A lot of people have told me that they have been helped by some of my blogs. I’m grateful for that – I write them for that very purpose – and because what’s rattling around in my head needs to come out.
But I have to confess that sometimes I feel like a fraud. Typically, the things I write about are issues I’ve dealt with myself, and the techniques to make those better have been worked through and integrated into my life to the point where they are “no-brainers” for me. I’ve worked on them so long that I can barely remember not having those skills.
But some things I write about are still issues I’m focusing on myself. Usually I’ve studied my life, attitudes and behaviors around the issues, and I’ve worked with the skills that help a great deal, but the answer for me is still not totally integrated into my life and body. In 12 Step language, I’ve learned to “talk the talk”, but I’m not quite able to “walk the walk.”
Like all of you, I have moments of weakness. Moments (OK, hours – and even sometimes days) when I am a total bitch. I don’t even like myself during these times, but I just continue to do or say the things I do, being conscious that I will regret them shortly after they hit their target.
Those are the times I feel like a fraud. How dare I assume I can help anybody else, when I don’t have my own sh*t together?
But over the years I’ve realized that it’s precisely BECAUSE I still have those moments/hours/days of “bitchness” that I can help others. I’m no better than anyone else, most of all my clients and readers. I learn so much more from my clients than they could possibly gain from me.
So in moments of more clarity and rationality, I can remember one of my favorite quotes from Melody Beattie: You don’t always have to be strong to be strong. Our strengths come of acknowledging our vulnerabilities, giving into them sometimes – even falling apart if we need to; and then sharing them at appropriate times, and with people we trust. That’s what connects us as humans. We are all attracted to strength, but we identify with vulnerability. The fact that we share these experiences is part of where the strength originates – we are all stronger together than we are individually. So I think we may need to re-evaluate our relationship with “strength” and perhaps adjust our perception of how it presents itself in our lives.
Our culture kind of sets us up for shying away from acknowledging our problems because for so long we have celebrated the strong individual. So many people I’ve worked with actually feel fear and shame when they think someone will find out they messed something up. My experience and belief has led me to understand that this often starts from childhood – maybe from a harsh parent or teacher, or just messages we’ve historically (and consistently) received from TV and media, some churches and other groups. We’re often not allowed to make mistakes. Some are even told (or receive covert messages) that they ARE a mistake. The fear and shame those people feel, mixed with the ignorance of an adult or a society that demands perfection can and often does result in hate. We have all witnessed what can happen around the world and in our own backyards when hate drives a person or group of people.
But we can each contribute to a healthier society, by understanding that (from the perspective of whatever power that created us) we are all perfect just as we are. That doesn’t mean we can’t learn and grow, but being OK with ourselves as we are, along with a little compassion for ourselves leads us to be more compassionate with others. This goes a long way in making everyone’s environment happier and safer. One way to do this: as adults, we can help a child understand that, while maybe something they did caused a less-than-desired outcome – that doesn’t mean they are bad or wrong as a human. Or maybe we can just show compassion to a friend who is upset with themselves over a silly mistake. Then we can encourage that child or friend to understand how to correct or at least change the way they do things in the future. Rather than having an adult “fix” things for them when they’ve made a mistake, kids need to understand at an early age that our strengths are built by apologizing and making changes in our attitudes and behaviors. But it’s never too late to learn this. It’s not easy, but rather than avoiding hardships, we can face them head-on and appreciate them, because they help us build the resilience we will need for the next go-round. And there will be a next time.
I hope you will join me in allowing yourself to be who you are – flawed and perfect simultaneously. That’s what makes life beautiful in the long run.