Every virtue has a shadow side. The side where a great thing takes a turn for pain. Think about this: every good thing we want can also harm us. It rings true for me that my whole life is a balancing act. Not enough humility and people will despise me but too much humility and people will ignore me and walk all over me. This is true for confidence, self-care, indulgence, empathy, generosity, kindness, and love.
We are all multidimensional creatures. We are operating with many lines of reasoning simultaneously. We only talk about them one by one so that it’s a clear discussion. Yet, internally, we have many opposing forces at work at the same time eventually bubbling up with thoughts and actions responding to some stimuli. As BJ Fogg said, behavior = motivation + ability + prompt (or B=MAP for short).
Knowing about balance is crucial. It’s the sort of wisdom needed to navigate life. When you ignore balance all sorts of unfortunate pain exists. You know, we’re only human. Making mistakes, correcting, over-correcting, and shaming ourselves. It’s a vicious cycle. It’ll make us depressed, anxious, and terrified of stepping out into the world. Pause. Breath. We can always demand more of ourselves. People can always find reasons to criticize us.
My GF calls me Mr. Self-Improvement. At the moment, I’m “working” toward being healthy, a great programmer, self-accepting, confidence, happy, and a host of other goals. I’m so driven that it’s tough to just sleep in. I’m always learning, always exploring, and always growing. It’s such a high-level of energy that it’s tough for others to exist in my space. It makes people uncomfortable. It’s like being in a hot tub for too long.
Where’s the balance? Where’s the humanity? We all need positive experiences of living our own lives. The joy that comes from being alive. The thrill of rolling down a hill on skates without criticizing myself for being too scared to pull off some cool trick. Or the joy of shamelessly dancing so hard in a crowd of strangers with my lovely GF.
We need boundaries. Boundaries with ourselves and with others. There are only so many fucks we can give. We need boundaries with others to protect our own self-worth and confidence. To press forward without driving ourselves mad. To enjoy our lives without letting it slip by.
Let’s be rationale for a moment. I’m mean, what are our options? There’s three sides to consider: (a) self-destruction (b) existing (c) self-improving. We have (a) fatalism (b) apathy (c) meaning. We have (a) pessimism (b) realism (c) optimism.The opposite of working on ourselves is harming ourselves. The middle is simply being what we are. At the end is working on what we are. None of these satisfy our goal to live a happy life. I think the answer lies between (b) and (c) where we spend most of our time celebrating and enjoying what we already have (gratitude) then a portion of our time investing in what’s next. Then on those rare occasions we have to blow it all up and start over with some (a) destructive force.
While, I’m not religious I do see the wisdom found in Ecclesiastes 3:1–8:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
I guess I’m writing this as a reminder. A reminder to look on the balanced bright-side. To hold our ambitions with balanced hands. A way to remember that balance is how to do this thing called living. We are humans, imperfect, moving, living, limited, and beautiful. That’s our upside, the outlook, the positive realism, and the point of being. We’re alive y’all. We are doing our things. Making our moves. Appreciating what we have and will have. Kicking, screaming, crying, and laughing our way through life. And it’s all one giant confusing exciting mess of an adventure. I don’t know the “WHY” of it all yet I’m glad you and I are here for it.