Turning Over a New Leaf

Note: This post has been automatically imported from my old blog. Formatting may be incorrect.

I am overly optimistic about my future. When I plan things, I base my expectations on everything coming out as well as possible. I know there are a lot of things I'm good at doing well and quickly, so I just take that into account and ignore all of my personal weaknesses and the little hiccoughs of real life and set my expectations way too high. I set myself up for failure when I could be achieving greatness.

I am a perfectionist. When I inevitably fail at a goal I have set out for myself, I see only the failure and none of the success. I feel like a single mistake, or even a setback outside of my control, completely invalidates my entire effort.

I am a procrastinator. A seriously bad procrastinator. I undertake tons of projects that I hardly even start working on, let alone complete. Of the responsibilities that I do actually fulfill, I'd say it's 1 in 50 that I don't put off until the very last minute. I have a whole slew of automatized behaviours and emotional responses that I've trained to make productive work as hard as possible, no matter how much I like or dislike the work at hand. I have passion, I have plans, I have ability, I could be great but instead I stretch minor issues into major excuses and make up excuses when there are none. I delude myself with my optimism and so feel OK about putting things off until the very last minute, and I use my perfectionism as an excuse to waste a whole day when I mess up one hour. This is why I left Atlanta: I recognized myself slipping into some of my serial procrastination patterns. I told my employer that, in the past, I had failed to overcome those behaviors and that I couldn't guarantee that I would succeed this time, so they let me go. Most of the time, I do manage to pull through in the end when someone else is relying on me, but at a cost of high stress, low sleep, and reduced quality. I can't even try to estimate how many times I've failed to pull through when it's just me relying on me.

I am a liar. I have this image of myself that is based on my principles and how strongly I believe in them, my abilities, and my ambitions. It's really my image of who I want to be, and I truly believe I can be that person someday, but I'm not yet. And so, when the truth of what I have done or failed to do threatens that image, I lie to myself and others about what happened. Sometimes, the lie is pointless, and no one would think any differently of me had I told the truth, but the habit of lying is so ingrained that I just tell the lie. Sometimes, the lie is to protect my image of myself. Sometimes, the lie is to avoid admitting I need help, because I have this irrational fear that if I need to get help with my problems then I will be a failure.

These are my major character flaws and bad decisions that I have made. Not to say that I don't have other problems, but these are the significant ones. Yesterday, I reached a breaking point and decided it was time to choose to either live my life right (because I DO know what's right, one of my positive attributes is a really strong, clear grasp of morality) or not live it at all. I was miserable with halfways, trying to make myself better without fully admitting there was something to fix. I decided that I wanted to live right, and the first step was to admit, to myself and others, exactly where I had been failing. I told Alyssa about the lying and set straight all the lies I could remember, and I plan to do so with all of my friends that I have lied to.

Yesterday was a turning point. I still have all the bad habits automatized, I still have to make up for the damage I've caused, but I truly believe I am a different person. Hiding and lying about this stuff to myself and others is so obviously much worse than whatever feared consequences of owning up to it, and in truth most of the feared consequences aren't even real. I knew all that intellectually before, but having come clean about it I really believe it to my core. It's weird, I've simultaneously given other people every reason not to trust me or think well of me and given myself reason to believe I have changed. I don't expect to immediately have rational projections about my future, stop being overly critical of myself when I fail, stop putting things off, or stop wanting to lie to cover my mistakes, but I do believe that when those things do happen, I will acknowledge them to myself and relevant others and take the steps necessary to make up for it. I also believe that I will finally take the actions I need to reduce the negative pull my past actions have on my psychology, both in terms of helping myself and accepting help from others. This is going to sound really cheesily Objectivist of me, but it's a little bit like I've finally taken a real hard look at the primary choice, chosen life, and after how hard that was and how much better things are that I've chosen it the rest seems easy. Not that there won't be struggles, not that I won't make individual bad choices, but that I've switched to a firm commitment to the good ones so I won't be holding those back any more.

So. Those are the words, now here are the actions. By the time this post is published, I'll have talked to my parents and my employer about this. For the time being, I will be reducing my life to eating, sleeping, getting therapy, my relationship with Alyssa, and my job. I will be changing my passwords on reddit, Twitter, Facebook, and my Google account, and putting them in a place where I have to undertake serious conscious effort to get them (or possibly give them to Alyssa to keep). I will pull back from my relationships with my friends and family for the time being, though I will still be reading my email in case anyone wants to reach out to me or ask about something they think I may have lied to them about. I will shelve my personal long-term projects, except the one I'm working on with my brother that has a few days' work left in it. I will cut myself off from all entertainment sources except when I'm doing something with Alyssa (watching TV, reading, whatever). I will spend today looking for a therapist, removing all the distractions, and sitting down with Alyssa to plan out what needs to be worked on for the next few days, and will revisit all this then. I will try to keep a log of all of the good and the bad so that I have a more objective measure to look at to evaluate myself. I will slowly add back in other values when I have reason to believe I can handle them again. I will try to explicitly identify as many bad habits and emotional responses that I have and work to counteract them. I will try to explicitly identify as many good habits and responses that I have or want to have and work to ingrain them. If some or all of this fails, I will keep trying different things until my image of who I am matches the image of who I want to be, and I can look back at this time in my life and say "that's not me anymore".

This won't be easy. I know I will struggle and fall and be hurt and feel helpless at times, but I also believe I can succeed and be who I want to be. The middle ground I've been walking is not an option any more, so I'm choosing to commit to a good, happy life, and the struggle will all be worth it.