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Goals and Guilt

April 18, 2017

Photo by Sofie Sund | @sofiesund on Instagram 

 

Why is it so hard to do things solely for ourselves? There seems to always be an ulterior motive behind everything we do: to get attention, to reap rewards, and so on.

 

The other day I went for a run to celebrate the weather finally getting warmer, and to kick off the new spring season. As I was running the final stretch before home, I asked myself why I was running. The normal answers came to mind: it's good for your health, it relieves stress, etc. But I realized the one answer I needed wasn't there, and that was that I was running for myself. Instead, I was running to improve my physical appearance so others would like me more. 

 

In all these years of being a girl, you'd think I'd have it figured out: that appearance isn't everything, and as long as I'm kind and loving, "I can achieve anything." But apparently, after almost 20 years of hearing people tell me things like that, nothing stuck. 

 

In high school especially, I always focused on the physical benefits of exercise. Finally I'd have something to be proud of when I looked in the mirror. But when my expectations weren't met, I'd guilt myself into running harder, faster, and longer. In a moment when I needed to be my own friend and encourager, I was an enemy to my mind. I was in denial that what I was telling myself wasn't a proper way to motivate myself.

 

Guilt comes in all shapes and sizes, and usually in disguise. You may know this feeling in school when you tell yourself if you don't get good grades, your parents will resent you; or while playing on your sports team you tell yourself if you don't score, your team will think less of you. Our happiness and choices seem to be dependent on other people's thinking more than we should let it. When we allow guilt to be in control, and overpower our ability to realize that failure doesn't mean the end of things, our character suffers greatly.

 

Guilting ourselves into doing something for someone else's benefit will not get us the happiness we think it will bring. Maybe you will ultimately reach your goal, but was the process of getting their enjoyable and something you can be proud of? Most likely not.

 

Every year in high school health class, part of the school curriculum was learning how to set attainable physical and mental goals. I always disliked this part of class because I thought it was pointless and unhelpful. Looking back now, I'm glad we were taught how to choose goals based on who we were and what we were capable of.

 

Setting goals should be exciting, and the journey to achieving them should be even more uplifting, yet still challenging. Goal-setting shouldn't be dependent on what other people expect from you. If it's miserable along the way, finally meeting your goal will probably not be any more gratifying. Pick your goals wisely, and your motivation for getting there even wiser.

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