discontentI’m an unhappy person.  It’s been said that I hate everything and one my boundless ire’s favorite targets is myself.  I am my harshest critic.  I dislike or find some fault in pretty much everything about me—from how I look, how I write, and how I think to my job, my apartment, and even my clothes.  Do I have issues? Yeah.  Should I be in therapy? Probably.  But recently, I’ve been thinking that maybe this dissatisfaction with myself is supposed to drive me and fuel my ambition to change and improve.  Maybe this popular notion that we should accept our flaws and be content with who we are is wrong.

The definition of contentment is to be happy with every aspect of one’s life, to be completely satisfied with your lot in life.  But would anyone ever really accomplish anything if they were happy with how things are?  Would perfection and quality in any field have been reached if people had just accepted mediocrity and didn’t push for something better?  Imagine Michelangelo settling for his initial attempt at the Sistine Chapel, or Shakespeare accepting the first drafts of his plays.

Discontent drives us to improve not only ourselves (If everyone just accepted how he or she looked, no one would get in shape and we’d all be cheery obese slobs.) but also the world around us (If we accepted the way things are and were happy just with what we have, society wouldn’t progress, which is great for us straight white males, but…).  So while self-help gurus preach loving-thyself and acceptance of the things we can’t change, I’ll be the angry dude in the back of the room mumbling that things could always be better.

Of course, this sense of never being satisfied can turn self-reflective and force me to ask, “Will I ever be content?”  I don’t want to be misanthropic my entire life, how could I?  I think there has to be a balance where you let your discontent drive you towards your goals and then, before it pushes you over the edge, accept where you’ve ended up.  But I could be wrong…I usually am.

[Pic, Discontent by Lasse Damgaard, via redbubble.com]