So, how to get someone to understand that they’re putting too much pressure on themselves, that they’re setting themselves up for failure? That they don’t have to be everything to everybody. That not nearly as many people as they might think are watching or noticing or caring at all that you aren’t fulfilling every dream and expectation, or living up to outsized, unrealistic, self-imposed standards.

I know that it’s necessary to tread lightly when people are having these troubles—you don’t want to make things worse. But there are times when it’s all I can do to refrain from just blurting out, “take a damn chill pill and stop the pity party!” We are, collectively, a bundle of neuroses stretched to a breaking point by the added stress of a pandemic. But we still suffer from self-inflicted wounds. We treat self-care as some holy grail, an elusive solution to every ill, something we have to succeed at like parenthood or vocation (sometimes one in the same).

I’ve never been able to fully grasp the apparent difficulty people (myself included) have of just letting things go. Depression to me isn’t necessarily something that warrants multiple visits to a therapist or can be treated with a pill. Sometimes it seems like what we need to do is take a walk, exercise, force a change of scenery, network. Some, sadly, are so incapacitated that they aren’t capable of doing that much. So they do need someone to help them, guide them.

We spend a lifetime living inside our own heads, and this isn’t necessarily the best place to be. We are the accumulation of formative childhood experiences and spoken words and actions and teaching moments and perceptions and misunderstandings. We keep score, we react or bury, we form opinions of ourselves sometimes based on bad information and other peoples’ insecurities, and the injurious self-talk starts eating away at our outlook and confidence and joy. We enter school, the work force, marriage, and other relationships having formed an opinion of ourselves over time based on how other people have treated us and spoken of us. And we process it all, for good or ill. Some call this “baggage.”

There’s a price to be paid for grabbing life by the balls, for feeling like every minute of every day needs to be momentous and utilized and purposeful. We’re so afraid of failure that we fail by default. My word! I’m getting pissed off and exhausted just writing these last few sentences.

What angers me is that we can be so unkind to ourselves, that we carry the weight of childhood trauma into adulthood, that the self-talk has way too much influence. And we don’t learn to process it all until it’s had a chance to do damage.

One way or another, it is necessary to confront the heaviness, at least keep it at bay. Manage it, if not get rid of it, move beyond it. So we can know what it feels like to have smooth sailing every now and then.

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