by Dr. Alexander Wright
Why are you so hard on yourself? Ever realize that when someone you care for makes a mistake, fails, or stumbles, you communicate words of love, truth, and empathy. Yet when you make that very same mistake, you berate and thrust yourself into a crevasse of misery. And while loathing oneself in this depth of misery, I know most have from time to time said “I wish I could be a kid again; life was so much easier back then.” Or “I wish I had the life of my dog.” Ever wonder why you say these things when you make a mistake, fail, or stumble? Well, I know why and I am going to let you in on the secret.
As a young child, you were still immune to the thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs communicated by your outside world. You played in the moment, ate in the moment, loved in the moment, and lived in the moment. So why did everything change at some point in the midst of those early years? What changed is your development of language and the ability to understand your external world. You could now understand the words and behaviors communicated by the people around you and the world around you.
Of course, the ability to understand and interact with others and our external environment is a privilege and a gift; however, much of what you heard and observed has cultivated a distorted and emotionally unhealthy perception of yourself and more specifically your worth. The majority of our external worlds did not intentionally mean to communicate thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs that were harmful to us and our perceptions of self-worth. In fact, most of them had no knowledge of what they were doing or saying. They were simply exposed to and taught similar untrue beliefs throughout their own lives and experiences. And remember from my “Power of Mistakes” article also on the Full Fathom blog that we largely think, perceive, and interact with our worlds with a negativity bias so the focus is often on what we have NOT yet completed or accomplished, which very effectively reinforces destructive perfectionist habits and tendencies.
The words, comments, and philosophies that drive distorted perceptions of worth are all around us. They are rooted in the common themes which communicates that we are not good enough unless we: get good grades, go to a particular college, be a doctor~ lawyer~banker, live in a certain home, have fewer wrinkles, maintain a certain weight, wear certain brands of clothing, have lots of friends, play a certain sport, and the list of self-imposed distorted perceptions of conditional self-worth can go on and on and on. The truth is that NONE of that mattered when you were a child and that is why you were so present and subsequently so content and free.
Now here comes the best part of the secret. Because humans created these beliefs, any human including you of course, has the ability to undo the unhelpful perception and re-create more helpful and most importantly more truthful perceptions of self-worth. And with this truth, you have the ability to be as present, content, and free as the child from your past and your ever-present dog. When we realize this, we gain the ability to author our own story; one of truth, one of unconditional self-acceptance, and one in the knowledge that you were born perfect and therefore you still are. Your worth is inherent and not earned. Be well and remember that you are perfect just the way you are.