A young artist once wrote:
"Life is a journey. Change is a process.
Forward momentum and regression is just all part of the game."
That artist was me, and those lines are from my song Imago Dei. I wrote them in 2010 and they're still just as relevant today as they were back then.
Lately it feels like I'm experiencing a regression, and as a result I'm feeling increasingly frustrated, irritable and depressed. Since 2010 I've made a lot of progress in all areas of personal growth, but of course there's always room for improvement. The difficulty sometimes is just accepting where I am in my journey without judgement. I've been getting better at it though. Simply being able to realize when I am in a regression phase of my personal growth journey is a success unto it's own!
Awareness and acknowledgement are the first steps to accepting myself wherever I may be in my journey, but old habits die hard. A few of my stubborn old habits are judging myself harshly, perfectionism/overachievement and workaholism. I find myself slipping back into that cycle and it's now at a point where it is beginning to take a toll on my mental health.
The good news is that I am at least aware of where I'm at in my regression and I'm acknowledging it. So this is where acceptance comes into play. In the past, my tendency to judge myself for my perceived "failures" would lead to my compensating by increasing my workload and setting crazy unrealistic goals for myself to achieve to make myself feel like a winner. Work is my drug of choice btw, and the "high" I get from being productive and accomplishing my task list in record time releases the same feel good neurochemicals as drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling video games etc. My struggle with work addiction is very real and I'm very much at risk of going on a bender right now.
So, now that I'm aware, acknowledging my state and accepting myself where I'm at, how do I break the behavior chain that in the past leads me down the slippery slope of self destruction? The answer is to have fun. Fun? Really? Yes, FUN! The catch is that they type of fun I need to have, must have no responsibility attached to it. It can't be "productive fun." It can't be work-related or have any sense of obligation attached to it. It must be fun, for the sake of fun. That's it.
So why do something fun that's different from the things that I normally consider fun like making music or art? The reason is that I need to build new habits with activities that will release the same feel good chemicals from my brain. It's the same reason any person with an addiction needs to find other activities besides their go to vice that is fun. It's to break our destructive behavior chain.
Now, do I get it right every time? Nope. Do I sometimes fall of the metaphorical wagon? Yup. Old habits die hard, but I am making progress though through awareness, acknowledgement and unconditional acceptance. Once I've learned to implement all 3, then I can finally take the step to change my behavior by having fun. In recovery circles there's a slogan we like to use so we don't judge ourselves too harshly:
"PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION"
My song Imago Dei is the final track on my album Sex, Drugs & Shiny Brass Poles and it's all about accepting oneself no matter where they are on their life path.