It is important to understand the difference between being selfish, and having some self respect. I thought about it this week when I briefly encountered a young lady who needed to improve her grades. It was as if she thought the world would end if she didn’t. It was also somehow apparent that these good grades would mostly be to please other people. There was no opportunity for me to really communicate with her on the matter, other than to give a quick suggestion not to be too hard on herself.
This encounter made me think about the reason that our relationship with ourselves is so important. It is a good goal to improve your grades, but if pressure from the outside causes you to engage in self-criticism then it is more important that you take a stand for yourself and not worry so much about pressure from the outside. I am reminded of a wise quote by Indian guru, Sadhguru. “It is your mind. Things should be the way you want them in there.. Isn’t it?” He was talking about the state of your mind to handle the things coming at you from the outside. It is up to you to decide how you react to what happens to you. I think the one thing that really helps us do this is when we begin with the assumption that we are enough. That we are whole and complete within ourselves. This doesn’t mean we think that we are perfect, it means that we think enough of ourselves and understand that we are not literally perfect and that’s OK. Understanding that we are truly valuable, and at the same time understanding that we are flawed helps us to not only extend grace to ourselves, but to others as well. When your view of yourself and others is obscured with insecurities, making good decisions is nearly impossible. Taking pressure off yourself makes it easier for you to do better. The intention to be better is good enough if you have a healthy view of yourself. Do you perform better when you self ridicule, or do you perform better when you believe you are up to the task? Pretty obvious right?
We can hold ourselves to a higher standard without all of the self abuse. Sometimes when we set out to achieve something we are more focused on the consequences of how it will turn out. We worry about a future moment that hasn’t happened yet. This increases the pressure on us, but doesn’t help us to actually do better work. You literally can’t do anything in the past or future. Now is the only time you have to act, so doesn’t it make sense to focus on the task rather than worrying about the consequences if you fail, or thinking about your past failures? When we have a healthy view of ourselves we are free to quit self criticism, and focus on the task at hand. Eliminating all the background noise makes the task so much more bearable. Think about trying to do something that requires focus in a room full of loud talking people. Your thoughts about the past and future like the room full of noisy people inhibit your ability to focus.
The foundational belief that helps you to be better is the belief that you are enough. You are a perfectly imperfect human being. You have great value that extends well beyond your past, your thoughts, and your feelings. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is true for all of us. Finding that truth and giving yourself grace is the first step to a better life.