of mind it could—potentially—give me. I am an achiever through-and-through. The all-or-nothing mentality is a real concept, and I’ll shamelessly say that it applies to me, more often than not.
I know I’m not the only one.
The thing we need to realize is that ambition isn’t everything. Succeeding at all costs doesn’t have to be our only option. If we slip up, make mistakes, or, God forbid, want to change our minds about something, we need to be able to give ourselves permission to do so. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing, especially when applied to ourselves.
So while achieving is fantastic, and I know I’ll keep trying to do a lot of it with this short life we’re given, it also has some downsides we need to keep an eye out for. Doggedly going after a goal and forgetting to live isn’t healthy—we need to spend some time focusing on the here-and-now, too.
Kayla Maneen recently got her BFA in Creative Writing and minored in adventure and fun. After graduation, she worked on an organic farm in Ireland and taught English in Italy, and learned all there is to know about chasing sheep and eating long, leisurely meals with family. She is adamant about teens living out their passions and reaching their highest potentials. Always follow that fire in your heart!