If we are unduly absorbed in improving our lives we may forget altogether to live them.
The other day, my client shared with me this Alan Watts quote. It generated an interesting conversation about how difficult it is to accept and relax into a true sense of personal knowing that, as we are, we are good, we are enough. Our conversation reflected on how so often we become entrenched in working toward personal goals or self-improvement in such a way that we fail to stop, look back, and see as well as enjoy the progress we’ve made. We reflected on how we tend only to look at the areas in which we still need or want improvement, which keeps our eyes set on flaws and failures instead of strengths and successes.
In our conversation, my client offered a “radical paradigm shift” - What if we start our day, our work, our endeavors from a place of: In this moment and every moment, I am enough. We laughed at this because it was, of course, so obvious. And yet, soberly, we reflected on how hard it is to do, how corrosive a negative self-image is to our spirit, and yet how gripping the fear to change it can be.
My client noted that his fear is that if he accepts that he is enough somehow this means that he has reached his pinnacle at which point he will get lazy and start to regress. He fears losing the strides he has worked so hard to achieve. Staying focused on the areas he wants to improve keeps him always working to that end.
He also mentioned that there is something that feels hubris and arrogant about accepting that he is enough; that it lacks humility to keep him grounded. I threw out the possibility that it is not humility that is grounding him, but shame that is keeping him stuck. Humility, if it is healthy, recognizes one’s innate worth and the gifts one has to offer, yet also recognizes that one is a work in progress and always endeavoring toward their higher self, which has yet to be achieved. With shame, one believes they are innately bad and must always be working to be better which, when it comes to the tyranny of shame, is always a futile endeavor. He concurred, it was definitely shame that was keeping him…stuck. At his core, there is a relentless drive to always be better; a drive born of the fear that he is not enough and the belief that his not being enough will keep him from ever having what his heart truly desires – love and happiness.
Shame is gnarly and so darned sneaky. It masquerades as a virtuous force pushing us to always be better. In the most insidious of ways shame is the perpetuator of: As I am, I am not enough. And it is very hard to distinguish from that other inner drive we have to actually enhance our inherent gifts and personal attributes, and work toward a genuine evolution of self.
A formidable villain, shame does not slay easily. However, it is not indestructible. So what if we started to disempower shame by first shifting our perspective? What if we changed our default setting to: In this moment and every moment, I am enough. How might this change things for us? How might this change our efforts as well as the outcome of our efforts?
As my client and I reflected on the possibilities, it became very clear that implementing this paradigm shift doesn't mean we stop working on ourselves, as shame would have us believe. It simply means that we engage life as well as the process of personal growth with a sense of curiosity, hopefulness, and excitement instead of dread, fear, or obligation. Such a paradigm shift takes the pressure off of everything having to be so serious all the time, like we have to do things in order to be good or else. Or else what? That makes no sense. As sure as we are born, we are good, we are enough. We don’t have to do things to be enough, we do them because they bring us into connection with a deeper sense of self and they hone certain skills or attributes and this connects us with a greater sense of purpose and meaning in our lives. All of this feels good and enhances our true self. But our core self, our core self was created in love with purpose and intention and it is innately good, it is innately enough. This should be our starting point. This should be our new default setting. In this moment and every moment, I am enough.