The belief that you have value as a person only when you accomplish and that if you are incompetent in some important area, you might as well curl up and die, includes several irrationalities:

1.         Obviously, virtually nobody can be competent and masterful in all or even most respects and almost no one can perfectly achieve.  Even Leonardo da Vinci had many weaknesses, and the rest of us mortals, including your therapist, have them too!  Trying to be outstanding in one field of endeavor is difficult, because millions of individuals compete with you in the same area.  And your goal of having general success and perfection dooms you to serious disappointment, even if you only prefer it.  If you must achieve it, beware!

2.         Achievement does not, except by arbitrary definition, augment your intrinsic worth.  If you see yourself as a “better” or “greater” person because you succeed at something, you may temporarily feel “worthier.”  But your successes actually do not raise your intrinsic worth one bit; nor do your failures lower your human value.  You may achieve greater happiness or more efficiency by achieving this or that goal.  But feeling “better off” does not make you a “better person.”  You are “good,” “worthwhile,” or “deserving,” if you want to use those terms, simply because you exist, because you are alive.  To raise your “ego” by achievements actually is false pride: the Belief that you are worthless unless you have accomplished, and the accompanying Belief that because you have accomplished you have “real” value.

3.         Technically, you “are” not any particular thing.  Language and semantics are very powerful, particularly when you use any form of the verb “to be.”  You “are” not a butcher, baker, or candlestick maker.  You “are” only, if anything, a person who practices these occupations—but who also practices many other things.  When you identify and rate your self according to how you perform some particular activity, you create the illusion that you, a person, have only as much worth as that activity. How much sense does that make?

4.         Although accomplishments may bring you advantages, fanatic devotion to success is risky and uncomfortable.  Those hell-bent on achievement commonly push themselves beyond the limits of their physical endurance; invite extra painful conditions; and rarely give themselves sufficient time to relax and enjoy what they do, nor to lead better-rounded lives.  They may also kill themselves with overwork.  If they really enjoy working more than most people do, fine.

5.         The frantic struggle for achievement usually reflects a dire need to surpass others, to show that you are better than they are.  But, you remain you, and you will not be “yourself” (do what you largely like to do) if you must lead the pack.  How much have the others really got to do with you?  If they have inferior traits, does that make you one bit a better person?  And if they surpass you in this or that performance, does that make you no-good?  Only by definitions in your head are others better or worse than your you-ness.  If you think that your “worth” as a human depends on how well your traits compare to those of others, you will practically always feel insecure and “worthless”.  You will be other-directed and divorced from what you want to do during your one certain existence.  You will swear by self-downing statements, such as “I accept and enjoy myself only if I do as well as or better than others do.”  How will that make you secure?

6.         If you frantically strive for success, you will feel anxious about failing, will fear taking chances, will beat up on yourself for making mistakes, and will avoid adventurous projects you would really like to attempt.  By insisting on outstanding achievement, you will choose to make mistakes and feel depressed about them or refuse “dangerous” tasks and down yourself for copping out.  Your “obligation” to succeed dooms you not only to failure but to fear of failing—which often is more life-cramping than failure itself.

–Adapted from “A Guide To Rational Living” by Albert Ellis & Robert A. Harper

If you live in the Baton Rouge Area, and would like to enter counseling, call Baton Rouge Counseling at (225) 293-2913.


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