I have tended to be hard on myself when I catch myself offering excuses for my behavior. I think of excuses as attempts to justify bad behavior by refusing to take responsibility for my actions. I still catch myself doing that more often than I’d like, but I’m really working on trying to own up to my mistakes and accept responsibility for my choices and my actions. I think this is a good thing and a sign of continued growth and maturity.
“If you are not afraid of the voices inside you, you will not fear the critics outside you.” ~Natalie Goldberg
The past few years have been hard on me. They have involved an awful lot of very big changes for me and that has meant spending a lot of time putting myself out there in new ways that were risky and often did not have much support. And I’ve done a lot more failing and encountering devastating criticism* and subtle undermining doubts from others than I had expected.
I’ve been realizing lately just how much this experience is leading me to focus on safety and hiding. I increasingly measure everything I do, every decision I make, and everything I say by how likely it is to provoke criticism (direct or indirect) from others. I spend a lot of time hiding—my gifts, my knowledge, my abilities, my preferences, my self—from people around me in an attempt to stave off more criticism and thus feel safe again.
As a recovering perfectionist and someone with considerably more interests than I have time, I frequently find myself trying to do too much. This condition generally leads to high levels of stress and frustration, inadequate self-care, and emotional (and sometimes physical) meltdowns when allowed to continue for too long.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to catch this pattern sooner in the process so that I can avoid the more extreme effects that can come from doing too much for too long, but I find that frequent reminders of the importance of monitoring my energy levels and the size of my to-do list help to keep me on track with this. This week’s links are a set of posts about doing too much and have served as great reminders to me of how I do (and don’t) want to live my life.
“Funny how much of life feels like remembering & forgetting & remembering again. Perhaps if we did not forget what was essential we would miss out on the great AHA! & joy of all those moments of remembering.” ~Oriah Mountain Dreamer
The quote above is one from a Facebook status that Oriah posted quite some time ago. I saved it because it sums up my experience so well, and I was reassured to know that I’m not the only one who seems to keep forgetting those essential things I’ve learned along the way, requiring me to keep learning the same lessons over and over again.
I was reminded of this quote the last few days as I’ve been going back through and looking at old posts on my blog. It’s a bit embarrassing sometimes to see how many times I keep having to relearn some of the same lessons.
“For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. ‘Someday’ is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way.” ~Tim Ferriss (from The 4-Hour Workweek)
Obviously, I’ve already left my (full-time) job, so that one’s not an issue for me, but I still find I have plenty of other things that I’m continually waiting for the “right time” to do them. I am the queen of pro and con lists and can analyze decisions to death before I ever take action on anything. “Maybe someday” is probably one of my most overused phrases when it comes to following my dreams or doing the things I long to do.
“There are many pathways in this life and it doesn’t matter which one you take, for they all have a common destination, and that is the grave. But some paths give you energy and some take it away.” ~Cervantes
Several weeks ago in yoga class, we had a conversation about beliefs that we have that hold us back in making progress toward something we really want. I spent a lot of time the week before the conversation really digging into my beliefs and looking at the ones that hold me back (there were more of them than I like to admit), but there was one that for me was clearly the biggest culprit.
“There comes a time when you no longer seek to heal. You simply say, slightly limping sort of broken mostly good is good enough, and you get on with making love to the world. And the parts of the world that are okay with that, too, make love right back. It’s not picture postcard, but it sure as hell beats the hell you were in trying to fix everything” ~Robin Rice (from Robin Rice’s Be Who You Are)
I’ve been a perfectionist since I was knee-high to a grasshopper (as we used to say where I grew up). I’ve actually mellowed a great deal on this particular trait over the years, but I still frequently find that perfection is my goal even when I fully realize that it’s not a reasonable one.
Naturally, I bring that same perfectionist tendency to personal growth, healing, spiritual development. In fact, that may be the one area where I aim for (and expect) perfection more than any other. But you know, that’s not working all that well for me. And the older I get, the more practical I become. If something isn’t working, then it’s time for it to go.