I never knew what it was to be authentic.
I was never pressured to be anything. I felt blessed that my parents, unlike those of many of my friends, had not carved out a life-path for me by the age of three. I was never encouraged to study hard at school or join a sports team or dance class. And when I did join things and then got sick of them, it was always okay for me to quit.
However, somewhere in the do what you want, nothing really matters upbringing, I got sad. A deep inner force within me craved goals and rules and structure. Something in me desired to strive for this thing called perfection so desperately, that it became my parent: an illusive voice goading me to try harder—a voice that was not so gentle and not so kind.
I firmly believe we all have this harsh, critical voice, to varying degrees. This voice is called ego in many spiritual traditions. Ego is supposed to be the false or inauthentic self. The real self, or higher self, is loving, compassionate and perfectly imperfect.
In my own journey, I have found that the more I live from my real self, the more my false self roars and rages. This has been called the spiritual plight. We all face it on some level. And it can be overcome by surrendering to it instead of fighting it. This, I am realizing more and more on an every growing and deepening level.
My inner perfectionist (who keeps telling me perfection is real and that I’d better understand that if I’m going to be successful in this life), kept me from writing my column this past month. That inner parent that the child in me created, has kept me from manifesting my light and deepest, most heartfelt desires, so many times and in so many ways.
Today, I told that imaginary parent: “No!”
The moment I stopped listening to that voice, I became that teenager-turned-adult, realizing I have a lot of good juice to serve to the world and that voice doesn’t seem to get that. For some readers, perhaps the parents are not made up, they are real people in your lives, past or present—a teacher, family member, an older peer. A real, living and breathing human, who told you perfection was not made up—it was real and you weren’t going to attain it, so you might as well give up!
The false self is actually what is killing us by keeping us fighting our dreams, one doubt and inner criticism at a time. When we accept criticism, it’s like saying yes to wearing an old, heavy, outworn uniform—one that squelches our authenticity and the true expression of our inner light.
Saying “No!” to my made-up parent has actually become a daily ritual. It takes time to break patterns, especially ones that have been repeating for over 30 years!
The Key to Inner Freedom:
To break my habit of striving for the unattainable illusion of perfection, I have become transparent. Transparency is perhaps the boldest, baddest, ballsiest act one could do for their own personal growth. It involves being completely open and honest and authentic—with yourself! No, it’s not about doing it only in the presence of a therapist or best friend or lover—it’s about sitting yourself down for a heart to heart and telling yourself:
“it’s okay to be honest. I won’t abandon you. In fact, I can’t abandon you! You are my one true love. We came into this life together; we leave this life together. This is it, just you and I. So, what do you need to get off of your chest so we can enjoy this journey together?”
Becoming transparent was scary at first, but it has since become freeing. The ego is always telling us we are weak if we are vulnerable or insecure. In truth, we are human when we identify with the feelings we are experiencing in any given moment. We are more real and therefore living from that compassionate, grounded, honest and open place.
What does being transparent look like?
I was transparent when I admitted to myself today that I didn’t have to have some grand idea or topic to begin my writing process with. “Just write,” my heart said to me this morning. And now, I’m so glad I listened.
On the juicier, deeper and more enticing levels of transparency, we begin to uncover and honor the areas of unforgiveness in our minds and hearts. For years, I admit I’ve been holding onto resentment towards my daughter’s father. We ended our relationship almost four years ago now. We communicate about our daughter maybe once a week or so. For the past three years, I’ve dated and been in short-term relationships, but nothing has worked out. A recent epiphany happened when a relationship ended and I went spiraling inward for answers. My authentic self sat me down and asked me:
“Sarah, what are you holding onto from your past that needs to be forgiven and let go of?”
I needed a relationship coach to hold space for me while I dug around for the answer. It was surprisingly easy to admit to, once I felt safe letting it float up to the surface. My truth: I was still resentful and hurt by my daughter’s father and hadn’t allowed myself to honor those hurts just by expressing them openly—to myself. To share them with another human being was amazingly cathartic.
We need each other.
One of the joys of transparency is that it is ultimately the most freeing when we express it with others! To have your innermost skeletons brought to the light of a witness turns them into mere decorations in the closet of your mind. You feel free and joyful, mixed with a sense of grief for all that was lost and all that will be found in the healing process.
So, when I admitted that I was hurt, I opened the door to the healing of my own heart in personal relationship. I became one step closer to receiving the relationship I have sought for so long.
Forgive and then you can forget.
The most important piece of the transparency puzzle is forgiveness.
I am still working on this one. I was so delighted when the father our child agreed to work with the same relationship coach on his own, so that we could be in a good place to come together and listen openly and compassionately to each other. We are still in the process of healing these old wounds. The healing will be complete when we get together with the coach to openly share our hurts individually, actively listen and plainly apologize to each other for the hurts we each experienced. I am still waiting to see if my daughter’s father will agree to this. If he doesn’t, then my coach will hold space for me as I express and we will do it in a more meditative format.
The real life dialogue is not totally necessary for the forgiveness to occur, but to me, human to human contact helps. We are a tribal species. One thing we are here on this earth to learn is how to live in harmony with all beings—self included!
But, the most important person I need forgiveness from is myself. When it dawned on me that I was preventing healthy relationship and also holding onto resentments that were preventing healthy and open communication between both of my daughter’s families, my perfectionist parent got her verbal whip out to chastise me with.
Again, my inner teenager said, “No! This time I will not let you control me!” And so, she wept for the loss of something she is still coming into acceptance for—a loss that is allowing for something new and beautiful to be born.
Make self-forgiveness a daily practice.
I will never be perfect. Nor will you. What I will continue to nurture is my own authenticity. In that, I will fall and I will also get up again and brush myself off with a new gentleness and maybe a smile of forgiveness. There will be tears and there will be tantrums, but there will also be more joys and celebrations than I have known could exist in this life.
Every day, I wake up and go to bed saying “Thank you!” I think of all the things—people, places, and circumstances in my life that I have to be grateful for. This gratitude opens my heart and along with it, sends endorphins to my brain! Only when my heart is open am I ready to forgive—myself or others.
Here is my favorite forgiveness statement:
“I forgive you for any ways you have hurt others or yourself in the past. You were doing the best you knew how. I love you and support you. Today is a new day!”
Think about forgiving yourself. What statement would you write and repeat to yourself daily? If it is hard to write, imagine someone who loves you and supports you unconditionally in your life saying it to you. If you can’t think of someone, imagine someone you idolize saying it to you. Imagination works wonders! Remember my invisible parent—your brain doesn’t know the difference between real and fake, it only knows thought patterns and vibration.
Be your own cheerleader.
When those old, self-critical, perfectionist beliefs kick in, I remember to resort to mantra (affirmative statement) when I can. Some of my favorites:
I am enough.
I am doing my best.
There is no such thing as perfection. Where I am now is exactly where I’m meant to be.
Thank you! (This works in all situations and shifts our mindset to one of appreciation, which can change our perception of the current moment or our inner state).
What are some mantras you love? Let’s be transparent together! Help your sisters and brothers by commenting below with your own forgiveness statements and personal cheerleader mantras. By being open (transparent), you may just offer up something that could completely transform a reader’s life. Yes, it takes a village and sometimes a simple set of uplifting words is all we need to transform our perception of ourselves and even our own life!
And, dear reader, I appreciate you! You are enough in your perfect imperfection. Thank you for reading this. I am grateful for you!
Author: Sarah Lamb
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Image: Sarick Banana/Deviantart