I’ve heard through my various life experiences and study that always searching for happiness and self-improvement can take away from appreciating what you’ve accomplished or distract you from the happiness and joy that you’ve already achieved. And yet I don’t think being driven and wanting to learn, grow, and improve is a bad thing.
I, like many others, grew up in a hyper religious (Mormon/LDS) and fairly toxic home where through culture and behavior I was indirectly taught that I wasn’t good enough. There was always this weird phenomena that even though God’s love was supposedly unconditional, it had to be earned. Near perfection was required to deserve it. I’ve come to believe that this tainted my perceptions and beliefs about growth. I always say I want to do my best and keep being a better person every day. Sounds like a pretty good way to live overall but I never stopped to observe why. Where did that belief come from? Additionally, is it constantly making me reach for things that are outside of myself and am I consistently dissatisfied with my progress because I’m not yet “where I want to be”?
Recently, a friend courageously posted a photo of herself that she was overly critical of, stating “flaws” are natural. Prompted by that post, I started thinking about imperfections, flaws, and why I/we tend to try to hide them.
I really like to journal a lot about how I feel. I developed the habit partially because I was told God wanted me to journal. Mormons are obsessed with record keeping and fancy themselves above other cultures and religions. So I guess that means all our experiences should be recorded? idk. In any case that was probably one of the most positive things I gained from the culture as it always gave me a voice to myself and a way to connect with the deepest parts of me.
So as I began considering thoughts on imperfections, flaws, and my own vast insecurities, I realized I don’t feel generally bad about myself most of the time like I used to. However I still don’t feel great about myself and I’m constantly fixated on BEING BETTER. It gets pretty exhausting if I’m being honest. So I asked myself, is there a reason that I STILL don’t believe fully that I’m good enough and worthy of love? There’s so much in media and so many people in this industry that I perceive as SO good at knowing their worth. And I feel like I’m still learning that. Maybe that’s everybody and we all just put the perception out there to help convince ourselves as well as other people. I don’t know. In any case I really wanted to dig deep and get to that next level.
Thankfully, as my pen furiously scratched across the page, it hit me. It was all the “God” stuff. I’ve dealt with my parental issues and beliefs that come from being a perfectionistic highly intelligent child raised with unrealistic expectations. I know what those look like and have, for the most part, overcome them. But I didn’t realize that there was another layer deeper down that said I constantly have to be working hard on growing to be worthy of love from “God”. I don’t believe in the christian god anymore per se. I’m more universe, poly-theistic kinda woo-woo? Basically I believe in intelligent energies/beings grander than myself. Agnostic is probably the closest term. But many times I struggle to feel myself connecting with anything. Of course my dear atheists reading this will say no duh, because there’s nothing out there. Well I may, in fact, be mildly delusional due to indoctrination, but in my perception I HAVE felt many things in the past that indicate intelligent energy streams flowing through the universe and personally I think it’s more scientific than we have evidence for yet. But I digress.
Regardless of my current beliefs and feelings, my past beliefs and what I was taught about God through culture, example and scripture, taught me that you have to earn eternal unconditional love. Which doesn’t make sense. Like. At all. I think for many religious people that paradox gets translated to “well as long as I work hard every day to be a better person, “grace” will make up the rest that I won’t ever get to accomplish”.
That belief was still sticking like a scratched CD in my subconscious even though I view the world and the universe much, much differently now.
I don’t like that belief and I don’t think that it is healthy. Logically and in some parts of my heart and mind I know that I have inherent worth, that I don’t need to earn love or life from myself, others, or the universe. But that deeper belief was conflicting with my ability to integrate that inherent higher worth knowledge.
So as I was writing, trying to untangle the conflict inside me, a re-frame became evident.
Trees and plants don’t continue to grow because they’re trying to be anything. It’s their nature. Literally haha. Similarly the universe doesn’t grow and expand because it’s trying to get big enough or go somewhere. The universe expands because it exists to do so. It just is what it is. So if I reframe my desire for growth from being a competition with myself and others to be good enough, and instead think of it like the universe eternally expanding and contracting… it makes a lot more sense. Whatever my piece in it all, gods or no gods, energies or no energies, it is within my nature as part of the universe to grow and expand. And I’ll do it at my own pace because I am a unique individual that the universe either pooped out or created intelligently. If I can just accept my nature within that existence and roll with it, I can grow in a much healthier, happier, and satisfied place without having unrealistic expectations of myself.
This will and has already begun to allow me to experience desire in a completely new way. I can look at my goals and dreams in such a way that I know that I can accomplish them step by step rather than getting overwhelmed and upset that I’m not already there. I can’t even begin to describe the difference that makes for me. As someone who is what they call “Nuerodivergent” I struggle with figuring the step by step out anyway, add the I’m not good enough until I’m already there, and even doing simple things feels impossible and almost not even worth it. I’ve come a LONG way in that regard over the past few years but this revelation really has gotten me to the next step. I can now be excited about all the fun possibilities life has to offer rather than being stressed about getting there. And best of all it allows me to enjoy the journey of it all much more thoroughly.