I was catching up with my friend Kim recently and our conversation hit me like a ton of bricks - or should I say “books”?
She is a huge reader, and regularly consumes a heavy dose of self-help books. One day though, as she reflected on the fact that her oldest would be soon be going off to college and her youngest would be entering her final year of high school, she had an epiphany.
She was going to put her projects on hold, including “project self-help” and live fully over the next 18 months soaking in as much quality time with her kids as she possibly could, and that included returning a whole stack of self-help books to the library.
For me - a lightbulb went on!
You see…I’ve spent several years deeply exploring myself – a quest of sorts. It’s been quite a journey of discovery full of learnings, one being that I often neglect my own needs and desires, subjugating them to serving and satisfying others.
In placing myself last, I’d found myself feeling resentment, even anger, and then I’d feel bad about myself.
As I became more aware of my behavior, I would intentionally pause and make choices that better served me, yet it was a cycle that would repeat itself over-and-over again, and I became increasingly annoyed with myself. After all – I knew better.
So, I sought help, mostly with a chronic flow of self-help books. In fact, I’ve read only one work of fiction in the past 5 years – and probably longer than that. It was a book I thoroughly enjoyed (A Man Called Ov by Fredrik Backman), and yet I couldn’t (better stated – wouldn’t) “make time” for books that were purely for pleasure. Somehow, that time needed to be spent fixing my broken self.
There was so much to fix, I’d find myself overwhelmed, listening to an inner dialogue of dueling selves arguing over which book I should read first. And so, the pile grew, and many went unread.
While those I read almost always cast some light, I’d still hear a nagging voice of “not good enough” and feel anxious about moving on to the next crack that needed repair.
In that conversation with Kim, it suddenly hit me:
"It’s as if we’ve labeled ourselves as “broken” and in doing so, we continue to be so."
Our pervasive sense that we’re not good enough leads us to continue to be not good enough. And that was robbing me of a true sense of joy.
After talking to Kim, I reflected later that day as I looked out the window at birds chirping and enjoying a glimmer of sunshine in a seemingly never-ending winter. What would I say to a friend, a loved one or a client that I needed to tell myself?
“I am not broken. I am perfectly imperfect.”
Kim inspired me to follow her lead. I returned my stack of self-help books too.
And I know I’ll pick up another – and soon - but it will be not in the spirit of fixing the broken, but rather in the spirit of polishing a beautiful gem.
Wishing you well,
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