My ex/bestie/blog editor/podcast cohost Josh has this uncanny ability of telling me what I need to hear in the moment. Back when he and I were discussing the issues that we were having with our podcast recording sessions, Josh said something that instantly brought me to tears.
“What cannot bend must break. What cannot break must bend.”
Tears. Ugly sobbing tears. Not even kidding.
I was very familiar with the first half of that well-known phrase. As someone who struggles with flexibility and has a tendency to be too rigid, it made perfect sense to me. Some things simply couldn’t just change slightly. They were either on or off. Black or white. All or nothing.
But that second half…in the moment, I just didn’t have words for how much it moved me in its simplicity. I had never given myself permission to bend or waver. Things just had to be done a certain way. And if I couldn’t complete them “correctly,” then I had failed. Period. In that moment, I saw how much more forgiving and accepting of myself I could be if I could only allow myself to bend. Unfortunately, as opposed to bending, my current manner of changing my life and personality is severe overcorrection.
Seriously, not to brag guys, but I am an expert overcorrecter. In fact, if I were a superhero, I would absolutely be called THE OVERCORRECTER.
In this alternate universe where I am a superhero, I would go around wearing tights and a cape hating everything about myself and making huge, universal changes, becoming the exact opposite of what I hate and completely rejecting what I didn’t like about myself. Overcorrecting would be my superpower. Well, overcorrecting and falling asleep before 9pm.
I’ve never been very good at doing things halfway. I am an all-or-nothing kind of person who doesn’t really take slow steps to get to my goals, and if my goals have many slow steps, I get bored and I abandon them immediately. When it comes to personal growth, my instinct is always: overcorrect first, right the ship later. Recently, I’ve developed the awareness to realize just how far I’ve gone with some of my overcorrections, and while my first instinct was to wink at the camera while everyone else knowingly says, “classic Renata,” I’ve realized that it’s time to begin the “right the ship” phase.
One of my most obvious recent overcorrections is becoming a more sensitive person. For various reasons, I was not very emotive when I was younger. I was that person who proudly boasted that I never cried and just repressed all of my negative emotions. Sounds healthy, huh?
After several years of therapy, I completely turned my emotional reactions around. Instead of being the person that kept all tears at bay, I was now crying at sad things, happy things, angry things, touching things, you name it. Minor things still make me cry. What’s more, I also allow the outside world to affect my emotional state more than I previously did. While I understand that I am not the center of everyone’s worlds and the impetus for their actions, I still take way more things personally than I should.
For the longest time, I was so proud of this overcorrection and willing to defend it against anything. Reading wise quotes about not letting things affect you emotionally made me angry. So what if I’m in a constant state of emotional turmoil — that’s just who I am now!
The reality is, however, that there is truth in these quotes. Just because you don’t let everything affect your emotional state doesn’t make you a heartless monster. You can be both touched by certain things and remain guarded when it comes to others. In my mind, breaking down my emotional walls and allowing myself to be vulnerable meant being vulnerable in every way, shape, and form. Only now am I realizing how detrimental it is to allow my emotional state to be affected so much by the outside world, so I’ve decided to start being more careful about what I allow to affect me. Sure, I don’t mind continuing to cry during every damn song in “Moana,” but I’d really prefer not to feel like everyone hates me all the time if they don’t reassure me every half hour.
There’s power in not letting your emotions rule you.
As I’ve written about previously on this blog, I was a cocky jerk in high school. I exuded some fake confidence and acted like I was better than everyone else. When I realized that this was not the person that I wanted to be, I completely turned it around. I decided that I never wanted to be in the spotlight. I melted into the background and allowed myself to be vulnerable and insecure. I even became someone who hates birthdays because of the attention they bring. Birthdays, you guys.
Unfortunately, this change sapped my confidence, both real and fake. The more I forced myself back into the shadows, the more I believed that I belonged there. The more insecurities I allowed myself to show, the less confidence I had. I started to believe that cocky, confident me had no confidence, when really, she just had inflated confidence. But to completely distance myself from this old, unwanted personality, I needed to distance myself from confidence, too.
Since then, I’ve spoken about my past self with a lot of disdain. I wanted everyone to know how unacceptable I found her behavior and how much I had grown. Hating on my past self became a new part of my personality, but I didn’t really notice until I recently started exhibiting some of my old habits. I’ve been struggling to get back my confidence, and with that, some minor “joking” cockiness comes through. Cue that pang of disgust.
Ugh, you turned into Old Renata there for a second. Time to put her back in the time capsule, where she belongs.
But I’m finally starting to realize that my old self wasn’t the demon that I made her out to be. She made some misguided mistakes, but some of her traits were genuine. They were not all some fabricated façade meant to make me look and feel cooler than I was. Like Tom Haverford in Parks and Recreation starting his second business after his first one failed, he needed to be more conscientious, sure, but he also needed some of his old swagger if he was going to be his authentic self.
I don’t need to absolutely abandon my old traits to adopt new ones, and having some old traits that I didn’t like doesn’t mean that they were all bad. Finding genuine confidence while also maintaining vulnerability is my new goal, and I think it will serve me far better.
Like many people who were overachievers as children, I learned to base my self-worth on achieving my goals. This means that I would create crazy goals for myself and feel upset with myself if I didn’t meet a goal, even if said goal was arbitrary and pointless. Realizing that this was both detrimental to my self-worth and ridiculous, I decided that I would NEVER HAVE ANY GOALS EVER! As Vince Vaughn says in Dodgeball, “I found that if you have a goal, that you might not reach it. But if you don’t have one, then you are never disappointed.”
This sounded like the perfect solution to me! I was tired of disappointing myself over meaningless stuff. I was doing my best and caring way too much about everything, why should I not be proud of myself? I figured that the best way to learn how to be more understanding of myself and my capabilities was to not put myself in a position to be disappointed in myself.
The problem with getting rid of all goals, however, is that I’ve stopped looking even one step ahead. Living in the moment is an important quality to have, but avoiding goals like the plague has not been the right move either. While I think I needed this overcorrection in order to move forward, having no large, long term goals limited me to only completing shorter, definitive goals. For a while, I took comfort in this inability to wrestle with something big and scary. But now, I’m realizing that I would like to start creating some harder goals for myself, even if it makes me a bit uncomfortable. I need to become more comfortable with holding myself accountable.
What overcorrecting has taught me is to be more gentle and forgiving with myself. I realize now that I am far more flexible and able to bend without breaking. While my previous motto was “You can’t change the rules, so change the game,” my new motto is “I make the rules.” I’m looking forward to seeing how my world opens up with this newfound realization and balance.
I recently started life coaching school, and this has been a huge leap for me, in more ways than one. Beyond the fact that I will have less free time and more work to do, this process is going to require me to have and exercise a lot more confidence and accountability than I have as of late. One of my life coach friends said to me that coaches don’t sell a result, they sell confidence and accountability. But in order to sell those effectively, I need to also have them for myself. As terrified as I am of life coaching school, I know that this will be an excellent exercise in getting my confidence back and working towards a large goal. I’m excited to begin this next chapter and also to find the balance that I’ve needed for so long. I’m glad that I can finally start taking on goals again and that I’m allowing myself to take pride in what I do. I deserve it.
Photography by my talented fiancé. You can find him on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/hope_grows_here/