I used to be very strict with myself. Like a stern teacher or parent, I would always reprimand myself for what I wasn't, what I did wrong, what wasn't correct. I would shout and scream and throw internalised tantrums, or sigh with melancholy and despair at my failings. I was trying hard to stay within the mental picture I had of my life. Of how I should be acting, talking, moving, dressing. Whenever I felt like I had messed up, stepped out of line, or said or done the wrong thing, I would experience a storm of self-judgment, self-hatred, self-destruction. Sometimes loud and clear, sometimes subtle and manipulative, from the angry "There, you see, you've done it again" to the sad "You'll never change, that's just who you are".
What we may not realise is that these voices are not our own. In fact, they aren't even the truth, even though they feel very real. They are the voices of conformity: of other's fears, anger and stories that we have wilfully picked up and made our own. Voices whose sole purpose are to keep us small, keep us contained, keep us trapped. In order to keep us safe, to keep us secure, and to keep us from messing up and making mistakes.
Why? Because by doing so, we run the risk of discovering our own power. You see, that is the real fear we hold within: the fear of our own expansive and creative nature. As Marianne Williamson expresses "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us."
And so we create an idealised version of reality, of what we should be like, look like, act like, dress like, speak like. An idealised version of our lives, reinforced with unhealthy doses of TV adverts, Hollywood smiles and Photoshopped covers. We then trick ourselves into fitting into this mould we have created for ourselves, using every con in the book. We charm, we manipulate, we control. We hide, we fake, we overcompensate. We disengage, we disconnect. We dive deeper into our own lies, our own deceits. We become masters at hiding ourselves, behind our stories of anger, fear and sadness, which eventually rule our lives.
The moment we recognise this, we find our freedom. Freedom from the voices within. Freedom from our own thoughts and feelings. Freedom from the fairytale of our lives we compare ourselves to. Freedom from the need to get it right, to be perfect, to avoid making mistakes, being vulnerable, being human.
Finding this freedom is not an easy feat. It takes practice, courage, understanding. It takes commitment to finding the truth. You must let go of your old stories. You must choose to distance yourself from your thoughts, feelings and behaviours, even the most addictive ones. You must find a higher and more heartfelt perspective. As Alberto Villoldo says, "The practice of truth requires vigilance, honesty, and acceptance of ourselves and others. When we are not mindful, we are sleep-walking; when we are, we notice when something isn't sitting right with us, which opens us up to ask the question, "Why am I so uncomfortable?" "What thought is making me unhappy?" and "What unsettling feeling am I experiencing?"
By accepting our voices as they are, without resistance, over time we can choose to re-align their focus. Instead of believing them and submitting to their every whim, we can remind ourselves of who we really are, with compassion and gentleness. We can thank them for their input, let them know that they are heard, then focus our energy on living from our heart and soul. Whenever our actions are out of alignment with what we want, we can gently remind ourselves that that is not who we are, then imagine ourselves acting the way we would love to.
A recent example happened to me just last night: as I arrived home, holding my bike in one hand, I realised that I had left my keys in my bag, and so needed to put my bike and bag down to access then. In an instant, my body tensed up with internal rage, and a voice screamed in my ear: "You see, you did it AGAIN, you didn't plan ahead, you loser!". As soon as I recognised it, I breathed, acknowledged it wasn't my truth ("That angry voice is not my true voice"), then gently re-aligned my focus ("Next time, I will accept my mistakes"). I even took it one step further, and planted a seed for change: "Next time, I will also remember to put my keys into my pocket". Later, In hindsight, I contemplated what the purpose of that voice was. In this case, it was the angry internalised voice of perfection, driven by a deeper fear of the unknown.
Maybe by committing ourselves to this subtle yet effective way to transform our inner world, we can start to let go of our stories of anger, fear and sadness - and replace them with excerpts of our truth, our love and our will.
Maybe by doing so we can choose to bring more awareness to the light and completeness of our beings, instead of our darkness and our perceived incompleteness.
And maybe then, we can allow the stern teachers within us to open up to their human, creative, infinite nature.
Love & Health,