I put pressure on myself to be the best. My job, schoolwork or relationships become reflections of what I have to offer the world. If I am the best at my job, then and only then am I worthy of your time and love. I let this illusion play out until I'm standing on toothpick-thin stilts of imagined self-worth.
This self-imposed pressure disconnects me from what I can learn from others. When someone asks a really great question, or throws out a creative idea, I don't commend them. Instead, I berate myself for not thinking of it first. When I see others accelerate in their careers, I don't think about how great it is to surround myself with dedicated, ambitious people. Instead, my self esteem plummets because I am not the best and brightest. Never mind they have something different from what I want. I have failed.
But there has to be more to me than my job. A little flicker of light within me refuses to dim. Berating myself is not going to help me ignite that spark. Yanking myself from the present moment with "shoulds" will not help me define what I believe to be success. These actions keep me locked into other people's ideas of what success looks like instead of defining my own. Instead, I will open myself to my own, toe-curling, arms-to-the-sky, full-throated rebel yell celebration of the present moment. Joy will be on my own terms, and I will give myself the gift of seeking it.