Who are you and WHO DO YOU THINK YOU OUGHT TO BE?
I ask because I came up against something this week that made me realize this is a core issue for many of us—maybe for everyone.
If you are unhappy, how much of your unhappiness is because of the gap you perceive between who you are and who you think you ought to be?
I found myself thinking about this over the past week. Where do I think I should be physically, emotionally, professionally, socially? How does that compare to where I am and how does THAT impact how I feel about myself?
It’s good to have a sense of who we want to be. We need to know what we believe makes a person honorable and good and successful. So where’s the problem? Well....
I believe the problem comes from making judgments about what it means not to meet those goals, not to live that idealized vision of who we think we ought to be. In other words, these are GOALS and life is about trying to get closer and closer to being the person we believe we ought to be.
As long as we are moving in that direction, beating ourselves up because we haven’t yet gotten there can do tremendous damage. Yes, damage. So much harm I have seen in my own life came out of the shame, guilt, and even sometimes self-hate people have felt when they weren’t living up to the image of who they thought they ought to be. Sometimes it was bullying and belittling others to try to get them to say the person was who he/she thought he/she should be. Sometimes it was harming others to try to cover up ways in which the person didn’t live up to his/her ideal self. Sometimes it was simply paralysis—the feeling one could never be good enough so why even try? Sometimes it was alcohol or drug use to try to deaden the pain of not being able to live up to the ideal.
The thing is, it’s not an effective strategy to beat oneself up and even can result in serious damage to oneself or others—damage that is directly contradictory to the goal one is trying to achieve.
So what’s the answer? Lists. (You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?)
1) Past successes to help build the belief that you can achieve your goals.
2) Things you like about yourself help remind you the ways in which you do match your image of who you believe you should be.
3) Steps you can take to be more and more like the person you believe you should be.
4) What’s not part of that image that maybe should be?
5) What’s part of the image that maybe shouldn’t be?
You’ll notice the last two suggest re-evaluating your image of who you believe you should be. You can keep that image exactly as it is if really looking at it reaffirms that’s what you should do. But for many of us, that image was formed years ago, shaped by assumptions we learned from our parents and the world around us. It may or may not be what we would choose if we examine it carefully now.
The other bonus, when we examine our ideal image, is that we may realize our judgments about our inability to fully achieve that ideal come from others as well. How many of us were raised, after all, with the focus on what we couldn’t do or weren’t doing? How many of us heard what was wrong with us rather than what was right? How many of us internalized that as meaning we weren’t good enough—or maybe were even told that out right?
The thing is, believing in ourselves, honoring the ways in which we do strive toward and match up to the ideal of who we want to be encourages us to keep trying, it gives us courage and the ability to believe it matters and that it isn’t hopeless to try. It also means we are far less likely to lash out or do things that will hurt others if WE know that we are good enough NOW, that we ARE taking steps toward being who we want to be, if we know that it’s okay to make mistakes. Mistakes were unforgivable in my house growing up and maybe they were in yours as well. But mistakes are inevitable and part of how we learn. Mistakes are the ways we understand things we couldn’t otherwise and they are part of being human.
If we strive to be more and more like the person we believe we ought to be and can accept ourselves as we are at the same time and forgive ourselves for mistakes we make, we move toward that ideal faster and we are likely to have more love and acceptance of those around us.
So....who are you and who do you want to be? How will you honor who you are RIGHT NOW and what steps will you take this week to be even more the person you want to be?
Sending safe and gentle (((((((hugs))))))),