Often the spiritual search starts out as a way to avoid suffering—a way to escape or solve what is happening in our lives.
It’s ironic that what happens is that eventually we see there is no escape from our fears and they must be faced. Yet, through the act of facing them, they are transformed and seen to be the very things that baptize us into the realization of our true identity…as love itself.
To survive intact in our families and in our culture we all take on masks to one degree or another. We learn to be false, mistaking the mask to be our true identity. Eventually the mask becomes too painful and we start searching for ways to relieve the pain, realizing that the true relief comes from seeing the mask and removing it.
The mask dissolves as we appreciate what it accomplished for us—survival.
The mask for me was the mask of the “good girl” who was polite, cheerful, ready to please, and did not have any needs of her own. As a child, I learned that wearing this mask was a way of maintaining peace and normality in my family. It was how I survived, always striving to be better and to be the mediator. This striving, this muscular approach to life had shaped my life force so fundamentally that I didn’t even know that there was another way to live until I became completely exhausted by it. I eventually discovered that this survival mechanism became crystallized into an identity, greatly limiting my experience of life.
I used to have the feeling that I needed to prove my worth, which came from feeling invisible as a child, feeling like an object, a doll, used only to help others. Unless acting as a mirror for other people, I felt like I didn’t exist.
Survival mechanisms are all subjective based on our family of origin and culture. As children, we needed the big people to survive and had to play by their rules. But as adults, we can look at the masks we’ve identified with and dismantle them. We can become real, not just as the opposite of false, but in a more radical way—real in the sense of original, unique and one of a kind.
Real in the sense of embodying the gold of our being.
Real as in sovereign and whole.
Real as in overflowing.
Real in the sense of effortlessly being the unique articulation of the Divine that we are, not by striving, but by our simple beingness.
I used to believe that being “enough” was due to hard work; thus the incessant striving.
Striving helped me achieve much in my life, yet it reinforced the belief that I was not OK as I was, as my original true self. I’ve learned to prayerfully thank the mode of striving for how it has served me and let it go, putting it in the toolbox as one of many tools, but no longer the main lens through which I view life.
Life becomes enough when we know ourselves as enough.
For years, I mourned the situations that caused me to put the mask on in the first place, allowing all the feelings of anger, rage, grief, sadness, etc. I had to acknowledge all the ways that I felt unloved and unseen. It seemed like a long, long road of grieving with no end in sight. Yet, this very process of grieving led to a very ordinary, anti-climactic realization—the realization that I am enough. It sounds so simple, and it is. And yet, so profound.
This feeling of “enough” has a real physical component to it. It’s a different way of being in my body—more fully, more enthusiastically. It’s the freedom to be ordinary. The momentum of striving to prove myself seems to have burned itself out. It’s like someone turned off a loud engine that I didn’t know had been running.
It’s a paradox that we realize “enough” by mourning “not enough” all the way through.
Becoming real has been about embracing all the things I learned long ago to despise in myself—being messy, making mistakes, having needs, etc. These are the very things that make me human and imperfect. It has been through really loving them that I became enough in my own eyes. Now that I know that I am enough, I am able to see others as enough, this moment as enough.
Perfection is one of those oppressive concepts that we are taught we must conform to in order to be loved. Yet, perfection is anti-life. It’s a concept; it isn’t real.
“Enough” is so beautiful—beautiful because it is real.
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Ed: Brianna Bemel