It’s an interesting thing, at this specific juncture in my life, to take a long, honest look at myself and the kind of person I am. For the better part of a decade, my energies were poured into relentlessly raising the bar, confronting my anxieties, and setting up a second home just outside my comfort zone. I was continually dissatisfied with where I was; always wanting to do more, become more, and be capable of more. This had a two-fold effect, as I’ve noted before, of allowing me to accomplish much, while simulataneously devaluing those very accomplishments. This semi-beneficial paradox was among the notions I’ve been considering lately.
This double-edged dissatisfaction springs from two perspectives, one that helps and another that hinders growth. The first is how I look at myself, what I have gone through, and how far I have come. I look back and I’m grateful for how things have evolved, but I am not content to remain where I am simply because “it could be a lot worse”. In this mindset, each accomplishment inspires the next. The second, a more destructive sense of dissatisfaction, arises when I look at my situation from a purely objective perspective. What start out as major victories in my mind shrink to minute, negligible blips when I perceive them from the public eye – so I worked an 8-hour day, big deal. I remembered a word right when I needed it – whoopee. Strictly speaking, I am not an impressive individual.
You saw what happened there, right? I feel my worst when projecting my accomplishments, my situation, indeed, my life against the values and expectations of the general public. And it’s no surprise, really, because as much as we’d like to deny it, our values are influenced, if not dictated, by society via the fifty thousand media messages we take in daily. My best friend and I were discussing the omnipresence of such passively valued characteristics the other day. For example, accomplished, spontaneous, energetic, hardcore, adrenaline-pumping extroverts are almost universally praised. Meanwhile, deliberate, thoughtful, reserved, well-rounded yet unremarkable introverts are seen as unenlightened prudes. The evidence is all around, simply look at the stereotypes used to sell products on TV.
And so, along with myriad other truths I strive to keep in the fore of my mind, is the reminder to look at my life less objectively and more subjectively. It’s pure folly for me to look at myself, or anyone for that matter, and assess judgement based purely on visuals, devoid of personal experience and history. But the hardcore characteristics, the ones we all seem to value so highly, are entirely visual, manifested in extreme sports, risky endeavours, and apparent disregard for personal safety and consequence. As a result, I get caught up looking for visual signposts of progress and grow insecure at the dismally unimpressive display. But then I consider the internals – the progress of thought, perception, and emotional growth and how I’ve come to this understanding, and realize that I am hardcore.
I embark on very risky stunts, putting my self-esteem on the line several times a day, everyday. I have taken huge leaps of faith without so much as a foam pit to land in. I continue to push the limits of what is possible with a damaged brain, progressing and advancing people’s understanding and expectation. I court failure at every turn, and sometimes I do failure best of all.
The high-energy heroes we see on TV have spent years practicing their discipline to perform at a high level. Likewise, I have spent years of hard work to function now at a high-level.
And that’s pretty damn hardcore.