On my mind

A funny thing hap­pened on the way to the fin­ish line. I went in search of self­es­teem but in­stead found self-ac­cep­tance

Cosmopolitan (Australia) - - Contents -

Last Novem­ber, I ran the New York City Marathon – an ad­mirable achieve­ment for any­one, es­pe­cially me, a woman who has hap­pily and con­sis­tently side­stepped gyms, ex­er­cise, and sports bras. It wasn’t a bucket­list item or a life­long dream. In fact, pound­ing pave­ment for a ran­dom num­ber of kilo­me­tres ran counter­in­tu­itive to every­thing I be­lieved in. Namely, nap­ping.

Apart from the ex­er­cise avoid­ance, my life up to this point was a care­fully tar­geted se­ries of high­achiev­ing goals. It started in early child­hood when I earned all my Girl Scout badges in one year. It con­tin­ued when, at age 14, I worked my way up from cash­reg­is­ter girl to the cus­tomer­ser­vice de­part­ment – prac­ti­cally man­age­ment – at a store in my home­town. This habit stuck through col­lege, when I went to work for Peter Jen­nings, the top news anchor at the time – never mind that I had no ex­pe­ri­ence, no con­nec­tions and only a vague idea of world events. I set high ob­jec­tives and worked hard to reach them. Each time I ac­com­plished some­thing I set out to do, I felt that re­ward­ing hit of self­es­teem. And I’ve be­lieved that the re­serve I have amassed from all those hits has served me well in my cur­rent oc­cu­pa­tion as a cast mem­ber on The Real Housewives of New York, where an un­forth­com­ing party in­vi­ta­tion can send one into a spi­ral of self­doubt.

It wasn’t un­til I crossed the marathon fin­ish line at six hours, 42 min­utes, and six sec­onds, that I be­gan to ques­tion the very idea of self­es­teem – or at least the ea­ger way I went about pur­su­ing it.

Yes, I’m proud of my ac­com­plish­ment, but I came to re­alise that pin­ning my self­worth on com­plet­ing a run that a year ago I would have thought point­less was ab­surd. Self­es­teem isn’t an emo­tion; it’s not a hor­mone we are born with or a chem­i­cal, like dopamine, that can be reg­u­lated with a pill.

It’s a cog­ni­tive process that strains to ac­cess our self­worth. How much wiser would it be to strive for self­ac­cep­tance in­stead? Self­ac­cep­tance doesn’t feed off lofty achieve­ments or ac­co­lades to pump us up – it is sim­ply the state of feel­ing con­tent with who you are… or who you are slowly, thought­fully evolv­ing into.

Ad­mit­tedly, it’s hard to just pas­sively ac­cept your­self – well, at least for me. So I’ve learnt that set­ting mi­cro goals and achiev­ing them is a saner path to cul­ti­vat­ing con­fi­dence and self­sat­is­fac­tion. The small but mean­ing­ful tri­umphs we have each day – get­ting to the gym, re­mem­ber­ing a friend’s birth­day, not tex­ting your ex – when no one is cheer­ing us on are per­haps much more im­por­tant to lov­ing our­selves than those big­ger and rarer wins. Even if you’re the only one clap­ping when you cross the fin­ish line.

‘Set­ting mi­cro goals is a saner path to self­sat­is­fac­tion’


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