I was raised to be a “good little girl.” I always struggled with the “good” part. It seems my naturally “naughty” nature was at constant odds with what I was “supposed” to do or not do. I was taught not to use habit-forming substances, not to say bad words like “butt”, and to “be careful because boys sometimes get urges.” All of it good advice: addiction is bad, vulgarity is often unbecoming, and boys do get “urges” but quite frankly, so do girls!
Whenever life threw a curve ball at me, especially as I grew older, I always went back to the concept of living “faithfully” and striving for “perfection.” Of course, everyone knows perfection is an impossibility but when blessings appear to be tied to the striving, it seems a worthy goal. Unfortunately, numerous years of the constant expectation of perfection from myself and those around me took its toll. I became someone who despised myself because no matter how hard I tried, I was never good enough. My self-loathing was constantly validated at meetings and conferences.
I hid my internal disappointment by being overly critical of those around me. I picked apart people for reasons such as how they dressed (was it modest or not), if they shopped on Sunday (gasp!), or how often they attended weekly meetings. As I’ve discussed in my posts about judgment, it’s easy to point out someone else’s faults when we’re doing it as a coping mechanism for dealing with our own insecurities.
Ultimately, I left the belief system in which I was raised to discover my own. I learned my beliefs derive from some of what I was taught as a girl, some of what I’ve studied from other religions or philosophies, but mostly from what seems right to me. I’ve discovered that the only person I can disappoint is myself and the only deity I have to please is one of my own choosing.
I’ve learned to be extremely forgiving of myself because I alone am in charge of my forgiveness. I do not need to seek absolution or pay penance to anyone, myself included. I am allowed to draw a line in the sand as many times as I want. I am an imperfect being doing my best each day to be a good person. I know you are striving to do the same thing.
My journey and recovery from the disappointment that everything I’d been taught was supposed to make me happy didn’t make me happy has been long and twisty, but I made it out of the other side and I’m here to let you know, you can too! You might wonder, “Where do I start?”
1. Find a new “family”. For me, it was my CrossFit family. The early morning class became my peeps and it’s they who gave and continue to give me a home outside of my house. They are good people with strong values who strive hard to be honest and always give their best.
Your new family might be found at a yoga studio, the coffee shop, or a Highland games festival. Where you find them is not important. Your “family” should validate you, accept you as you are, and most importantly make you feel good about yourself. You are amazing and it should be celebrated and appreciated!
2. Read a lot – anything that makes sense to your innate spirituality and internal belief system. This will be different for everyone and that is a-okay! Be adventurous, read lots of different ideas and philosophies. If it doesn’t resonate with you, stop reading it and move on to something else.
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz became a guidepost for me when I first struck out on my journey of discovery. It replaced the spiritual texts I had been reading and provided a framework around which I could accept myself for who I am. Through it and Ruiz’s other writings, I learned why I felt so hurt and betrayed by everything I’d been taught. Deepak Chopra’s writings also resonate deeply with me. His scientific descriptions of the spiritual and metaphysical make perfect sense to me. Find whatever makes sense to YOU!
You may be surprised that some of what you’ve been taught and believed up to this point still resonates with you.If you feel this way, embrace it!You are the only one who matters when it comes to what you believe.
3. Be kind and patient with yourself. It takes a long time to undo a lifetime of training. If you find yourself in old patterns of thinking that don’t support your ideals of who you are becoming, gently acknowledge this to yourself, and move on. There is no need for punishment or disappointment because you are “perfectly” okay simply being you.
I'm going to repeat this because it is key: You are "perfectly" okay simply being you!!!
Although this post is about my journey, it's applicable to your journey as well.
Anytime you find yourself disappointed that what you’ve been taught fails to meet your expectation of what should bring one happiness: 1) find a new “family” of like-minded individuals who love and accept you simply because you are you; 2) read a lot and learn as much as you can. Create your own set of beliefs and practices; and 3) be kind and patient with yourself. Today, you are perfect!