Big Goals are not Stand-ins for Love

I have an enormous goal. I’ve spent tens of thousands of hours honing my craft in order to reach it. I’ve spent even more on education and lifestyle changes to give myself the space, time, and know-how to accomplish it. I don’t even want to count the lost wages (and benefits and retirement savings) from soul-draining day jobs I passed up in order to stay dedicated to my goal. I haven’t reached my goal yet, but I’ve done the work and I’m worthy. I’ve been worthy, and ready, for years. I believe in my goal. I want my goal. And yet, it eludes me. Even worse, I am haunted by it. Every day that clicks by, I feel just a little bit more terrible about not having reached it. So, here I am: highly capable, worthy, and miserable.

There are a few reasons for this. The goal I have is the kind that only a handful of people in this world get to experience. It’s lofty as hell. I used to look at the people in that hand and be inspired to know it’s possible, but now I feel shame that I’m not one of them.

Here’s what it feels like. Say my goal is to be an Olympic Gold Medalist. So I train. I do everything right. I make sacrifices. I compete and work all the way up to the top. Say it takes me until I am just on the very edge of being too old for my sport. Finally, I qualify. Dream come true, right? Wrong. I want the gold. So I get to my meet, and then? Nothing. Chance lost. I go back to my home country and spend the rest of my life wondering what the hell happened. Since I didn’t win, and I spent all my time in training, I am now poor. All I can afford to eat are Wheaties from a box that features the winning face of my competitor. Perhaps a healthier person would be able to reframe it, or even spin it into a success story. I did go to the Olympics, after all. But that wasn’t my goal. My goal was to win. And the window of time for me to try again is rapidly closing.

This might be a good time to confess that I hate inspirational sports movies. I’m always horrified for all the other qualified, capable athletes there in the background who gave just as much as the winner, but fell one tenth of a nanosecond short. Because that’s what my life feels like.

It hurts to be here. But here are a few things I know rationally, even if my subconscious isn’t cooperating.

  1. Whether or not I reach my goal, I have value. I have to admit, this is a hard one for me. My wound as a survivor of childhood abuse and neglect is that I feel I must be perfect in order to have value. I often struggle to validate anything I do that isn’t 100%.
  2. There are aspects of my goal that are out of my control. To be honest, it really isn’t up to me whether my goal succeeds at this point, because the last bit depends on someone else who has the power to say yes. I’ve done what I can. All I can do is stay on the lookout for the right people.
  3. Smaller goals count, too. I don’t give myself nearly enough credit for all the small successes along the way. And if I’m really being objective, I’ve already reached a large part of my big goal. It’s just not the fantasy version where I’m swimming in a pool of money and everyone loves me. I struggle with feeling empty when I do succeed. It’s not enough because it’s not the big, fantasy version.  I must separate the illusion from the real goal, and take my power back.
  4. My happiness cannot depend on my goal. This is also a hard one, because even after years of therapy, I struggle to not equate external success with love and connection. I need to cultivate happiness here and now, or it will not be with me in the future. I’m stuck in a loop here, I admit, because what would really make me happy today is some good news about my goal. I need to figure out how to reframe this.

I’ve got a lot riding on my elusive, nearly unattainable goal, which is happens to be just like my parents’ elusive, unattainable love. I’ve set myself up for this, at least subconsciously. I’ve made it a thing. Perhaps it’s the reason I chose this goal in the first place, because if I could win in the face of impossible odds, perhaps I could win the love of my parents, too. Consciously, I’ve let go of thinking I could ever attain love from my parents, and I’ve made peace with it, for the most part. I now need to extricate the need to be loved from my goal, too. Perhaps, if I can do that, I will find love right here and now, in the embrace of my husband and children. Perhaps I can find better ways to love myself. Perhaps then, it will be enough.






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