As follow-on to A Male Perspective, Part 1, I realize a “deeper dive” into my journey of personal development and the challenges I’ve faced along the way would be helpful to share.
Being a lifetime member of the continual personal development club, one universal theme of transformation that I’ve heard and faced countless times is the notion that we are “already” perfect, whole and complete just as we are. The answers to all questions reside within to be accessed by simply quieting our minds and asking.
Yet, one one nagging question seems to always push itself to the front of the line. If we truly believe that we’re perfect, whole and complete, why does this seemingly positive reminder too often get pushed aside for the overpowering “feelings” of being not smart enough, not pretty enough, not successful enough, not lovable enough, that together encapsulate the Not Being Good Enough syndrome?
Let’s get curious and look at a few of the possible answers that may lie at the foundation of the pain (inevitable in life) and suffering (that’s truly optional) that each of us face personally and professionally that contribute and galvanize the “not enough” feelings we cling to.
For me, too often I identify “who I am” (my worthiness and self-esteem) by how I am actually “feeling” in any given moment. In these instances, I am actually discounting and deleting the unequivocal birthright of “value, worth, belonging and love” that’s woven into our very being and DNA.
Unfortunately, it’s these not so good feelings that tend to win out over the good feelings more often than not. Let me paint a picture that I believe you’ll be able visualize and relate.
I’m walking down the hall at work and as we pass each other I say “good morning” to you. I don’t get a response and as I continue on my way, I look back over my shoulder to see if you heard or somehow acknowledged me.
Geez, not even a faint hello or wave! My first thought may be, you’re such a jerk! The more likely outcome that comes from the “not enough” syndrome may be, what did “I” do that caused you not to say hello. Maybe I’m really the jerk and not worthy of your attention. This slippery slope of self-doubt and criticism leads to further negative self-talk that results with a massive knot in my stomach.
From this place, nothing good can come from the situation. My body acknowledges the negative “feelings” and I may find myself spinning further out of control. I’ve literally gone from having a great morning to making myself anxious with the “why’s and what’s” that had you not acknowledge my presence. Feelings of personal disdain increase and my day has now gone completely sideways.
As I’m stewing in my self-imposed funk, you come by office and have a big smile on your face. You’d been anxious this morning to receive the results from medical tests that had you a bit concerned about your health. You got the all clear from your doctor and are now feeling on top of the world and excitedly sharing the good news with me.
I take a big gulp and immediately feel a sense of relief as well as feeling like a complete idiot for jumping to conclusions. I smile and acknowledge the great news as my previous anxiousness is now replaced with a sense of relief that I didn’t do anything wrong to begin with. In the next instant, I realize that jumping to a negative conclusion was the furthest from the truth. I’m the same person, you’re the same person but my earlier “feelings” created the illusion of F.E.A.R. (False Evidence Appearing Real) that had me immediately look at what was wrong and supporting those thoughts with negative feelings by your not saying hello to me. In other words, I selfishly made it about me first and foremost without giving you the benefit of the doubt.
This entire episode may have only lasted a few minutes, but the feelings appeared real, were confirmed by the pit in my stomach, and turned my otherwise happy morning completely upside down.
This example vividly points out that “who I am” is “not” my feelings as I too often see in describing myself. In reality, our feelings are ever changing and fleeting like clouds rolling across the sky. They are never the basis of identifying who we are at our core.
So, if we know that that our feelings are not truly who we are, why the continually pushback and autopilot patterns that at times keep us stuck and feeling demoralized, dejected, deflated and depressed?
I remind myself that one answer is that the principles of transformation are relatively simple in theory, and more times than not, challenging at best in their application and integration. This “rational” answer from 40,000 feet seems to momentarily pacify my brain and allow for a hall pass in actually taking greater personal responsibility and tangible steps toward transformation. This also assumes that real transformation requires practice over theory with significant amounts of disciplined action. It’s the proverbial walking your talk over talking your talk.
The second answer closely follows the first in that transformation requires a shift and change of behavior. This is where the crux of the challenge occurs. We instinctively know that any change requires a level of discipline + action in order to see a resulting behavior. The sad and unfortunate part is that we also know that new “behaviors” are not always accomplished in one, two or even three easy steps. We desire change yet the steps to accomplish it require much greater effort than we’re willing to give.
The third and most telling answer, although I hate to admit this to you, is that I’ve come to realize through significant trial and error that staying stuck in the perpetual ping-pong match between head and heart is simply that I “choose” to stay stuck. As a victim, I can always point out all of the challenges of change and provide my brain with rational explanations as to the difficulty of overcoming all sorts of real and imaginary obstacles. This rationale buys me a bit of time but deep down I know that I’m being inauthentic and more times than not, simply lazy that ultimately leads to further self-loathing.
As Tony Robbins so aptly states, “in life, you either get the results you desire, or give reasons and stories as to why you’re not.” When I’m brutally honest with myself, I see where my “stories” have won the battle more times than not and my “desired” outcomes have continually been placed on the back burner to be achieved “someday” in the future. The challenge with this logic is that someday, more times than not, continually gets pushed further and further into the future until it’s a faint glimmer in our minds eye.
So let’s chunk this down a bit further and get curious. Let’s assume that we’ve all heard that a new habit can be achieved by repeating an action or behavior for 21 consecutive days. Now this is where discipline needs to be kicked into high gear and where “desire” for a new change is declared and embraced. I don’t know about you, but more times than not, my desire gets run over from a lack of discipline that has it be challenging to make it 7 days let alone 3 weeks!
To visualize this, think about how many times you or someone you know have attempted a new diet or exercise regiment. If you are anything like me, the result is typically partial success to absolute failure in attaining the “desired” results.
One major aspect that keeps us from achieving any goal or new behavior is an “all or nothing” approach that often is simply too overwhelming. This sets us up for failure from the get go by placing unrealistic steps to success in front of us.
The real recipe for success is actually achieved by combining 1 part desire stirred in with 1 part of small action step that is then repeated incrementally that produces a desired outcome and new habit or behavior in 21 days.
The last and most viable answer is actually the most important in those mentioned that result in lasting change in a situation or behavior to actually happen. Its also the most prevalent where staying stuck wins more times than not.
Are you ready for it?
It’s not until we “own and acknowledge” that the pain of our current situation or behavior overwhelmingly outweighs and consumes the “perceived” pain that keeps us stuck and unable to embrace the new change or behavior we seek for ourselves.
Again, simple in theory and remarkably challenging in its application. For me, the secret of owning and acknowledging who I am is through being gut wrenchingly vulnerable. It’s being able to look your lover in the eye and speak your darkest truths and trusting you won’t be judged, criticized or worst of all, abandoned.
Landmark Education speaks of true freedom coming from being fully self expressed in all areas of life. Think about that for a moment. What does that really mean? Fully self-expressed sounds good in the world of transformation, but it becomes rather scary when actually having to live it. It means letting go of looking the part and believing you’ve got it all figured out. It means being vulnerable to not only ask for help but to acknowledge our darkest fears that perpetuate the not enough syndrome in the first place.
How do I know this to be true?
Because I am the one that has talked the talk but fallen woefully short in walking my talk for as long as I remember. I have hid out and avoided vulnerability and full self-expression by deceptively “looking the part” but in actuality living with one foot in and one foot out in every aspect of my life.
Take it from me; you can’t live an inspired life filled with abundance and love by not learning to be vulnerable and realizing that the stories of not being enough are simply that… stories.
One of the greatest attributes we have in being human is in the power of choice. Each and every moment, we have a choice in how we’re going to show up in that moment. The circumstances may be unbearable, but we always have a choice in how we’re going to embrace whatever we’re facing. Famed author and concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl sums it up best, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
It’s undeniably true that we are already perfect, whole and complete. The secret is in re-remembering this divine right by letting go of the stories we’ve told ourselves of not being enough by recognizing we’re not our feelings and that our personal power and freedom resides in the choices and attitudes we embrace regardless of the challenges we’re facing.