Part 4 of a 5 part series on Living with Wholeness.
We do a lot of “shoulding” in our lives. There are the “shoulds” of expectations. I “should” be happier. I “should” be more grateful. I “should” be a better mom. Who are we constantly comparing ourselves to?
And then there are the “shoulds” of regret. I “should’ve” known this. I “should’ve” been able to cope with that. I “should’ve” gotten out of the mess without asking for help. Says who?
For many of us, there is a (nasty) little voice that sits in our heads and constantly makes comparisons between a perfect ideal and an inadequate self. And living under its incessant barrage, we set ourselves unreasonable targets, come up short, beat down upon ourselves, and then set the bar even higher to desperately salvage a failing sense of self-worth.
Sometimes, as a result of Herculean efforts, we do succeed in our efforts, but this only confirms the belief that our worth depends on perfect performance, and distances us from our gifts, abilities and worth.
Eventually, the struggle, the onslaught and the steady disconnect from our true selves begins to weigh us down, and long lasting negative feelings, sometimes in the form of depression, take hold. The ruthlessness of perfection and the weight of inadequacy has become too hard to bear…
To live free of these negative emotions, do we have to stop striving for a better self? Do we need to stop setting ourselves targets and going after them with resolve? Have we got to let go of the ideal of perfection and decide to stay just as we are?
And the answer is “No”! No, because we just cannot.
This is because we have a conscious brain that can imagine and idealize. It strives for meaning and wants to live as the highest version of itself. It wants to connect and contribute, and belong to something larger than the self. And if we don’t listen to its needs, we set ourselves up for regret.
The good news is that this brain is also connected to our thinking circuits – the one that compare, criticize, and eventually bring us down. And its through these circuits that we can influence our emotional circuits, so that not being good, competent, tall or thin “enough” do not become a matter of life and death.
Its not perfection that brings us down. That is, after all, a human aspiration. What does is the comparison of a perfect ideal to a current self that’s perceived as inadequate, and full of weaknesses. This comparison forms a chasm that’s dangerous and forever growing. To rid ourselves of it, we need to target our thinking circuits, because they’re accessible to our conscious volition.
Dream of Your Ideal
As humans, we have this amazing capacity to look into the future. It’s what allows us to know of our impending demise. But it’s also what lets us dream, imagine, and visualize a perfect outcome for our lives. What’s that for you? How do you want to be remembered? What legacy do you what to leave behind in this world? What’s that perfect version you have in your mind’s eye? But here’s the key – perfection is a direction, not a destination. And in the endless journey of growth that is life, it helps you stay focused on your North Star.
[Tweet “Perfection is a direction, not a destination.”]
Drop the Voice of Judgement
This is the voice that makes life feel heavy – like driving with the brakes on. It’s the voice that “shoulds” on you all the time, and denies you your weaknesses – as in “I should be strong enough to cope with that.” Listen to it – without judgment – it’s there because it likely helped you at some point in the past. But its now simply a negative habit, and needs to be replaced. What about “I’d like to be able to deal with that – lets see who or what can help me”. Notice the shift in your body, as you let go of the tightness of a demand, to the ease of opening up to your whole self.
Bridge the Chasm
Once you have a destination that inspires you, and an inner voice that’s cheering you on, you’re ready for the journey of self-growth. This is where you set intentions that are appropriate and reasonable, and that take your strengths and limitations into account. This is where you celebrate your baby steps, embrace your stumbles and falls, and are eager to learn from both of them. This is where you open up to a mindset of “I don’t know”, which is far richer, far more curious, and far deeper connected with the possibilities of life.
If we can embrace our whole self, we not allow the critical voice to take a rest, we also change our perspective on perfection, and bring our full selves along on life’s journey of growth and betterment.
Now I’d love to hear from you! Do you struggle with the critical voice in your head? Do you see perfection as a destination or as a direction? Please leave your comments below!