Every day in the office, at the end of my tasks, all I did was looking through the window thinking about how deeply I wanted to change my scene, my situation… my life.
I knew I had nothing to complain about (I had a nice job), but I just kept on thinking that could never forgive myself if I didn’t succeed in my “plan”: to study a M.A. abroad and get a scholarship. At this point, I was already dealing with anorexia for 3 or 4 years.
So, when the College in the Netherlands that I wanted to attend rejected me (adding this “failure” to other previous ones), I immediately blamed myself; I had worked so hard (English courses/tests, highest scores, letters of recommendation/motivation, etc.), and yet I was not “good” enough. I felt miserable, dumb, without purpose and going nowhere…
Having goals can motivate us, but what happens when you can’t reach them no matter how hard you try? Is it your fault for not being “perfect”? Would it have been better to have not tried?
I am not recovered at all from this disappointment or the anorexia, but here are 4 things I have learned.
1. Some things are in our hands… and many other things are not
There is a phrase that I think “fits” perfectly in this case: “God: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference”.
Regardless of whether you are or aren’t a religious person (I am not), it is always important to analyze what depends on you and what doesn’t. It is in your hands to do your best, but there can be many other external factors involved (political, economic, contact networks) that may or may not be on your side.
Knowing this will help you not to blame the “forces” you are battling nor to “victimize” yourself, but get you motivated to keep going to the next point.
2. Stop blaming and punishing yourself
Are you placing high demands on yourself? That is great, but also stressful and frustrating because “perfection” simply doesn’t exist and what is “ideal” for you is not necessarily “ideal” (or reality) for others (parents, teachers, bosses). That is why you should stop blaming and punishing yourself just because your family, a college or a corporation gave you their “disapproval” because this doesn’t mean you aren’t good enough.
Arthur Schopenhauer, a German philosopher, wrote that ‘What a man is contributes much more to his happiness than what he has or how he is regarded by others.’
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3. Keep doing your best
What can be worse than “failing”? The answer is: not even trying. ‘The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried’, said Stephen McCranie.
If you stop trying or never begin in the first place simply because you either “fell down” before or are afraid of things going wrong, you’ll never know how it could have worked out. The feeling of “what if…” will follow you day and night.
Of course, everybody starts a project in order to make it real; but if things don’t work out like you wish due to external circumstances, you’ll be able to learn from this experience and know what you should change next time, how to take a different route or, what to look for in new goals (all of these options are, in my experience, freeing).
4. You are constantly growing
Are you the same as you were years ago?
After I just graduated I made many ‘mistakes’ during my first job but I embraced them because they allowed me to become the person that I am now. I can do things better than before and I know there is always something new to learn from future mistakes.
Every “fall” makes you stronger, as long as you are willing to get back up. May this beautiful quote from the book “Siddhartha”, by Hermann Hesse, help you to keep it in mind: “We are not going in circles, we are going upwards. The path is a spiral; we have already climbed many steps”.