BY YULIA STESHENKO
When Rebecca asked what song could be our personal anthem, I’d have loved to say that “This is Me” captures my mindset, but another song from “The Greatest Showman” is a more accurate reflection of what runs through my mind on a normal day. It’s the ballad “Never Enough.” I can hear it ringing out in my head: “Never! Never!”
The truth is, as far as I’ve come in the past year, a part of me still wonders if I’m doing all I can to fend off the progression of MS and reverse past disability.
Is my diet clean enough and not triggering inflammation? (Maybe sorta.) Am I doing enough to avoid products with toxins in them? (No.) And most notably during the day, am I doing all the movement meds I need to improve my functional abilities? My exercise journal indicates I’m doing more than enough, but the battle hymn of the tiger mother has long been internalized, so much so that I am my own drill sergeant.
It can seem to me, at these times, that either I’m hurting myself in ways I’ve yet to realize or not helping myself enough.
I see this self-blame as the dark side of self-efficacy.
In my mania not to be responsible for my difficulties, I follow Trevor’s every word on movement meds and pick up tips on healing from the MOC. I get daily e-newsletters on how to combat MS (I just got one today with the heading, “Whatever It Takes”) and amass articles on self-improvement. I recently read one on how to get over productivity guilt, the sense one is not maximizing one’s time. I even signed up for a wellness challenge through the New York Times and these reminders accumulate in my inbox.
This sets off search algorithms that lead me to be shown more articles on self-improvement and, before you know it, every article in my newsfeed is about what I could be doing better and what I am not doing well enough yet. It is a Google feedback loop. And I just want it to stop.
I want to understand, how can I see myself as enough and even be proud of myself for all my efforts, yet still strive to become a better version of myself?
It seems an elusive goal, yet I look at my boyfriend, Chiu, and while he claims not to have it all figured out, he seems to do a better job of juggling these two competing forces than I manage, finding stillness even as he moves forward.
So I asked him one night, “How do you do it? How do you manage to accept yourself as you are but still be driven to improve yourself?”
He gave it some thought and said three factors were at play:
- He has the satisfaction of learning from what he is doing, which provides him a sense of accomplishment not tied to reaching specific milestones;
- He has constant feedback from others reinforcing that he is doing a good job;
- And he thinks none of it really matters in the end, so that enables him not to take things so seriously.
I gave it some thought and had to wonder, how did he just come up with that off the top of his head and at the end of yet another long workday? Does he have an internal manual for his operating system, the Tao of Chiu? That’s Chiu for you, a seemingly straightforward person who remains a puzzle.
I don’t think I can be like him, nor do I think he wants me to be like him, which is a relief. He is, after all, a man who got most of his “wisdom” from cartoons. This morning, he told me, “Knowing is half the battle. I got that from G.I. Joe.” I kid you not.
Still, I can see some reason in his points.
I have the satisfaction of knowing I am constantly learning. This is especially clear when I’m doing the MS Gym exercises. I have a more developed understanding of my gait and muscles than ever before, and I know I have so much more to learn, that I will be learning for the rest of my life.
I get regular feedback from my MS Gym friends, Chiu and other loved ones that I am doing a great job, even with my setbacks and snail-like progress.
And maybe I can reframe his last point that nothing matters by reminding myself that I like where I am in life now, even if I believe I can do better.
But another three-point check comes to mind: BGB, a.k.a. the Tao of Trevor.
As Fran captured so perfectly in a recent image, “Keep Calm and #BGB.”
I began to wonder, what would psychological BGB entail?
Maybe it means not being overly consumed by the past and not straining our necks in our impatience for the future, but being present to what we are aiming to master right now.
It fits in well with Trevor’s recent Mindset Minute, in which he advises us to change only one habit a week so these changes stick. This not only uncrowds my to-do (or undo) list; it helps me feel less overwhelmed by the need to come up with big dreams that would only make me feel inadequate in comparison. This also lets me focus on what I have to do now, not five years from now.
And it forces me to slow down so I can make progress, another great message he gave in a Motivation Monday. I even find myself thinking of the new breathing companion guides as a form of meditation, but a meditation I want to do.
Wait, is this the no-nonsense mindfulness master class I’ve needed all my life? As I mull this over, I have emails on maximizing wellness to delete.
What does psychological BGB mean to you?