How to Be You Even When You Don’t Like You

by Stacey Curnow on · 4 comments

secret

The 12th-century poet Rumi said each of us is try­ing to hide the same secret from each other. It isn’t any­thing mali­cious — we’re just hid­ing the mere fact of our flawed human­ness. Rumi called it the “Open Secret.”

I know that I expend too much energy feel­ing less-than-adequate and I expend even more of it try­ing to remind myself that I am just fine exactly the way I am. For me — and prob­a­bly for you, as well — a lot of my feel­ings of inad­e­quacy stem from a sense that other folks have it more together than I do.

But I do it to myself, too: I recently shared with a friend the things I do that con­tribute to my feel­ing inad­e­quate: I com­pare myself to oth­ers (and I always come up short), I strug­gle to cel­e­brate oth­ers’ suc­cesses (they’ve got friends and fam­ily who will do that, right?), and I day­dream about being “saved” (my book on per­sonal devel­op­ment will be wildly suc­cess­fully — with no more effort on my part, or I’ll receive a large inher­i­tance from a long-lost rel­a­tive — even though I have none, or I’ll win the Power­ball — which I don’t play).

Yet I sus­pect that even the peo­ple who seem to be liv­ing out what I would call the “per­fect” life prob­a­bly have an Open Secret, too. And while the friend who let me cat­a­logue my self-sabotage strate­gies didn’t say that she has the same weak­nesses, she accepted them with­out judg­ment. And it felt good to share them.

But within a short time I found myself once more com­par­ing myself to the more-together-than-thou in my life. And once more hav­ing trou­ble accept­ing my own foibles as right and nec­es­sary. Why is that?

This dif­fi­culty is espe­cially mys­te­ri­ous to me because I’m not all that inter­ested in sugar-sweet, sun-filled sto­ries anyway.

In fact, all of my favorite sto­ries are pretty bleak and don’t end par­tic­u­larly well. (I loved Cor­mac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel The Road.) And yet in every one of the sto­ries I get the most out of, love for oth­ers — and true con­nec­tion with them-bring mean­ing and solace. My favorite tales are about hope and hope­less­ness; home and exile; joy and sorrow.

Great writ­ers are supremely gifted at cre­at­ing char­ac­ters who wres­tle with great chal­lenges and expe­ri­ence a more pro­found sense of mean­ing and joy because of them.

If you are feel­ing alien­ated, or anx­ious, or full of grief — or if the despair of the world is weigh­ing heavy on your heart — look no fur­ther than any num­ber of clas­sic sto­ries to help you find light in the darkness.

Think of The Lord of the Rings. It’s the ulti­mate story of strangers cre­at­ing com­mu­nity, shar­ing a dif­fi­cult jour­ney, help­ing each other to achieve suc­cess against all odds — and ulti­mately learn­ing though adver­sity to savor the pass­ing moments of their ordi­nary lives.

Get­ting to the space where you can do that, of course, may mean mak­ing peace with the dark­ness first. To do this, I take a page from another of my favorite nov­els: The Wind-Up Bird Chron­i­cle by Haruki Murakami.

In this book the pro­tag­o­nist, faced with a rough patch in his life, is told by a wise man that he must “sit at the bot­tom of the well” for a while — he must face his dif­fi­cul­ties and, for a while at least, not strive against them, but seek to under­stand the lessons they offer.

I have taken this so much to heart that most of my friends know that “sit­ting at the bot­tom of the well” is my way of say­ing that after a tough day, or week, or month I am going to my quiet place in order to dis­cover what I am sup­posed to learn.

So, first you accept that “there are feel­ings of depres­sion in you” (I learned from Eck­hart Tolle in A Whole New Earth that you never want to iden­tify so strongly with neg­a­tive feel­ings that you say things like, “I am depressed.”). Accept the feel­ings with­out judg­ment. Just let them be. Then, start ask­ing pow­er­ful questions.

Here are the ques­tions that I try to ask: What is the sit­u­a­tion that’s stress­ing me out most right now? Why is that so? What am I doing or believ­ing to cre­ate or main­tain or worsen this sit­u­a­tion? What is the ben­e­fit or pay­off for main­tain­ing this sit­u­a­tion? What is the cost or down­side of tak­ing action to change this situation?

The responses to those ques­tions form the basis for pow­er­ful responses that can give you enor­mous insight into you and your sit­u­a­tion. And when you stop try­ing to keep your­self a secret, it’s a whole lot eas­ier to be you.

So — how are you?


by Stacey Curnow

Stacey is a pur­pose and suc­cess coach who helps you give birth to your BIG dreams. To find your pur­pose and pas­sion, check out her FREE eBook, The Pur­pose and Pas­sion Guide­book.
Stacey Curnow
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