Sometimes people say terrible things to me. Like, “You’ve really improved as a writer.”
What I always want to say is, “Are you telling me I used to suck?”
These are usually people who read my early work. The stuff that was terrible. More terrible, anyway, than what I’m writing now. And the answer is yes. Yes, I did used to suck. More than I do now, anyway.
It’s not meant that way. I think. I think I should feel complimented. I think that’s the intention. But I have this weird perfection complex. Like, I want to live in a world where I sprang fully formed from the head of Zeus. I want to be a person who has never made mistakes.
So a lot of the time I try to pretend mistakes didn’t happen (they did, a lot of them did). Or that I was never bad at performing certain tasks (I’m still bad at almost everything).
Maybe it’s because I think everyone else is better than me. And I’m trying to catch up with them. Whatever. It’s a problem I have. I want reality to be different than it is.
This perfection complex, it takes up a lot of brain power. And I’m not that smart. I don’t have a lot of brain power to spare. My perfection complex is like an Olympic stadium in a small town. It’s a huge consumer of resources and it’s doing fuck-all to improve my life.
Even now, while I sit at my desk writing this, I’m thinking how imperfect it is. I’m worried that people will say, What’s the point? And there won’t be any point. What’s the point of anything? Or, even worse, what if people don’t say anything? Because nobody cares? What if no one ever even notices?
You see what I’m dealing with?
Sometimes, in the middle of the day, I start feeling bad about things. Sometimes these are things that happened years ago. No one even remembers except me, probably. But I still think about these mistakes I made, these stupid things I said, and I feel bad. One second of bad memory, and my day is ruined.
I don’t know if other people have this problem. I have only ever been myself. But these are the things I’ve started doing. They work most of the time. They may work for other people. I don’t know.
1. Stop Feeling Bad About Feeling Bad
All the time, I feel like I’m supposed to be happy. Because I live in the 21st century, in a developed country, with way more stuff than I actually need. If I start feeling bad, I feel bad because I feel bad.
It could be worse, I think. I could be a starving child in [Some Foreign Country].
But that’s not how it works. You compare yourself to the environment you’re in, not the one on the other side of the world. It’s not helpful to anyone to add more guilt to the feelings of unhappiness. It just sucks up more energy. Energy that could have been used to, I don’t know, feed children in [Some Foreign Country].
2 Examine Your Inner World
What I mean is, look at yourself as if you’re on the outside. Think of your thoughts as objects. Your memories are planets in the universe. Your feelings, your emotions, they’re comets hurtling between stars. They are objects. They interact. Observe the way they interact.
Think, Interesting. When I remember what I said to that girl that time, this feeling of guilt emerges. And look how the guilt interacts with the embarrassment. Look how they combine to erode the soul.
I don’t know. Something like that. Chemistry is a better analogy than astrophysics. You are a chemist, and your feelings are elements that interact. The point is not the analogy. The point is that you want to stop yourself from thinking that you are your feelings.
This is not to say they don’t matter. Your feelings, I mean. It’s just a way of separating yourself from them. You have to get some perspective. You have to understand that they way you feel, even when you feel terrible, it’s just a very small part of the universe. Physical laws govern the universe. Psychological laws govern the mind. They’re not different.
Work things through. Feel what you feel. But don’t let yourself be consumed by it. That’s how you end up spiraling into the pits of misery and depression. That’s what happens to me, anyway. If I’m not careful.
3. Give Up
The problem is, you can’t be perfect. Or I can’t, anyway. If you can, that’s great. You can fuck right off. But the rest of us can’t. So why would we even try?
Just give up.
For real. I give up on these all the time, and it’s great. That guy doesn’t like me? Okay, I give up on being his friend. That story is boring me? Okay, I give up on writing it. That girl isn’t laughing at my jokes? Okay, I’m going to keep trying to impress her until she gets a restraining order on me.
Give up already.
Okay, you say. But quitters never win, right? So you’re saying just be a loser?
Yeah. Why not? There are seven billion people in the world. You’re not the best one. You’ll never be the best one. Who started this thing that everyone has to be special? Why not just be okay? I’d like to be okay. That’s hard enough most of the time.
In school, fifty percent is a failing grade. That’s what society tells us when we’re still young and impressionable. In real life, a fifty percent success rate is amazing. In any area of life. Business, sex, athletics, whatever. Fifty percent is amazing.
You shouldn’t listen to any of this. It isn’t advice. I’m just telling you about this thing that I’m doing in my life. If you try it and it works, that’s cool. If it makes you miserable, find your own thing. It doesn’t matter to me. I’ve given up on caring what people think about the things I say.