It is quite certain this question has haunted many of us throughout our lives. As we walk through the minutes, hours months and years, we are bombarded by the constant internal naggings of
‘Am I good enough?’
‘Am I doing the right thing?’
‘Is this the right career?’
‘Is this the right relationship?’
Day in and day out they roll about our consciousness like molten, spikey, protagonists. Some of these doubts were handed to us by unwitting authority figures who may, or may not, have had our best interests at heart. We have been programmed with the idea of personal inadequacies at almost every juncture of our lives. Religion tells us we are broken sinners in need of saving; advertisers tell us we aren’t cool/popular/pretty/handsome unless we wear this product, drive this car or drink this beer. Of course, none of that is real and what we find out when we buy the product is we aren’t any happier, hipper, or beautiful than before. So, there must be something wrong with us because “look at all those people in the commercial?! They have all of those things.”
Platitudes and attitudes
Somehow, early on in life, I was cursed(?) with the awareness of the cyclical social maze in which we operate. I wish I could tell you that it made me immune to the trappings of consumerism and social stigmata but, of course, I am human after all. An idea came to me from my years practicing Soto Zen Buddhism
‘We hang curtains in prison to pretend it’s not a prison, but what we always forget is there never was a prison.’
Great. Just what we need, right? Another empty little aphorism to ‘help’ us on our way. I agree. Ideas like this haunted me because even if I knew there was no prison (did I?) why could I not stand up and walk away? There, my friends is the rub:
Pithy little sayings, platitudes, and motivational posters don’t tend to motivate us. If they did, we wouldn’t need them in the first place.
What they tended to do (at least for many people I know and me) is create ‘just one more thing’ we couldn’t get right in this life. This is where the ‘Not good enough’ syndrome comes in to play. When was the last time you blamed the spiffy little motivational quote for failing? Probably never, right? We blame ourselves for not achieving some oversimplified and sanitized ideal. Life is not simple, and we are highly complex beings trying to find our way around this, our time on life’s pitch.
Wrapping it up
I wish I could Give you some grand answer to this mess, but I can’t. Of course, I have my tools that occasionally work in my life, only because I picked them up out of the desperate need to salvage my sanity. I will leave you with this:
Simple knowledge of the program that our parents, teachers, religion, society, etc. installed isn’t enough to break the spell. We still must live in the world as it is. Change comes only to ourselves as we cannot expect the world to change because of our awareness. Breaking this spell almost broke me because it requires a brutally honest rending of all the things we identify as ‘self.’ We are none of those things, and yet, we are all of those things.
If you find the answer, you will gain the ability to swim in the water without getting wet