Imaginary Hardships

I have become so worn down by the expectations of others, people who seem to suggest that I need to be doing more with my life.

More than providing reliable care and selfless love to two children?

More than enjoying life according to the blessings I’ve been given?

This should be enough.

And yet, I have been stupidly hard on myself for not meeting people’s expectations. I’ve practically tortured myself over every perceived failure. But the truth is, I have a pretty great life. I have a roof over my head and food in the fridge. I have the two happiest children on earth and a husband who loves me fiercely. I experience total, uninhibited joy on a regular basis. So why does it not feel like enough?

I’ve narrowed it down to a couple of things: my desire to be admired and utter confusion.
The first is a sin; the other is mere human nature.

As for the first, I could simply blame others for putting pressure on me to succeed in a way that makes sense to them. But how can I blame others when I am guilty of concerning myself with their opinions? After all, whose opinion matters aside from that of God?

As to the confusion, I felt like I was doing well in discerning the will of God. I knew He wanted me to get a law degree, as He made evident numerous times. But I expected there to be a reason. To this day, no reason can be ascertained. Sometimes I wonder if there was an opportunity I overlooked. Maybe I missed my chance. I began to obsess over it. I didn’t want to let God down. This way of thinking made me fearful: that I was squandering the gifts God gave me, that serious negative consequences would be rendered, or that my life would be meaningless.

Then, one day, my husband and kids were dancing in the living room. I don’t know how, but it suddenly hit me how blessed I already am. It made me feel silly for caring about having more of anything.

How many of my problems are no more than mere figments?

I put so much pressure on myself to not just be good, but to be the best, to overcome obstacles with ease, to somehow beat the odds. Don’t misunderstand. Ambition and perseverance are admirable traits that everyone should aspire to possess. But they are not ends in themselves; they are vehicles to achieving a goal. Working hard shouldn’t be for public praise, but for improving ourselves and our personal situations. In other words, if hard work can be avoided, then it should be.

During my first pregnancy, I was nearing the end of law school. I had a paper due around the same time as my due date. However, my professor, understanding my situation, told me that I would be able to turn the paper in late if I needed to. When I started to go into labor, I seriously contemplated bringing my laptop to the hospital so that I can finish my paper while simultaneously birthing a human.

I ended up leaving my laptop at home, but when I look back on that time, I wonder why I even considered it. My professor had already explained his understanding and was allowing me to turn it in late. Why was I about to make things difficult for myself?

Upon further reflection, there was no good reason, only selfish, narcissistic motives; it was the idea that I could impress others with how much I was willing to sacrifice, even if it didn’t make sense. I wouldn’t have been doing it for the right reasons.

This is something I call “Hustle Culture.” Everyone is so obsessed with putting in more hours, at the expense of sleep and quality time with the people who make life worth living. It seems like every time I turn around there’s another pregnant woman running a marathon or curing an illness. Again, this level of dedication is admirable, but if the reason for it is so that others can look on in awe, then the fruit of the labor becomes the labor itself, leaving the actual accomplishment unrewarding.

Shouldn’t a person’s goal in life be to simply find happiness?

I have found happiness. I don’t want to disturb that by hustling in a futile attempt to quiet the monsters of my own imagination.

To God be the Glory!


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