First, consider this. Just by you being willing to ask the question, you’ve started on your path to clear this up for yourself. Here’s truth. Much of the time, wisdom lies in asking the relevant question more than in the answer itself. So, good for you! You’ve already taken a big step into your next chapter just by pausing to look at a sequence you’d like to change.
Our field can get pretty competitive. For instance, the studying and huge commitment it takes to be in a specialty is a serious pledge. It really is interesting how something like comparing oneself to others can either propel you forward, motivating you to advance, or keep you stuck in place, driving your self-respect down.
Do your accomplishments not fill you up for long? Or, do they not fill you up at all? I used to joke that my standards were so high even I couldn’t live up to them. In time, I realized I had a pattern and it was neither funny nor healthy for me. I couldn’t find my joy. I couldn’t live up to my definition of perfect because it was impossible to do. I was giving my power away. What is your definition of perfect? Is that perfection even achievable?
My introspection led me on a little adventure to get to know the authentic and honest me. What I’ve found is in each stage in life, I’ve been a slightly different version of myself. It’s a self-check, kind of like a tune up on a car. This has been really beneficial. If you take time to self-reflect, do you find you are changing with age, with circumstances? Are you growing? And, how have your needs changed? Every so often I get growing pains and set out to find a teacher who I resonate with and who helps guide me. Some have a common thread—the thread of compassion for self. This is so hard for many of us. Sometimes we give all the compassion to others and we don’t know how to give it to ourselves. And, total confession, I’m a work in progress!
There are some great teachers who give me tools to make it easier to tell those shadow voices they aren’t welcome anymore. One of them is Dr. Brené Brown. She takes this whole discussion to another level. She’s gone the extra mile, and she’s got a great story. Brown says in her book, ‘The Power of Vulnerability’, “By comparing ourselves to others, we are exposing ourselves to experiencing shame. Shame arises from a lack of self-esteem, and it undermines us.”
Pema Chodron has some wonderful material over decades of her life’s work teaching the strengths of befriending oneself. In her book, ‘How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends with your Mind’, Chodron says, “Unconditional friendship with yourself has the same flavor as the deep friendships you have with others. You know yourself but you’re kind to yourself. You even love yourself when you think you’ve blown it once again. It is only through unconditional friendship with yourself that your issues will budge. Repressing your tendencies, shaming yourself, calling yourself bad — these will never help you realize transformation.”
I hope for you, as for me, the insights into this sometimes complex and sometimes simple pattern will be a window that will let in the fresh air and allow you to breathe.