In life, there are circumstances in which we simply have no control over; for example, our birthplace, genetic predispositions, cultural background, traumatic events, or illnesses. These among other situations influence the way we see ourselves as well as others.
Our natural instinct is to survive and even when there is no physical danger, our mind still does a good job at helping us feel and stay safe. Our amazing problem-solving machine (the mind) gives us advice when it perceives something is not comfortable and pleasant. Though part of our mortal experience includes adversity and challenges, our mind does its best to keep us away from discomfort and pain.
We are all broken. There is no single mortal being who does not have an external flaw or an internal challenge. As a human race we also innately wish to belong and be accepted by others. What happens when our amazing mind tells us that our perceived or real imperfections will lead to rejection? It will provide many possible solutions.
One possible answer is the agreement that “Indeed, we are broken and that others will reject us.” Why would our mind agree with such an unhelpful thought, and why do we often believe it? We believe it because we are all broken in some way. However, our amazing mind goes the extra mile and magnifies the situation. Why? The fear of becoming rejected, judged, or scrutinized can lead us to avoidance. In turn avoidance will provide the relief we want in that moment. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Our mind’s job is to keep us feeling good.
As we all know, this solution is short-lived. We then feel dejected, distressed and become tangled up with our thoughts and feelings. As we do, we continue to harvest the thought of not being good enough.
What’s most important is how we look at our thoughts. Coming to terms with our flaws takes time, and one step towards doing this is learning how to look at our thoughts when they show up. At any given time we can notice what our amazing problem-solving machine is saying to us. Then we can decide whether the advice is helpful or not by asking ourselves the following questions:
- If I choose avoidance to feel relief and comfort, will it provide any short or long lasting benefits?
- If I choose to beat myself up and focus on all my imperfections, will it make me feel better, and will this provide short or long-term positive results?
- If I choose to face my fears and feel uncomfortable and anxious, is it possible that this can give me long-term benefits even though this is more challenging and difficult?
- Whatever I choose, will it draw me closer to what matters most in my life?
- If I choose my mind’s advice, will it help me become the type of person I want to be?
- When I choose to do the same thing every time, is it working for me? If it’s not working, am I willing to try something different?
We can own who we are –imperfections and all! Though there are things we truly cannot control, our amazing mind often insists that we should avoid, try harder, or degrade ourselves. The one piece of advice the fix it machine usually won’t provide is, “Own who you are. Come to terms with your imperfections!” No, it won’t do that because such advice is not in the mind’s job description. The mind’s first priority is to help us avoid fear and distress.
The good news is that research studies confirm that coming to terms with our imperfections and becoming less rigid in our thinking can provide lasting results. As we practice noticing what the mind says and continue to expand our awareness, we can discover that we can develop flexibility in our thinking and that we do have choices!
As you let go of unhealthy coping strategies such as suppression, distraction, avoidance, numbing, ruminating, and self-defeating conversations, you will:
- Find an increase of emotional, physical, and mental energy because you are no longer spending it on the unhealthy behaviors.
- Have more time to spend on causes, people, and things that matter most.
- Notice more peace and joy daily despite being an imperfect human being.
- Find that the real you will begin to blossom again.
Please remember that as you take steps towards owning who you are, it takes time and it is a process. You also need a support system. Keep in touch with family and friends and get professional help if necessary.
You can do this, and as you take small steps towards untangling yourself from unhelpful thoughts, you can look forward to focusing on what is most dear to you.