For anyone who's ever felt shame or regret about any mental or physical attribute they possess, or any action they have committed, as if this attribute or action gives them a mantle of "failure" or "mistake" that is difficult to let go of, I advise reminding yourself of these five things every day:
1. My family loves me. The fact that I still connect with my family regularly does not make me a failure or a mistake. The amount of time I spend with my family should not measure how capable or incapable I am to take care of myself. Connecting with them, and asking for their help, does not mean I can't function in society. The family I grew up in is there to teach me everything, but doesn't deserve to be completely erased once I feel that they have fulfilled that purpose, however restless I am to get out into the world.
2. It's okay to feel negative emotions as long as they don't prompt hurtful actions. People and circumstance will push a lot of negative emotions towards me. Negative emotions are a part of life, they're okay to feel, and the fact that I feel them, however maddeningly, does not tarnish the kind and gentle person that I want to be. What will tarnish the kind and gentle person that I want to be is if I act on these negative emotions, or channel them into actions that hurt others. I must stop telling myself that I must rid myself of negative emotions in order to eradicate my chance at committing hurtful actions. I'll never rid myself of negative emotions. It's impossible. But I'm not a failure or a mistake because of that. No person will ever completely rid themselves of negative emotions, and even so, I must learn the difficult task of pressing myself to believe that the way to ensure that I do not commit hurtful actions is NOT to completely avert my negative emotions and/or the circumstantial factors causing them.
3. Happiness is a fickle feeling, not a life goal. Happiness is not something I'll wake up one day and irrevocably have. As I said, no person will ever completely rid themselves of negative emotions. Happiness - as much as negative emotions - comes and goes, and I need to recognize that. When I feel happy, I must be careful and recognize this happiness as temporary. People pursue happiness, but the purpose of a person's life is not to obtain a static state of happiness that will qualify them as socially functional, accepted, belonging, and welcome. Such a static state does not exist, and pursuing what does not exist will be a waste of my life.
4. There's no rescuer except myself. Many people who struggle with shame or regret over their physical/mental attributes, or particularly dishonorable actions they have committed, will hope that some external person will "rescue" them by seeing the worth and goodness in them that they believe no one else sees. But why do they believe no one else sees it? Because they don't see it themselves. Nobody's going to walk into my life and invite me into a world where my static happiness is guaranteed and I am free from shame or regret over who I am - nobody, that is, except myself. The ideal utopian world of acceptance and fulfillment only seems to be something I have not yet obtained - because I am waiting on other people to verify my belonging before I can look at myself and say that I belong. That's wrong. In truth, what I long for is something I have always had, and that I will never lose, as long as I keep telling myself that I am in no way a failure or a mistake, that I am loved, and that I belong.
5. The only true measure of my worth is how I treat other people. I can wish for artistic success or other career success, and I can wish for others to accept me and open up opportunities for me to showcase my skills and/or achieve more widespread acceptance, but those things don't measure my worth as a person. Getting a job or being able to move out of my house and get a place of my own may be impressive, but these things don't measure my worth as a person. Whether I am in a familiar setting wishing for something more, or in an interesting setting out of my most idealistic dreams, the only measure of my quality as a person is the way I treat other people. Therefore, in my brain, I must sever the correlation between my circumstances and my worth. As I said, no one's immune from misfortune, and no one can ever achieve immunity from misfortune. If I want to truly be a person of quality, and not just have to tell myself that I am that to feel better about myself, I will treat other people with dignity and respect. All people deserve my dignity and respect - myself first of all.
So, to anyone who's struggling with the same things I am:
- Remember that your family loves you and that it's no insult to your self functionality or capability to need their help.
- No one's immune from feeling negative emotions. They are not wrong to feel, and you don't have to quell your negative emotions to prevent yourself from channeling them into actions that hurt others.
- Happiness will come and go. You'll never achieve an idealized state of static happiness, and trying to obtain this nonexistent state is a waste of time and life.
- No one's going to enter your life to convince you that you belong and that you are not broken. Only you can do that, and you don't have to wait for anything to happen on the outside to do that.
- Self-sufficience and career achievement don't measure your worth or your functionality. It is the way in which you treat other people that does.
Remind yourself of these things every day, and you'll realize that you ARE loved, you ARE accepted, and you DO belong - and YOU don't need anything or anyone except YOU to realize this!
Thank you, Leo, for sharing your thoughtful and wise perspective on this topic. It's encouraging to think about in the manner you suggest, especially because you've narrowed it down to five major points.ReplyDelete