“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.” -Zen Shin
I had a realization today and it hit me right between the eyes.
I’ve been doing a lot of work on myself through therapy and various methods of personal development, all in an effort to step into my true potential and become my best self. In my mind, I’ve had this visualization of reaching the holy moment where I’d cross the line from my struggling, broken self to glorious, unencumbered Katie 2.0. Birds would be chirping, the sun would be reflecting off my glowing skin. I wouldn’t have a care in the world because I would have finally reached it: Destination Best Self.
Being a recovering perfectionist and having an all-or-nothing personality, I tend to do everything in an extreme way. It’s either all the drinks, or no drinks. I’m either eating a pristine diet, or I’m diving head first into a tub of ice cream. I’m either a success, or I’m a failure.
What I didn’t realize is that I have been approaching my personal development in the same way. I’ve been putting immense amounts of pressure on myself to figure it all out, be the best I can be, step into this shiny, new version of myself free of all struggle and negative chatter.
Holy shit, I thought. I’ve been working so hard on loving myself that I’ve been missing the entire point. I’ve been withholding love and respect for myself because I had not yet reached the pinnacle of my existence. Rather than accepting myself as I am right now, I was holding out on myself. I was storing some love in a neatly-wrapped package with a bow, and I felt I could only reward myself with it once I had walked through the fire, let my burns heal, and emerged a new person. I even found myself thinking things like, “What’s wrong with you!? Why can’t you just accept this part of you, Katie?”
I was being hard on myself for not loving myself. Oh, the beautifully painful irony.
Although I have come a long way in accepting many parts of myself, I wasn’t fully embracing myself as the perfectly imperfect human I am right now. I wasn’t giving myself permission to be flawed and unpolished right now. It was so subtle, I almost missed it.
This whole “becoming your best self” thing is not easy business, as we’re conditioned as a culture to resent ourselves for being human.
But we’re making it way more complicated than it needs to be.
Rather than putting a ton of pressure on yourself to accomplish big things, lose the weight, buy the house, get married, start your own business, just stop. Just. Stop. There is no race. You’re not going to be a more valuable human if you get that new job or fit into those jeans from two years ago. We all need to stop putting so much dang pressure on ourselves. I can feel it, and I bet you can too. It takes so much effort to constantly be pushing, to constantly think we have to reach some ideal version of self to be worthy.
We are always enough. Always. No matter our faults or the stains on our clothes, we are always enough.
In saying this, I don’t mean to stop going after what you want and what will make you happy. That’s productive, and I still intend to do that for myself as well. What I’m suggesting, to myself and others, is to change your energy and attitude about it all. Still work towards that goal, but give yourself a break when it takes longer than you want, or when it doesn’t go as planned, or even when it doesn’t work at all.
Love yourself equally no matter what your situation is.
I think we’d be surprised that when we take our foot off the gas pedal and turn the car on auto pilot, a certain ease fills the air and things start falling into place naturally.
When we loosen our tense hold on ourselves, it’s as if we’re saying “All is okay as it is right now” rather than “Nothing is okay, I need to change this right fucking now!”
It’s when we finally accept what is and stop fighting, that we give things the permission to start changing.
Eckhart Tolle said, “Life isn’t as serious as the mind makes it out to be” and I think he is spot on. In our constant striving and perfecting, we’re actually missing out on the simple beauty that is life in its purest form. It’s better to be silly and risk someone laughing at you, than to never let loose at all. It’s better to put your story out there and risk some judgement, than to hide for the rest of your life. It’s okay if your body doesn’t look like those on the cover of Women’s Health. Working a job that you enjoy that pays the bills is way better than working a job you hate just for the title and paycheck. It’s okay to feel sad, mad, jealous, frustrated, and angry. It’s okay to eat the donut. It’s okay to be late sometimes. It’s okay to binge watch Netflix instead of going out with your friends. It’s okay to reschedule the meeting.
It’s even okay to not love ourselves completely.
I’m making it a goal of mine to keep moving forward in the name of happiness and self-love, but I’m going to try to take my foot off the gas a bit. I’m going to try to let things come more naturally rather than frantically trying to race to this imaginary finish line.
In my experience, the more you accept what is, the more room you make for beautiful new things to enter your life.
Becoming your best self is not a linear path and it’s not a singular destination. It’s a lifelong journey that is constantly changing based on your wants, needs, situation, and truths at any given time. It’s great to have goals, visions, and desires, I think that’s very productive and motivating. Maybe we’ll reach that place we see in our wildest dreams, and maybe we won’t.
Either way, I think the most important thing is to remember to be easy on yourself and kind to yourself through it all. We’re all just doing the best we can.
Shower yourself with the same amount of love and respect no matter what you’re experiencing.