Is There A Downside To Too Much Self-Acceptance?

One of the things I’ve been working on lately is trying to feel better about myself. I spend a lot of time worrying about whether or not I’m accomplishing enough or being productive enough or sleeping enough or what have you. And rather than feeling bad about that, I’ve been trying to come to terms that I am what I am, warts and all. However, I can’t seem to silence that last niggling voice that questions whether or not this is a good thing in the long run.

For the longest time, I was taught that the way you became happy was to set goals and achieve them. Which is great, as long as you have a realistic understanding of your abilities and limitations. Because I was something of an overachiever as a kid, and coupled with my propensity for perfectionism, reinforced the whole “You can do ANYTHING!” mindset that Generation Y was so marinated in. I couldn’t just do something, I had to do everything. I couldn’t just do something well, I had to do it better than anyone else anywhere ever. Anything short of perfection and global accomplishment was a failure.

Needless to say this isn’t exactly the most healthy worldview, and I’m working on rejecting it. It’s tough, though; cultural programming runs deep, and often works in ways we’ve become selectively blinded towards. I’m trying to take a step back, re-frame things not in terms of targets I’ve missed or places I “should” be, but in terms of what I have accomplished, where I am now. The former approach hasn’t given me much more than grief and anxiety (perfection is impossible, after all), so maybe this new one will let me be happier?

And yet…

And yet I can’t help but feel that on some level I’m not “living up to my potential.” That I’ve chosen to settle for a less than ideal situation (read: reality) rather than daring to dream. That I’m pissing away opportunities by sitting around playing video games on my days off.

It’s not that I think this voice is rational. It’s just that I can’t seem to shut it up. And it’s got me wondering if there’s some merit to the idea. Is it easier to change one’s physical habits or mental habits? Is trying to change the way you feel about something a valid approach, or is it just another way of avoiding the problem?

Needless to say, I don’t know. I sense that one approach is probably better than the other in the long term, but I’m not sure which one that is. I suppose that I could look at what “setting unrealistic goals” has gotten me so far to help me make my decision: occasional anxiety and low-grade depression. Not a great result, I agree. Maybe self-acceptance will net better results? Do I have to decide whether I want to be productive or happy? Can I even become the latter through pursuit of the former? Am I going slightly mad?

Thus concludes this entry of “thoughts I had while in the shower that I couldn’t quite form correctly once I toweled off.”