Most of us aspire to be somewhere, have something or just be more successful than we currently are.  Sometimes we push ourselves because we believe we need to work hard in order to succeed.  At other times we push ourselves hard because we don’t want to disappoint others.  But can pushing ourselves, trying to achieve our own goals, all the time, do more harm than good?

Pushing myself

A few weeks ago I realised I had been spending a lot of time creating content for this blog.  After a bit of a dry spell over Christmas, not writing up much, I ran out of pre-written posts and I started spending hours of every day writing up blog posts, and trying to keep up with the schedule I had set out for myself.  In every free moment I had (when I wasn’t doing something offline), I’d spend almost all of it on my laptop, doing my best to produce at least one blog post a day, because I didn’t want to run out of blog posts and disappoint anyone reading.

Creating content for this blog isn’t too difficult for me, reviews I find quite easy to write (I think I’m in the minority here! 😮 ) and when poetry comes to me it seems to just spill out of me all at once, but creating the blog posts for those reviews and poetry takes time, and when writing up longer article type posts, it can sometimes take hours before a post is written, edited and ready for publication on the blog.  But article-like blog posts weren’t coming to me, I wasn’t able to keep writing them up.  I was lacking in inspiration and it started to show.

Turning stress into symptoms

I kept at writing, managing to create posts just a day or two before they were due to be published (I’m usually at least a week ahead – usually more), keeping up with my drive to post something every day of the week.  But the more I kept writing up blog posts, the more I felt constricted into keeping up with the posting schedule I’d given myself.  Review posts were piled up and ready to go out, poems were ready too, but I had made a promise a long time ago to mix this content up with articles – to create two different article-like posts every week.

I had promised myself, a long time ago, that this was the way my blog would be, and because people were engaged with it, and happy about the way I blogged, I promised myself to keep it going.  But the more I wanted to write those longer posts, the more pressure I felt inside, the more I felt constricted and the more stressed I felt.  Stress led to tirdness, tiredness led to insomnia, insomnia led to lethargy and I just ended up feeling terrible.

Realising the resistance

It was clear what I was doing, pushing myself to achieve what I wanted, because I had a goal in my mind, a vision, of the way my blog should be.  I wanted my blog to come across professional, almost magazine-like in its mixture of contents (I’d always had a bit of a perfectionism streak inside me).  But the more I pushed myself to keep up, the more resistance I built up.  And the more resistance I had, the less ideas were coming to me, the less inspiration I had, the less time I felt I had to do anythign including visiting other blogs, and the more pressure I felt inside.

Only last week, did I realise what I was doing to myself, did I realise just how much pressure I was putting on myself.  I was pushing myself hard because I wanted to achieve something, but pushing myself beyond a certain point did the opposite effect.  Rather than achieving my goals, pushing myself too hard made me get further away from them.  Instead of getting more and more blog posts pre-written and being able to have more free time to myself, the opposite was happening and I’d spend hours struggling to write up just one, feeling constantly behind.

Letting go

In the last week I decided to let go of the resistance I was feeling, to let go of the pressure I was putting on myself , to stop pushing myself to a point where it became painful.  When I had begun my blog over a year ago, I had the goal to produce a variety of content, but as my blog expanded I had made the decision to have a schedule, of sorts, for what type of blog posts would go up, and on top of that, I promised to make Wednesdays my ‘happy’ post days – posts that would be positive, happy or motivational in nature.  I kept this schedule up because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, I didn’t want to disappoint myself.  But what I realised last week was this pressure and pushing wasn’t helping me, it wasn’t helping my blog and if anything it was making me worse.  And so at that moment I did a reality check, and something amazing happened.

I asked out loud (to nobody but an empty kitchen) “Why am I pushing myself so much?  Will everyone really be disappointed if I change the way I post?”.  I asked the question and as I asked it I realised that nobody would be disappointed, not really.  Nobody was forcing me to keep posting the way I was.  Nobody was telling me they wouldn’t visit my blog if I didn’t keep posting.  In fact the only person disappointed would be myself, because I didn’t want to let myself down by not being able to keep up to my own schedule.  I didn’t want to disappoint myself.

As I realised that I was the one causing this pressure, I was able to see that this need to keep to a schedule came from my past experiences.  Because many times in the past (especially at school) I desperately felt a need to keep up with a schedule, to be able to cope, to be in control.  This need to not disappoint myself, to not fail was caused by the way I felt in the past, because so many times in the past I had failed to keep to schedules.

Changing thoughts

The past is a strange thing.  It can affect your present so much if you let it.  My past experiences and need to feel in control were now affecting how I acted in the present.  When I had set up my blog, I wanted it to be a place I could express myself, share ideas and somewhere I could feel free of the stress I had felt during past blogging efforts when I felt constricted to stick to a schedule.  At the moment I realised how I was pushing myself, how what I was doing was having the opposite effect of what I had intended for my blog, I decided to stop it.

Like inspiration hitting my brain, I realised that I was pushing myself, and that nobody would really mind if I changed how I blogged, if I mixed up my blog posts or when I posted things.  In fact nobody (except perhaps very uncaring people) would mind if I even took to blogging less frequently.  The only one who minded was me.  Realising this made me suddenly smile.  I said out loud “Nobody will be disappointed if I change things.  My blog is an expression of me, it should reflect me.  Why am I being so hard on myself?  I created my blog to be myself.  I am free to blog what I want, when I want”. (I did really say this out loud – I tend to talk to myself a lot these days as a means of keeping positive 🙂 )

The immediate thing that happened after making this statement and deciding to abandon my promise of twice-weekly articles and ‘happy’ wednesday posts, is that I felt lighter.  I felt happy, lighter and like I could breathe for the first time in a long while.  The pressure feeling in my head stopped immediately and I felt ridiculously happy and kept smiling for a long while.  After releasing the pressure, the resistance, I felt like my mind and ideas had somehow pulled out a plug that was stopping me from being able to think, I suddenly felt inspired to write again.  By not pushing myself too much and making sure I was happy made the creativity in my mind flow.  It made me feel inspired to write again.  Feeling free and happy, helped me to write more and write better.

Don’t Push Yourself Too Hard

Sometimes we need motivation to get us started and pushing ourselves to a point that feels a little uncomfortable in order to get started in doing something can be a good thing.  If we are procrastinating or trying to avoid a situation because we fear it may be uncomfortable then pushing ourselves a little bit can be important, as it could lead us to achieving something great and feeling better than we do now.  But pushing yourself beyond your limit, putting pressure on yourself to keep doing something, to the point where you lose your motivation and inspiration can do the opposite and make us feel worse.

Pushing ourselves too much, and not taking the time to enjoy what we are doing can make us feel terrible, and do more harm to our health both mentally and physically.  So if you feel like you may be pushing yourself too hard right now, if you are putting a lot of pressure on yourself, then take a moment to look at your situation and ask yourself: Do you really need to be putting this pressure onto yourself?  Are you pushing yourself because you fear disappointing others?  Or is it only you that will feel disappointed if you don’t achieve what you expect yourself to?  Do you really need to push yourself so hard, or could you ask for help?  If you feel like you should be achieving something but aren’t, and so that’s why you are pushing yourself then look at your life and ask yourself, are there any circumstances that could make it extra difficult for you to achieve this?  Should you really be pushing yourself so hard or could you be excused for not being able to get there as fast as you’d like?  And if that’s the case then rather than pushing yourself and feeling bad for not achieving, celebrate how far you’ve already come, how much you’ve already achieved!

Happiness is an important key to being able to achieve a lot in life.  We can all achieve what we set our minds to accomplish, but there is a balance between keeping up a motivation and pace of progress, and being happy.  You must never sacrifice your own health (mental or physical) by pushing yourself too much.  Ignore the voices of those that say you must suffer in order to achieve (something an old relative sometimes says to me!).  Never put yourself down for not achieving something fast enough.  Celebrate what you do manage to accomplish, and tell yourself that you will achieve whatever you want, but don’t set a timeframe and remember to smile. 🙂

When you do things and remember to enjoy life too, to do things while remembering to smile and enjoying the process, you will feel better and be able to do a lot more. 🙂 🙂

-At the moment this blog will not change all that much, but I do want to share some of my darker poems which i wrote a while ago amond the happier ones.  I feel many of them are quite powerful or interesting and do form a large part of my poetry portfolio.  I also can’t guarantee there will be article style posts every week from now on.  I hope you all don’t mind?  Mixing things up a little will help me greatly both mentally and physically.  Sorry to anyone disappointed, and thank you to those who understand ❤ 🙂

Do you ever push yourself too much?  Are you putting pressure on yourself or are other people putting pressure on you?  Do you look after your mental health?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂