If you have spent a great deal of time and energy trying to improve yourself in order to make life work yet have been deeply disappointed, this article is for you. We are taught to believe that there is something inherently wrong with us. We spend time trying to pinpoint these flaws, and then judge them once they are found. We hate ourselves for being flawed, and attempt to eradicate our flaws by punishing ourselves.
Many of us were conditioned to believe that we are not inherently good. We got the message every time we heard things like, “You shouldn’t have done this,” “You should have done that,” or “You should be ashamed of yourself!” It is these shaming messages that lead us to be so judgmental with ourselves.
The perspective that holds one’s innate Being as perfect, unflawed, and intrinsically good proves worthwhile in supporting a path of personal growth. The belief that all Beings are inherently good, a traditional Buddhist tenet, has provided fertile ground for various transformative practices. If believing that there is nothing wrong with you seems like too big a pill to swallow right now, you are not alone.
Start by examining your experience simply as it is, and not as you believe it to be. Keep in mind that being “inherently good” does not preclude you from undergoing difficult times. Feeling lost, scared, or regretful in response to the myriad of challenges we face in our relationships is just a part of the human experience, not proof of the wrongness in you. There is nothing wrong with you. Life is just full of experiences, both pleasant and hard. They arise and pass over the arc of time.
Here are some suggestions to explore:
• Start observing. Listen to your “.”
• Stay aware. Notice the negative criticism, paying special attention to shoulds.
• Start asking questions. How old is this negative dialogue? Is it possible that this is a story I was told long ago? How did these stories start?
• Be gentle. Take care not to beat yourself up for having these negative stories.
• Challenge yourself. When negative thoughts come up, begin asking, “Is this a story about me?” Always challenge yourself with honest, open curiosity.
• Get support. As your practice unfolds you will begin to separate the old stories from your true experience. Breaking out of our old stories can be hard work when done by ourselves. Don’t be afraid to seek help from a therapist or a trusted mentor or guide.
Article by: Sevin Philips MFT