“We are all human” ~ Dalai Lama
You bury your face in your hands. For the umpteenth time, you feel disappointed in yourself, ashamed of who you are, wracked with self-disappointment.
“I’m such an idiot.”
You look at the floor. And then back up again and sigh, a long drawn out sigh that comes from deep within. You feel like an utter failure, convinced you’re a nobody, a waste of space, a burden to others.
“I never get it right. Never.”
You’ve become so expert at beating yourself up that each day just presents more opportunities to feel insignificant. To never feel good enough. Ever.
To the point where you stop looking in the mirror because you hate the person you see.
I used to feel the same.
I once came off stage to rapturous applause after giving a solo piano recital at the age of 15. As I was congratulated, by my teacher all I could say was, “I played three notes wrong.” To which he replied, “Yes, but you played the other thousand perfectly.”
But it was no use. I thought I had to play everything perfectly. A few years later before I was even in my twenties, I quit the piano, convinced I would never be good enough.
And so it went on, always beating myself up for my imperfections and then no matter how well I did, no matter how much I improved, still finding fault.
All I was doing was hating myself for being human. Punishing myself for being fallible.
Because I wanted to be loved.
And I thought if I were perfect, the whole world would love me. And then I would be happy.
Maybe you feel like this too?
But the reality is, if you hate yourself you will never be happy, even if the whole world does love you.
To be truly happy, you need just one person to love you, and that person is you.
But how can you possibly love such an imperfect person as yourself? By understanding these six life truths:
1. Control isn’t everything.
Being you, being any of us, isn’t always easy.
Every day you have to cope with this whirling mass of conflicting thoughts and emotions that make up being you.
And sometimes you feel anxious, angry, overwhelmed, out of control even. You feel like a lion tamer without a whip, or even a chair, trying to contain and tame the wildest of emotions.
Worse though, you feel you’re the only one losing that power struggle.
Whenever you’re criticizing yourself for letting your emotions run wild, remember you’re not alone – even the Dalai Lama admits to becoming angry sometimes.
Emotions are as human as opposable thumbs. They’re a given. We are all emotional.
Learning to understand and embrace your emotions will reclaim your power over them.
Remember “You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.” – Dan Millman
2. Family doesn’t have to come first.
Family relationships rarely run super smooth. They’re like a minefield. You try to tread warily, but suddenly everything blows up in your face.
You try to be loyal and respectful, to produce straight As, a university certificate, a successful career, a wedding, a grandchild…
It seems that everyone in the family has some expectation of you. You never agreed to all that pressure, but you still beat yourself up for failing to adeptly negotiate the treacherous world of misunderstandings, diffuse the rows, keep the peace.
But there is a simple fact that your inner-critic fails to understand: even though you love your family with all your heart, you aren’t them.
You are you.
Each of them is them.
We are all wonderful, individual human beings with different needs and desires, varying opinions and ideas. That’s the only reason the world is so fantastically diverse. We are all unique in some way. Thank goodness!
Whenever you’re reproaching yourself for failing to meet your family’s expectations, take a deep breath and know:
“Happiness means loving yourself and being less concerned with the approval of others.” ~ Owen Campbell Jr.
‘Less concerned’ often isn’t going to be ‘unconcerned’ when it comes to family. Hey, they matter because you love them. But the jurisdiction of their expectations and desires ends with them, and yours ends with you.
Appreciating this will allow you to smile and love the bond you share. . . Whilst still staying true to yourself.
3. Relationships aren’t perfect.
Girl meets boy; boy meets girl, they fall in love, have a misunderstanding, makeup and live happily ever after. The credits roll.
Real life and real relationships are rarely like that. Sometimes it seems that you just stumble blindly from one argument to the next, from one heartbreak to another.
There’s a reason for that. . .
You are a real person, way more complex than any Hollywood screenwriter could capture. And so is your boy or girlfriend, husband or wife.
Sure you never mean to argue, to hurt them, or to be hurt. And you try to understand, to put the wrong right, to forgive.
But there are two of you in this. Two sets of emotions, upbringings, experiences, opinions, ideas, desires – two sets of needs. Boy, that’s a huge set of criteria to expect to always meet up.
Different people are going to rub up against each other’s differences. Being hard on yourself for being different isn’t a solution, it’s sandpaper to friction that’s already seriously chaffing your joint happiness.
So whenever you’re beating yourself up over your love life, recall this quote:
“To love others, you must first love yourself.” – Leo Buscaglias
Appreciating your own unique qualities, beliefs, and opinions is the only way to smile and find a solution that works for both of you.
4. Mistakes are OK.
Of course, you made a mistake, messed up. You’re a human being, and all human beings make mistakes. You might as well blame yourself for being born with arms and legs. Or for being unable to breathe underwater.
Because the only way to never make a mistake, is to do nothing, be nothing and achieve nothing.
Sound a good option? Is that route going to help anyone or contribute anything?
Halt self-critical thoughts by remembering what counts is that you did something.
So the result didn’t work out; sure it hurts, don’t deny yourself that.
But by focusing on how you can make it better next time, you can’t fail to improve, feel more confident and have the motivation to continue making your contribution in life.
So when you criticize yourself for messing up realize:
“All human life is some part failure and some part achievement.” – Dalai Lama
Toddlers learn to walk by falling over, getting up and starting over with an inch more knowledge of how their legs work.
Learning to accept that falling is part of any process will allow you to smile and jump right back up again.
5. You’re not responsible.
You didn’t start the fire. The world was turning and burning long before you came along and it will be long after you’ve left. You were never trained as a firefighter, but you’re still hard on yourself for not doing more.
How can you help when you feel so helpless?
By finding your perspective and putting yourself in context. You may never be able to solve all the world’s problems, but you can put some good out into the world no matter how big or small.
So whenever you beat yourself up because you feel helpless, follow this advice:
“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” – William James
Appreciating the good you do, all the times you try and your desire to help others will allow you to smile and see that you are already playing your part.
6. Life can be hard.
No one told you life would be this hard. Families, relationships, careers, money and all the other stuff that make up life can seem so confusing.
Sometimes it seems as if the rest of the world has the whole thing figured out while you’re fighting a lone battle just to keep going.
And nobody told you how to avoid getting hurt in life’s battles. You can’t stop bullets like Neo in the Matrix yet every day people unintentionally shoot holes in your plans, your dreams, your heart.
But you’re not alone. Everyone is struggling with something in their life, publicly or privately. No one has it all figured out. Unfortunately, it’s become less accepted that we talk about it.
So whenever you attack yourself for not feeling up to life’s battles, repeat this:
“Until you stop breathing, there’s more right with you than wrong with you.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Accepting that life is hard will allow you to smile and see how amazing you are for keeping on keeping on.
Look in the mirror and see love, not hate.
Stop beating yourself up over everything you think, say or do. Stop criticizing yourself endlessly for all your so-called ‘weaknesses’ or ‘shortcomings.’
Because every human being is born with flaws.
And every person deserves love, support and a heartfelt hug for trying to change them.
So feel good about yourself. Feel great about yourself. Realize it’s okay to be imperfect.
Look in the mirror and smile at the person smiling back at you.
Because that person is wonderful and deserves your love.