So much of our lives is based on improving ourselves: getting a raise, getting a new job, improving our body shape, getting the most up to date lifestyle product or improving house and home... The wish list goes on. It becomes more and more unattainable. What do we do? Buy a lottery ticket? Live in a fantasy world? Do we strive harder and harder to achieve our goals or face the unpleasant facts?
“Some part of us is never going to change, those things that just don’t heal, the parts of us that can hurt no matter what happens” Ram Das
Yes, no-body’s perfect but what about happiness? What we’re really striving for is love, to be accepted and valued, to be part of a community. These things are all about developing good relationships with people in our lives. The trouble is we have shifted our values from relationships to things or ideas about what we want and have forgotten to trust our feelings or even judge ourselves negatively for the way we feel.
What is it that really feels good? If the most important thing in life is love, feeling valued and being part of a community, then surely it’s the quality of relationships in our lives we really need to focus on. And if we’re never going to be perfect, this means we’re going to have to work out how to live with ourselves and with other imperfect people in our lives.
The firs step is awareness. We have to slow down and take things in. Give ourselves a break and some time to reflect. Maybe even start to write a diary. This is the first step of being more mindful in our lives. Maybe even start a mindfulness meditation practice. We need to begin to notice what’s going on for us. We may begin to become aware of the fact that we are trying to be someone we want to be rather than who we are, as we are, warts and all. How does this feel?
The second step is acceptance. Becoming aware of what’s going on isn’t much good if we don’t like what we find! So, as we become more aware of what’s going on for us and how we feel about ourselves and others around us, we now need to just accept that. It doesn’t matter how unpleasant things seem or how much we’d like things to be different to the way they are, just becoming aware of what’s going on for us is half way to self-acceptance. What is actually happening is now we’ve given ourselves permission to slow down and give ourselves a break. At some level we’re telling ourselves that we are OK as we are and this gives us a sense of feeling safe and maybe frees us a little from having to prove we are more than we are already.
The third step is understanding that others around us are just like us: imperfect. When we realise we’re imperfect and how we try so hard to improve ourselves, we can begin to see others are doing just the same. They act out, trying to impress or prove themselves, for just the same reason as us. As we do this we begin to have some understanding and empathy for them and this replaces our need to react to impress or prove ourselves. This is what we learn with mindfulness.
Then the magic happens, one step at a time: empathy replaces frustration and judgment. This becomes more and more of a habit. We accept ourselves for who we are and make better and better relationships in our lives. We experience joy. And what do people like better than anything? They like to hang around someone like this and this is what creates success in any role, lifestyle, work, career or business we choose.