Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself

Jamie, sat on a bench.
The weight of expectation is crushing. Yet nobody is saying a word. I’m not hearing voices, nor can I feel the penetrative gaze of a thousand beady eyes, all fixated on my very being; anticipating something magical and wondrous to emerge from these hesitant fingers.

But it’s there.

I stare at the screen, and while I know what to write, I can’t seem engage my brain efficiently enough to produce the right words. At least hieroglyphics made sense to somebody; this stuff? You’d need an Einstein wrapped up in an enigma, slathered with a healthy dose of ‘aha’ to work this shit out.

I keep going.

Prod, prod, prod; the sound of a confused finger or three striking my keyboard.

The shapes keep appearing.

Left to right, they march on; snaking their way across the virtual canvas until the laws of physics (virtualics??) deem it necessary to begin a new line. Maybe this time will be different? It probably won’t be. A procrastinator cannot blame his tools – which is a shame. If an inanimate object refuses to be a conduit for abuse, then what’s the point?

Alas, I continue.

Prod, prod; there’s less typing now.

Perhaps the last trickle of creative juice has finally escaped – and with this unsatisfactory conclusion of osmotic inevitabilities, I am forced to write really long words to make up for how stupid I feel.

Or am I being too hard on myself?

The absurdity of the self-imposed deadline

November the 18th – 11:59am.

This is the only date that matters. So why am I having a mini meltdown at 1am (whilst sitting in my underpants) a good two weeks earlier, just because, and I kid you not, I have arbitrarily decided tonight is the night when I must finish my assignment.

Why now?

Don’t get me wrong. Handing in an assignment two weeks before the official deadline might come across as a highly efficient piece of coursework ninjary – which it is. Thank you. So why am I getting my short and curlies in a bigger twist over the inability to get it done before bedtime?

It doesn’t matter. November the 18th.

That matters. Not now. I couldn’t give a shit about now. The university doesn’t give a shit about now. They only care about November the frigging 18th.

At 11:59am.

It’s unfathomable. I’m unfathomable. My logic is unfathomable.

Yet, here I am. While the rest of the world is safely tucked up in bed – I’m on the verge of inducing a coronary because I’m incapable of meeting this self-imposed deadline.

You’re probably wondering why I’m getting stressed out. This is because you’re a normal, functioning member of society. I’m a bit weird. I’m the kind of person who wins arguments with sound logic and modest brilliance. I like planning ahead, writing schedules, pretending to be organised and cleverable.

I even make up cool words. I think that’s three so far in this article. I can’t be sure. Can someone please verify?

As a result; I tend to have so-called bright ideas. Working like a maniac to get this assignment out of the way early was one of these. I’d like to think you agree with me, when I say it’s a pretty good idea, right?

It was all going so well. I usually leave assignments until the last minute. Some people may believe this to be the act of a masochist who gets a little too excited by the adrenaline rush of the ticking clock. Whatever it is, or was, it’s now in the past. This is a new me – someone who gets shit done.

No it’s not. I’m a liar.

I almost get shit done, but when everything is going well, I get stressed out because I’ve chosen a ludicrous deadline, and to meet this new deadline – I have to sit there in my underpants for 8 hours without having a heart attack in the process.

The idiot’s guide to stress

You’ll be pleased to know I eventually succumbed to the sleep monster and allowed myself another day to complete, and hand in the assignment – which I did.

Yet it’s only now, over three weeks later, that I’m starting to learn the error of my ways.

I haven’t published an article on this website for about a month. I think this is the longest gap between articles in my internet writing history. This isn’t due to laziness, lack of interest, or even because I’ve had such a fun an exciting month.

No partying around these parts.

It’s just been crazy – but not the good kind.

As I’m struggling to stay afloat in this sea of guitar students, assignments (3 of them) and other bits and pieces; my flailing limbs have worn me out to the point of mental and physical exhaustion. I’m eating, sleeping and working – without much of the sleeping.

Error – system malfunction.

Several times over the last few weeks I’ve sat down to write a new article – just in my underpants, obviously, but nothing seems to happen. Maybe I should try changing them… I don’t know. Does this work? If someone could let me know, that would be fantastic.

Believe it or not – and why would you? I pretty much finished an article yesterday.

This wasn’t it. I’m writing this one on the fly – making it up as I go along without an edit in sight. The other article was meticulously planned and researched. Full of useful information and the usual rambling nonsensical musings you’ve come to expect/ignore. So where is it?

I threw it away. Why?

It’s about time I get to the point…

The important bit (finally)

I only wrote it so I could have something to publish.

Not posting for a month gave me a severe case of the Hobnobs. Maybe I was afraid everyone would forget about me, unsubscribe, or cheat on me with another, sexier blog. I tried to rush out a piece of substandard work for no other reason than to post something, anything.

I set myself an arbitrary deadline and as is often the case with these things, it fuels insecurity, stress and God-awful articles.

The assignment I finished two weeks before the deadline… I scored 91. Go me, right? Well the only reason I didn’t receive 100% was due to the kind of simple errors only an idiot would make if they were, oh I don’t know, trying to rush something for absolutely no reason.

So there we go.

I’m not going to publish an article for the sake of it.

I’m done with setting myself arbitrary deadlines devoid of logic or reason.

I’m going to chill out and have a nap because, and I want you all to pay attention here…

It really doesn’t matter.

So, when was the last time you were too hard on yourself?

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About Jamie

Jamie is a guitar teacher and writer who hates the typical 9-5 existence. After quitting his job to enter the world of guitar tuition, he created this blog to document his thoughts and struggles as he takes on societies norms armed with nothing more than his cheeky wit and undeniable charm - Give his Facebook page a like, add him on Twitter or follow his Google+ page and he will repay you with even more awesome words!


  1. Well, wasn’t I just hoping for a new article the other day? 😉

    I think this is actually one of the best articles I have read by you so far. You might disagree, as less research went into it, as you yourself pointed out. But it I still like it a lot, exactly because you are shooting from the hip and just speaking what’s on your mind right know. I find that interesting, how a high pressure situation tends to do that to people: How your voice as a writer will sound the most honest, because you are patience is so low and you just wanna cut through all the BS surrounding you. And that might mean dropping an article that you had already finished, because it just doesn’t feel right.

    Anyways, great article man. Wish you luck with your work load and hope it gets better soon!

    Nicholas Drillman recently posted..Put Energy Management FirstMy Profile

  2. Being too hard on ourselves is a big problem for a lot of us, myself included. And as you point out, when you are too hard on yourself, you usually end up losing in more ways than one. You say that you often choose a ludicrous deadline and then wonder why things don’t flow – and I do the same thing at times. . . So why do we set the bar so high? Why do we have to cram it all in to the tiniest time frame? I’m sure we’re not alone. . . It’s a good topic to explore. Thanks for being so honest about it!
    Jessica Sweet recently posted..Success Quotes to Wire Your Mindset for Winning – and a Goodie!My Profile

    • Hey, I think the problem is we are tricked into thinking everyone else has it easy, so we try a bit too hard to match up and in doing so, we forget to actually stop and chill out. Time off is just as valuable as work if done right.

  3. Lei Lani Lucero says:

    Hi! Welcome back from the edge of insanity! (it was fun being over there for a bit, wasn’t it?) (then it got all TOO insane, and too self-induced, and too hard to find a way out, didn’t it?)
    If we don’t have SELF-IMPOSED deadlines, then who’s deadlines do we cater to? The trick is to decide what is important, to you, right now, and for the immediate future, and honor the importance and be a work in process.
    I am glad you didn’t put random stuff on this blog, that you didn’t just write for the sake of posting something. I am guilty of the same thing (changing my twitter intro just so people will know that I am still alive and coherent, and have NOTHING new to say)
    Thanks for validating my own fear of deadlines. Especially the self-imposed ones.

    • Hi, I’m glad too that I didn’t post any old rubbish. The funny thing is, in the cold light of day the article I scrapped isn’t as bad as I originally thought. It just needs a little care and attention; so I’ll keep it around for the future. Maybe I’ll harvest it for it’s wordy organs another time.

  4. The self-imposed deadline – love it and hate it.

    Push myself to efficiency, whilst simultaneously giving myself guilt-trips when events don’t go as planned.

    There’s power in the self-imposition though. If I put it there, I can take it away.

    Have you tried writing whilst fully clothed? 😉
    Razwana Wahid recently posted..How to get your first client (even if you don’t have any experience)My Profile

    • I have, but you know, there’s power in the freedom which only a session in my underwear can provide! Out of context, that could probably sound a bit weird.

  5. I think Douglas Adams (The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy) put it the best when he said: “I love deadlines…… I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

  6. I’m always hard on myself. The trick, for me, is to not let it get out of hand. I don’t mind being a little hard on myself as long as I don’t get way overboard about it. It’s true – I demand a lot from what I do. But if I put too much pressure on me I’m not doing myself any favors.

    I’ve felt that weight of staring at a screen and trying to type away only to see nothing. It’s frustrating and I sometimes get mad at myself, but then I just take a step back and take a look at the whole situation. Sometimes just getting out of my own head can do wonders.
    Steve recently posted..6 Tips to Do Crazy Things that Scare YouMy Profile

    • Hey Steve, it’s a fine line. Too hard and we end up getting stressed – too little and we end up procrastinating and feed our lazy self.

      I found if the screen displays nothing – let it be nothing. Have a bit of fun and live life a little. That’s where inspiration lies.

  7. I have always struggled with this my entire life – being too hard on myself. At times I think it has been a good thing, because I’ve pushed myself when I needed to be pushed. Then at other times I feel that it stole some happiness (or at least relaxation) from me.

    I’ve noticed that when I take a break from writing, it becomes harder and harder to write again. It’s like the longer I wait, the better the writing has to be when I finally do it. Creating a consistent writing schedule has eliminated that for me though.

    Great blog by the way, keep it up!

    KW Stout recently posted..Make Progress or Make ExcusesMy Profile

    • I feel the writing thing, as I’m going through the same thing. Even though I’ve written a lot recently, it’s all a selection of half finished articles and ideas. At least it’s better than nothing – and I’ll get it done when it’s done. Like How Peter says in another comment.

      I really should create a strict schedule though.. somehow.

      Thanks for your kind words and your comment!

  8. Jamie,
    I think you’ve hit some truth there. I guess one of the reasons we can feel we need to force ourselves into getting things done by arbitary dates is that we live in an world where being overwhlemed is the norm and striking something off quickly might help us catch-up and get ahead, we daftly think.
    As I’ve now bunked off from office life – an environment that supercharges having too much on your plate as no one wants to be seen to say no – I’m now approaching most things on a it will be done when it’s done basis.
    It’s proving a hard mental shift but if it’s a physical task life roofing the summer house it’s going to take the time it will take. You can only nail so quick.
    Peter Ewin Hall recently posted..The Art of Saying NoMy Profile

    • Hey, Peter. Getting things done when it’s done. A great approach to life (if you don’t use it as an excuse to slack off, of course :p ), and one that I agree with 100%.

  9. Hey Jamie,

    I guess I’m hard on myself as well. But I like it — I occasionally take a sort sadistic pleasure in pushing myself. If I don’t impose deadlines or force myself to do stuff I’d become too passive and lenient.

    I think it’s different for everyone. But I thrive from doing these things.
    Ludvig sunström recently posted..The Intelligent Man’s Guide to: Mainstream Media And Mass CultureMy Profile

    • Hey, I get the impression you’re a bit of a hard worker. It seems as though setting yourself heavy schedules is your way of squeezing the best out of yourself.

      I assume it works. 🙂

  10. I can totally relate.
    I hadn’t written a new post on my own blog for about 6 mos. Decided that if/when I do…it would be when it would be.
    And not a moment sooner.

    Don’t be so hard on yourself. Someone invented the pause button for a reason 😉
    Dana recently posted..The Powerful Energy of the Creative ProcessMy Profile


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