Monday, January 09, 2012

the feel bad post

OK, just kidding on the title.  Apparently I'm still in rant mode, and the current topic is feel-good-ism, which is a term I think I just made up, but that is starting to drive me crazy.  I would like to say up front that I'm not advocating that we all turn into hairshirt-wearing ascetics who regularly starve themselves while exercising non-stop and feeling superior at our incredible self-control.  That isn't what I mean at all.

But I'm getting really tired of the constant murmur in certain areas of the internet that we should be able to feel good all the time-- that we should always pamper and indulge ourselves and never do anything hard.  I think it's one of those ground-wave things that gets started and then takes on a momentum of its own.  I've been involved in many internet communities over the past 25 years where I've seen this happen (and been part of it).  Sometimes the people in a group seem to play off each other and work themselves into extreme opinions that just don't make sense. 

Like my moms group.  I've been involved off and on with a group of moms since I found out I was pregnant with MadMax about 15 years ago.  Over the years, we've occasionally moved into these somewhat extreme positions, where --for example-- one mom might be a little more concerned about safety than some of the rest of us, so she'll post about how horrified she is about some "neglect" that occurred while she was at the playground, and then the rest of us, feeling a little guilty that we wouldn't have been upset about that, one-up her by noticing some other thing, and pretty soon we'd all become complete safety freaks.  It's not necessarily bad, it's just that it becomes a bit extreme, and then that extreme becomes the norm, and you forget that you're being a little extreme.

Recently, I've noticed in several of the places where I hang out on the Internet that the new thing seems to be feel-goodism.  These people want you to believe that it is more important that you never deny yourself anything than it is to be healthy.  Or that you should always treat yourself with indulgence and lenience rather than trying to push yourself to do something difficult.  And while I see their point-- it would be just as bad to go too far the other direction-- it's also a bunch of baloney.

Sometimes you have to do things that are hard.  Or things that are boring, or that you just plain old don't want to do.  If I'm going to bring my cholesterol down without going on drugs, sometimes I have to not eat what I want to eat.  At the end of last semester, if I was going to get that last paper done, I had to force myself to sit down and just do it, even though it felt like forcing myself to drink poison.  If we're going to move into the (smaller) house that we all want to move into, we have to spend hours and hours going through 27 years of crap and getting rid of stuff, which is boring beyond belief.  It's not always bad to push yourself.

That's not to say you need to have any of those priorities, but I do, and I'm not going to achieve them by always pampering and indulging myself.  Sometimes you have to work damn hard to get where you want to go.  And the odd thing, the unexpected thing, is that when you do that, somehow magic still happens.  It wasn't until the last 90 minutes of editing that final paper that I figured out what I was trying to say and was able to whip it into shape.  After all that whining and moaning about how much I didn't want to do it and how I wasn't sure I could do it because I'm so old now and yadda yadda yadda, I ended up with a paper that I was really proud of. Surprised the hell out of me. And there is an unexpected feeling of pride and happiness that comes up when I've spent several hours clearing out a closet or a drawer and it looks great.  I haven't found that magic yet in the process of figuring out how to re-think my food choices, but I'm convinced it's in there somewhere. 

And then sometimes after you work really hard, you need to give yourself a break.  It's a balance.  How many times has this come up recently?  It's hard to find that delicate balance between pushing yourself and letting yourself be.  But I'm convinced it's worth finding.

p.s.  I scheduled this to post just after midnight, and then went out and read some other blog posts, like Lani's post on ReFab, and Julie's post for last night (went to bed early last night).  On the surface, they seem to be saying the opposite, but on further reflection, I don't think they're entirely opposed.  We're just working on different things.  It's not that I'm right and they're wrong, it's all of us trying to figure out how to do what we want to do right now.


  1. I definitely agree with you. The "get in there and do it, dammit" even came up in Delia's post about quotes, and the comments.

    Can't say I've noticed this trend you speak of (but I'm always behind on stuff). I wonder if it's a reaction to being surrounded by people guilting/pressuring you into goals that aren't actually yours. So it's liberating to wake up and realize, eff it I don't HAVE to do what these people say dammit! [If I'm correctly understanding what you're talking about, this self-indulgence thing.]

    But after liberating yourself from other people's expectations, you then have to figure out what you *authentically* really need to do to have the life you want. Whose expectations you ARE willing to include in your life.

    spleuh bla bla bla? not sure if i'm making any sense lol

  2. ooh, I think you're on to something. We're (me and Lani and Julie) at different places in dealing with things, but we're all opposed to shame as a motivator, I know. I wrote this in response to a specific conversation going on on another blog (not one of the posts I mentioned) where someone was talking about having to slog through a difficult task, and the responders were all telling her she should not feel pressured to do it, she should do something fun and happy instead. Whereas I felt like we should be cheering her on-- Go, you! You'll be so happy when you're done! You can do this!

    And of course, the reason you haven't noticed it may be because I don't know what I'm talking about. I have noticed this in several other places, but maybe it's not as widespread as it seems to me.

    And thankfully I seem to be out of rant mode today. I wrote both of those yesterday although this one didn't post till after midnight. I must have been really grumpy!

  3. Fab post as usual. Life is a balance. A balance between what we have to do but don't like to do (the laundry) and what we want to do (read a book, knit a sweater). If I didn't do things that are hard for this crazy idea to be a professional photographer....I wouldn't ever have a sense of who I am and what is important in my life. What I really and truly need in my life, and it is a lot less that I have thought in the past.

    As London Mabel related, when I liberated (I wrote "liverated at first, yuch) myself from worry about what others thought about me then I could get on with the good and the hard in life.

    Getting off soapbox now....for the moment.

  4. that is so true. I eliminated all the stress out of my life a few years ago because it felt like too much, but then two years later, I was depressed and BORED out of my mind. You have to push yourself to find out what you're capable of. And to keep from dying of boredom. :-)

  5. I keep coming here and reading this and then going away to think about it. I guess I'm a moderation in all things kind of person. I don't think you should do stuff out of guilt. I do think you should do stuff that challenges you. I don't think there is shame in saying, y'know, that is just too damn hard for me, I'm climbing a smaller mountain. And the boundaries of challenge/ too hard/impossible will change, sometimes daily, sometimes longer term. I think it's good to sometimes just relax and do some feel good stuff, but too much is just over-indulging. Never mind, I'm gonna go away and try to think some more.

  6. no, that's a good point, Karen. Of course you can push yourself too hard. And if you knew me in "real" life, you would know that I'm in no danger of pushing myself too hard. I spent three hours this morning finishing a Georgette Heyer novel, just because the new semester hasn't started yet and damn it, I can. I'm not opposed to feel good activities, and I indulge in them frequently. I just think sometimes we don't expect enough of ourselves. If you do think some more and have any insight about how to balance this, let me know, because I'm definitely still figuring this out myself.