I’m the worst. I am the absolute worst, and I’m really pretty proud of that. Let me explain the core of my little home version of Stoic philosophy, the one that I call “You Suck.” It’s what drives me to try to spend as much time as I can in beginner mode, trying new things, and pushing myself in pursuit of humility, grit, and self-discipline.
Affirmations are one thing. I’m a rainbow-striped, super-sparkly, sugary sweet extreme optimist, and I believe in the infinite power of radical change. On the other hand, affirmations only work if you truly believe them. Like, already believe them. You can’t talk yourself into an affirmation if underneath you suspect that it’s a lie. You have to do considerable homework before you can genuinely talk yourself into stretching your self-image that far. This is why I mix my motivational self-talk with curses and insults.
My self-efficacy is really high. I believe I can push myself to do anything, and that most things are so easy they can be learned by doing a basic web search and watching a how-to video. That’s why I don’t give myself allowance for any excuses or justifications. If I’ve made a commitment to do something, I’m doing it. No sense being a waawaa about it.
That would be an example of some of my private and personal self-talk. “Don’t be a waawaa.”
“Ohh, it’s toooo haaaard! Ohh, I don’t WANT to! Oh noooo!” Said in a sniveling, mocking tone.
These are my most obvious weaknesses, the ones that are most likely to interfere with my pursuit of all the stuff I like to do. (Hiking, backpacking, adventure races, distance running, travel, basically anything interesting).
I hate waking up early
I hate being cold, and by “cold” I mean temperatures below 65F
I hate the wind
I hate, truly hate, having dirty, sticky, or sweaty hands
I hate bug bites
I hate blisters
I pretty much hate wearing shoes
I hate when my hair gets frizzy
I hate wearing damp clothes
I hate to eat in a car
I hate sleeping on the ground
I can’t tolerate boredom for more than about 40 seconds
My inner child is, well, I AM my inner child. If I let that part of me dictate my life, I’d do nothing but sit around wrapped up in a blanket, reading and stuffing Oreos in my cheeks like a diabetic hamster. I say I am the worst because I know I am. Inside me is a whiny little whiner, a quitting quitter who quits. The absolute worst.
The other reason that I say I am the absolute worst is that today is the worst I’ll ever be. When I show up and force myself to do something I’m really bad at, when I make myself keep showing up even when I fail and fail and fail, why then, I’ll get better. That’s where skills come from. Skill comes from diligence and focus and attention and practice and repetition. Skill comes from humbling yourself before your teachers and trying and trying to get it right.
I am the absolute worst because I deliberately seek out areas where everyone in the room is more skilled and experienced than I am. If I’m the best in the room, I’d better be there to teach, because otherwise I’m wasting mine and everyone else’s time.
Let me talk a little about how good I am at being the absolute worst.
In dance class, my instructor stopped and asked me why I was having so much trouble learning the basic rumba steps. “My third leg keeps getting in the way,” I replied. He looked at me, agape. “Your third leg? Your THIRD LEG?!”
In bowling, I bowled the ball behind me and it jumped back into the ball rack.
On my first day of running, I couldn’t make it around one block in our neighborhood and I had to lie on the floor afterward.
When I gave my ice breaker in Toastmasters, I ran out of material at least a minute early and had to stand there basically mumbling to myself until the green light came on.
I just started taking Krav Maga and Muay Thai kickboxing this year. I strained an abdominal doing, I am not kidding, ten sit-ups. I hit myself in the face with a foam target. I don’t even want to say how many times I’ve tripped on the jump rope.
I still suck at bowling, although I managed to win a free pass for my brother because I’m better at granny bowling than facing forward. I kept at the ballroom dancing until I reached Bronze I, and now they clear the floor for us when my husband and I dance together. I kept at running until I made it through a marathon. I kept at public speaking until just the other day, someone said she thought I was already a Distinguished Toastmaster. Even though sometimes I think they’d rather I went away, I keep going to class and showing up to meetings and trying hard. Eventually, months or years later, I finally start to show a basic competence.
What I’m chasing is an inner sense of satisfaction with my own performance. I want to feel like I actually know what I’m doing. Often, I still feel clueless or useless or incompetent long after the compliments and external validation start to roll in. Sure, anyone appreciates compliments, and it’s thoughtful of people, but it’s... really irrelevant to why I’m there.
Today is the worst I’ll ever be, because I’ll never be this bad again. At least at this. I’ll never be as clumsy again as I was today. I’ll never be as ignorant again as I was today. I’ll never be as weak again, my stamina will never be this low again, my aim will never be off quite this far again. Today is the last day I’ll make this particular set of mistakes. Today, I am the absolute worst I’ll ever be again.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.