on being yourself cartwheel

On Being Yourself

On Being Yourself–you are exact­ly and only who you are–including what you dis­cov­er about yourself–the parts tucked away

Of Wayne’s many books, the one clos­est to today’s top­ic is: This End­less Moment

My first and most pop­u­lar book,

This End­less Moment.

Learn to live a full and sat­is­fy­ing life. 

Here’s a question I received from a reader:

… I’d be inter­est­ed in what you might have to say about per­son­al lim­i­ta­tions and fail­ure. How do we acknowl­edge and accept them in a pos­i­tive way? How do we act with­in our lim­its, yet reach beyond our grasp? There seems an inher­ent con­tra­dic­tion between “set­ting your mind on any­thing” and the real, uni­verse-giv­en lim­i­ta­tions that we are born with. What does fail­ure mean with respect to all of that?

First of all, peo­ple who think you can “set your mind on any­thing,” assume that there is equal­i­ty between per­sons. In oth­er words, that all per­sons are capa­ble of any­thing. That we’re all, at some cel­lu­lar lev­el, the same.

I’ll say more about this in a minute.

Ben Wong and Jock McK­een, in their excel­lent book, The NEW Man­u­al for Life, expand on Karen Hor­ney’s obser­va­tions, and sug­gest that the process of social­iza­tion caus­es us to repress that which is not accept­able to those in author­i­ty over us (orig­i­nal­ly, our parents.) 

We cre­ate a “polit­i­cal­ly cor­rect” per­sona, capa­ble of fit­ting in.

We also create (using Freud’s term) a superego, which Ben and Jock call the Ideal Self.

This part of us is nev­er sat­is­fied with who we are, and is like a relent­less “good cop/bad cop” drill sergeant. Our Ide­al Self urges us ever onward and upward, telling us that we can do any­thing, be any­thing; indeed, if we were a decent per­son, we would already be doing and being more. 

The set-up is that we can nev­er do and be every­thing our Ide­al Self wants us to be and do (it’s an ide­al, not a possibility). 

When we fail, we fall into self-hatred. The voice of this self-hatred is also pro­vid­ed by the super­ego, which now shifts to the “bad cop” side of the drill sergeant. “You always screw up. You’ll nev­er amount to anything.” 

And then, with a sly wink, the “good cop” appears. “Unless, you try hard­er. You can do any­thing, you know, if only you’d put your mind to it.” 

Miss­ing in this dia­logue with our Ide­al Self are 2 things:

  1. any sense of the here and now sat­is­fac­tion of sim­ply being alive, and
  2. any chance at hav­ing an authen­tic life.

Authen­tic­i­ty is a rare com­mod­i­ty these days. Authen­tic­i­ty comes from an acknowl­edge­ment and shar­ing of the total­i­ty of our being, not just the parts we were taught to favour. 

And part of that acknowl­edge­ment is that we are, to drag back in my first point–emphatically–not equal.

The harpies of political correctness will at this point either excoriate me or unsubscribe.

For the rest of you still read­ing, let’s do some think­ing. Right away, some of you are going to get what I’m say­ing, some are going to strug­gle, and some are not going to get it. That’s not about the point I’m making–that’s about how our brains work.

My point is not right, nor is it wrong. It is simply my opinion.

That you agree or dis­agree is about how you process the con­cept I’m pre­sent­ing. Some peo­ple will use log­ic to check it, oth­ers will apply morals (rights and wrongs) to their process of analy­sis, some will decide that my point is not even worth con­sid­er­ing… and oth­ers will do… whatever.

A simple demonstration, I contend, of the fact that our minds function differently, and therefore, are not equal.

It’s the same with phys­i­cal attrib­ut­es. I am my body, just as I am my mind, and all I have to work with is the body I have. 

There are things about my body that I can do some­thing about–my weight or strength, for example–and there are things I can’t do any­thing about–my height, for example. 

As an illus­tra­tion, Dar­bel­la and I are well matched in terms of endurance. We have pad­dled kayaks down treach­er­ous rivers and across lakes for 12 hours, then picked up our kayaks and packs and portaged them 5 km to get to home base. Yes, we were whacked, but there was no sense that we could­n’t do it, no fear of dying in the process. 

We’re more like plow hors­es than racehorses.

This is a characteristic of our physical selves. Some people have more endurance, some less. Not equal.

Same thing emo­tion­al­ly. Some peo­ple are gift­ed with a range of emo­tions, and the abil­i­ty to express them with­out blam­ing. Oth­ers are gift­ed with their enti­tle­ments and a list of whom to blame. Both are approach­es to the emo­tion­al life. 

Both, at some lev­el, “work.” They, how­ev­er, are not equal.

Polit­i­cal cor­rect­ness has caused these dif­fer­ences to be hot­ly denied: we give every­one “par­tic­i­pa­tion awards” that declare the show­ing up is the same as excelling. We are cau­tioned not to offer crit­i­cism of someone’s crap­py work, lest frag­ile egos be damaged.

This is silliness in the extreme. We forget that there is only one equality: each of us has the ability to know ourselves and fulfill our destinies (dharma) within the bounds of who we actually are (karma.)

Life is not about comparisons to others.

I am in deep trou­ble if I com­pare myself to oth­ers. If my base­line is to be as good as or bet­ter than Joe Blow, I will be caught in com­par­isons that are impos­si­ble. I can’t be like Joe, as we are not equal in intel­li­gence, wis­dom, or life-expe­ri­ence. To com­pare myself (or worse, to want or demand what Joe has) is the height of arro­gance and silli­ness and will lead nowhere I want to go.

This also means that I must (horrors!) take full responsibility for my choices, decisions and directions.

Just as there is no one to com­pare myself to, there is no one oth­er than me to blame for any choice I have ever made. I am where I am and I know what I know based sole­ly upon what I have cho­sen to learn, to absorb, to assim­i­late and to find with­in myself. 

So, to answer the ques­tion I was asked,

I am here to explore myself and to unearth the total­i­ty of who I am. 

My goal is to come into a place of accep­tance  —  accep­tance of my skill set (as it is, not as I wish it was) my abil­i­ties (as they are, not as I wish them to be) and my self (all of me, warts and all.) 

From this place of accep­tance, I will, as I choose to, push the bound­aries of what I know and who I am, learn­ing to include more and more of myself–more and more of the mate­r­i­al I blocked. 

I do this through dia­logue with peo­ple I respect, through study, through reflec­tion, through writ­ing, prac­tice and integration. 

I will, above all, keep my nose firm­ly plant­ed on my face and on my side of the fence, judg­ing my suc­cess­es and fail­ures (of which there will be an abun­dance  —  of both) on the only basis that has sig­nif­i­cance  —  by com­par­i­son to me. I do not suc­ceed when anoth­er fails, nor vice versa. 

I choose to be in dia­logue with a short list of oth­er explor­ers, and con­tin­ue to open myself to their sto­ries, their insights and their views, both of their lives and of their sense of me. 

In that process of open­heart­ed rev­e­la­tion, I con­tin­ue to allow myself to explore the depths of the only per­son I can ever know. Me. 

I know that my self-knowl­edge and con­tent­ment is in direct pro­por­tion to my hon­est self-explo­ration and self-accep­tance. No one, no thing, includ­ing life, owes me anything.

As in the Zen tale, tiger above me, tiger below me, I am cling­ing to a break­ing branch on the side of a moun­tain. In front of me, a straw­ber­ry. I take it, and I eat. Delicious!

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