To Push or Not to Push?
Sometimes we hold ourselves back because we lack self-confidence, second-guess ourselves or focus more on our limitations than our strengths. That kind of holding back merits some encouragement and a nudge to push through. In those cases, people in our lives do well to remind us that we are limitless, that we can accomplish whatever we set our minds to, and that we can reach even our most elusive dreams.
A gentle push, or sometimes even a loving shove from ourselves and others, can get the ball rolling and lead to self-realization and amazing accomplishments. In these cases, a nudge can serve to remind us that we are stronger than we think and that we are more capable than we give ourselves credit for.
Our society values performance and accomplishment and sings its praises relentlessly. We receive the message constantly to “just do it”, go faster, reach higher, and do more—at any cost. It’s impossible to not be affected by this message that our worth hinges on our accomplishments and possessions. It’s a convincing story.
When our hesitancy to push through doesn't stem from second-guessing or a lack of confidence though, it can actually be rooted in wisdom. In those cases, pushing is just that—exerting a force onto oneself. With this kind of pushing, it’s usually the mind that urges us to over-ride what our bodies and hearts are telling us.
Interestingly, the definition of pushing has within it not only the exertion of force, but also exertion that moves a person away from oneself. This kind of pushing does not honor our limitations—something we hear very little about, especially in the self-help movement that sells us the idea that we are in fact, limitless.
I recently sat with, what felt like a heavy decision, of whether or not do participate in a required summer course on campus for my Masters in Counselling program. This summer course required eight full days of participation and although I applied for special accommodation through a service provided by the University, I didn’t feel that my situation was properly understood or accommodated in time for the start date of this course.
My decision tormented me as I spoke to various people at the University and felt like it was being held in my face that I was sick, that I was in fact dealing with a disability, and that I couldn’t do now what would’ve been so simple before I got Lyme disease. After finding a great deal of peace and acceptance with my health challenge, this situation brought up shame, anger, and grief all over again as I had to face the reality of where I’m at head-on.
Many people, except for those who are closest to me and know my situation well, encouraged me to push through and do this summer course. This kind of encouragement is totally appropriate in certain cases, like I mentioned, when someone is holding themselves back unnecessarily or not seeing or living up to their true potential. This is not the case with me.
I credit my habit of pushing through and overriding what my body needs with wearing my immunity down in the first place. I pushed myself so hard dancing, performing, teaching, running a business, and having a full life that I only stopped once my system had completely crashed.
Thinking of pushing through for the Summer Institute felt like taking up a destructive habit again that comes to me way too easily. “Make it through the finish line even if it kills you” is the slogan of that inner voice. “You’re not that sick.”
This push-through mentality is fueled by the misperception that my worth as a person hinges on my ability to accomplish and to have something to show for myself. I’ve learned in the last few years that this way of thinking is exactly that—a misperception.
I appreciate that people believe in my abilities, that they see me as strong and able. This is a gift. What I’m learning, however, is that it is loving to honor a persons’ limitations. It’s counter-intuitive even as I write it because we’re taught to see the ‘highest and best’ in the people that we love. What if the most loving thing we can do is to recognize where a person is at and to honor that completely?
For me, loving myself and honoring my limitations means not doing the Summer Institute this year. Could I push through and do some or all or it? Probably. And most likely, I would land myself in bed for days, or weeks as a result of over doing it so drastically. I know this story line very well. When I over do it—it’s
only me that pays for it. I’m the one who has to pick up the pieces and struggle to get back on my feet again (and it’s not fun). So the question is not “To push or not to push?” but maybe more accurately “Why are you pushing?” “Is it appropriate to push right now?” And we may want to ask our loved ones when they’re contemplating pushing through, “What is most important to you?”
My top priority is my healing and my wholeness. It is more important than anything else right now. When I’m in touch with my heart, it tells me to take care of myself. When I’m healthy again, I won’t have to push to complete this course anyways. When I’m ready, I’ll just do it.
© 2014 Marie-Ève Bonneau