Push through your own limits

Self Doubt - Lena Yang
(Graphic by Lena Yang)

Sometimes I ask myself why I haven’t done anything, or at least any of the things that I planned to do. I was going to get in shape, finish writing that novel and generally do great things. But I didn’t. There was no big reason why I didn’t do them, I just didn’t.

I had opportunity. I know where the gym is and how to open that file on my laptop. I had time. Those hours I spent binge watching TV or lying on the floor could have been spent more productively. I just didn’t.I had motivation. It’s easy to dream of that life just beyond the horizon. I know what I want but for some reason I’ve never bothered to get up and go get what I want. I’ve had years and I just ‘never got around to it.’ This isn’t just me. We all have plans, intentions and goals. All the lovely things that ‘we’re definitely going to do… just maybe tomorrow.’ We dream the impossible dream and then let it get dusty.

We know that life is about chasing that dream so we plan it all out in our heads. We know exactly what to do. Our hands are on the figurative door to our ideal future. And then we don’t push.

And I’m betting that my reason is the world’s reason. Fear. Shame. Guilt.

The second I put my hand on that door and start to push, the demons start leaking through. “You’ll never be able to do it. You’re not good enough, remember that one time when… You don’t deserve that. I know your secrets. Who do you think you are?”

Fear that I’ll crash and burn. Shame that I even want to try. Guilt that I’m not good enough anyway.

But we don’t like to hear those things. I don’t even like to acknowledge that I’m being bombarded by them so we cover them up. Apathy.

“It doesn’t really matter. I’ll do it later. Uggg, it’s too hard. Who really cares? I’ll never get there anyway.”

We’re not lazy, we’re afraid to try. Laziness is just a convenient excuse. Nobody likes looking fear and shame in the face. So we just don’t do anything. We think, “I can’t go to the gym, everyone there will already be in such good shape. I’ll look like a fool.” We say, “I just don’t have time to go the gym. I’m too tired.”

The first is true but we come to believe in the second. We believe our own lie because we don’t want to face the fear that the first might be true. It’s easier to simply dismiss it then to check its validity.

If I finish writing the novel then I have to let people read it. It might stink. Better to not write it. I’ll write it when I’m a great writer and there’s no chance that anyone will reject it.

But how can I be a great writer if I never write?

It’s easy to say that I’ll go to the gym when I’m in shape, that I’ll push the door to my future open when I know that the demons can’t get me. When I know I’ll succeed.

But in my opinion there are two truths that punch huge holes in that plan.

The demons will always be able to get me. Much of that fear, shame and guilt comes from me. I’m my own demons and, though I might be able to diminish them, I’ll never be rid of myself. I know all my shameful secrets and my biggest fears. There’s plenty to fuel my apathy.

The second truth is the only way I think I might be able to open the door. No good story starts with a bulletproof character; every hero has a weakness — a hole for the demons to pick at. Superman had kryptonite.

The demonless person does not exist. If I keep telling myself that I’m only going to open the door when I can kick it down and crush the kryptonite between my teeth then I’m never going to open the door.

So I don’t want to see the bulletproof person. They’re a lie. What I want to see is the person who does something in spite of the demons. The person who dares to face the fear, guilt and shame, who refuses to hide under apathy. I want to watch myself grapple with my own demons.

To dare greatly. To do something. To do.

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