You see images everywhere. People tell their “life stories” of the miraculous things they have done. We watch fantasy films that seem real. Social media paints pictures of so much riotous fun. Impossibly awesome days with insanely divine experiences. We are left with a feeling that somehow other people are much luckier than we are.
What you should know is that often times: blemishes are edited, details are omitted, miracles are overstated, fantasy doesn’t meet reality, ones credentials are embellished and their misgivings stuffed in a closet.
I don’t need to tell you that perfection is a myth. You know that.
What I wanted to share today is a bit different.
Self-help, betterment, all of this stuff is not helpful if it forces you to tear yourself into pieces.
When I was 12 years old I went to a restaurant in La Costa, San Diego with my father in the high-point of his charasmatic mania. A woman walked into a room.
“You see her?” he said. “She commands the entire room to look at her.”
I wasn’t impressed, but he continued.
“You will be judged in life on a checklist: how smart you are, how well you speak, your posture, your hair, your teeth, your background, your confidence, everything…”
He went on and on. And on and on.
Of course, my father was a lunatic and he hated himself. So he projected it all on me, his chance to “redo” his life and get things right. I was 12. All I saw was her hair, her tan, her jewels and my father talking about all that I lacked.
I think we all have had our own verson of that moment, or a series of them. You don’t need a diabolical father to have the moment where the world tries to tell you that you will never be good enough.
Then he took me to get my already-white teeth bleached and got two moles removed from my face that you never would see anyway, but he assured me they would ruin my life if they stayed on my face.
From that moment I viewed myself as a fragmented being. A checklist.
Within a few months, I was 80 pounds and 5’9″ tall. All of that happened in a blaze of concentrated self-betterment that got out of control.
If you asked me what I was doing I could list all the spiritual, nutritional and educational correctness of my every action.
Nothing is correct if it enslaves you.
You can use all kinds of self-help tools to actually make your life better. Or you can use them to tear yourself apart.
This is not uncommon, to see good things run amok into destruction.
There is this awesome theory in Traditional Chinese Medicine of yin & yang. You know the symbol. You need darmess to balance light and light to balance darkness. There is also darkness WITHIN light and light WITHIN darkness.
When I was 14, my high school was going to force my mother to hospitalize me or else they would expell me. I was sent home, with my fingers turning slightly blue and my hair falling in big patches. My skin turned yellow about a month before. I was drinking from the gallon of water I kept on my dresser, hoping to feel full enough to be able to think. I looked down at my body that was barely there, and sort of cried with no tears.
That was the day I knew that I had something in me that could turn the desire for greatness into my own death. It was also the day I started eating again.
For almost two decades I had to be very aware that my desire to be so excellent on an imaginary list could potentially kill me. It was not a quick fix. No books, no manuals and no specialists could do it for me. Some may help you. They just fueled my fire for self-fixing.
The best thing I did: I learned to stop attracting people into my life who demanded that I was perfect. It started by walking away from the ones I had in my life, and then ditching ones that revealed themselves over time.
I hope you allow yourself to be imperfect. I hope you use self-betterment to make things better, but not to be perfect. I hope you know you are not a checklist. I hope you don’t waste your time trying to make the right decisions because nothing is really ever perfectly right or wrong. And I hope you don’t spend time trying to appease the ghost of a person or people who couldn’t just accept you for who you are. It’s not worth it.
Plently of people will love you for being you. And the world needs your gifts.