Written by A. D. Payne


You’ve written a book? Great! Now publish it, get published by one of the big publishers, and hit the NYT Bestsellers List. While we’re at it, why not get an award as well? You want to succeed, don’t you? Look at what you are right now. How is your career doing, really doing? Don’t know? Well, check out others, and see where they’re at!

Started a health and fitness journey? Weigh yourself at the beginning! Weigh yourself at the end! Take progress pictures and track your clothing sizes, set a goal weight, so you’ll have a real win.

All too often, the world slams rhetoric into us to “see our unworthy selves as we truly are”. And so, by the power of media and other influences that appear to care about you, you are allowed to drink in the idea of “who you really are”, warts and all. Then, full of some amount of self-pity and a “healthy” (read: not) amount of self-loathing, you’ll be magically stirred in your heart to change your ways.

To change anything isn’t exactly a bad thing, and regardless of whether it’s the world or your handwriting, you have to see it in two lights. What it truly is and what it could be.

We can get quite good at seeing the gist of the first one. Cynicism and hatred are not rare in stock, ever, least of all for ourselves. Comparison is seen as an easy way to gauge the objective state of one’s being, and so begins the inane cycle of looking for a person better than you — because who needs to look at those who are worse? — and obsessing over that.  Looking for people that are “worse” is a guaranteed way to not find anything, either because at that point you can’t imagine anybody who is a “worse” person than you, or because you will have come to the realization that circumstance and context matter.

Only to others, of course. Then the cycle will possibly (probably) continue, only now you’ll be comparing yourself to people that seem to be in your circumstance, which, though technically is never possible, still happens since logic isn’t much of a component in this cycle. You won’t want to acknowledge that others have different opportunities, different stories to tell, different levels of training, or privilege, compared to you, for instance. All you’ll see is the accolade, the number, the “part that should matter”.

Once you’ve reached whatever your mind at that point deems a reasonable conclusion on your state of being, you’ll probably have such a warped view of yourself that you either completely hate the concept that is you, or be so infatuated with it that you decide to call it a day and work on bettering yourself when you really need it or have the time.

It’s usually the former, which now means that you see yourself as terrible and may be daunted by the work left for you to do. And while this can be seen as true, that humans are pretty terrible people at heart, they’re often not as terrible as they think.

Only you can know yourself, it’s true, but people can’t be trusted to be objective in quantifying how bad or good they are. They just can’t.

My point is: I don’t think solid numbers on either side are necessary, not for seeing yourself as you could be, nor naming who you are right now.

See yourself as you could be

The choice of seeing yourself as you could be in quantifiable terms at its best, limits you, and at worst,  leans toward materialistic goals and checkpoints that depend on situations that will be out of your control. While “bestselling author” is a clear, easy idea of what you might become, it still largely depends upon circumstances you can’t determine.

Take a look at the values you most despise and most admire.

Avoiding cowardice, disrespect, and ignorance while living by empathy, magnanimity, and inspiring others, and so trying to do that through writing, as is my current personal set of aspirations, is a way to paint a picture of who you could be. It might feel outright wrong to think of even a possible version of your future self at that standard; it might feel fake.

It might be fake, for now. Then again, what’s change but faking one thing until it becomes your new normal? Allowing yourself to see the person you could be in the things you admire the most is a step to getting there.

This isn’t to say these values are totally in your control, either. They might not be. Situations still change. You change. But they’re certainly much more open to change than hard numbers. It goes back to the reason you’re doing what you’re doing in the first place; why it matters to you.

Name who you are now

This doesn’t need to be quantifiable. Fiddling with the numbers of who you are as a person is a great way to start the cycle of comparison and crisis all over again. You can give names to what you currently are, and from there, what you want to work on, while still being kind to yourself: I understand that numbers and arbitrary titles, accolades from others, can feel great. Achieving them can be great. Yet making those your sole goal can quickly become a solid trap.

There are always “positive” names and “negative” names to give; there are also “neutral” names. You can see yourself as you could be while, in choosing to be kind to yourself, letting that picture of the future be vague. 

Why exactly do you want to have thousands of readers? Is it to make an impact on people’s lives? Why do you want to achieve that new personal record in lifting? Is it because you want to feel stronger, or more capable?

Allow yourself to push for the “why” instead of the “how”.