You’ve been “working on yourself,” paying more attention to living an intentional, healthy, happy life.
Do you ever feel like now there’s a whole new set of things to judge yourself about?
I’m supposed to be all about soul, so now I feel like I’ve failed whenever I get lost in ego.
I’m working on being calmer, but I keep failing and getting caught up in stress.
If I were more spiritual, I’d feel more daily joy and gratitude. When I have those somber couch potato days, I feel like I’m falling short.
On the journey to greater wellbeing, we learn a lot of distinctions – like these:
Soul vs. ego
Ease vs. striving
Vulnerability vs. defensiveness
Love vs. fear
After all, we are learning about new territories within ourselves, and it’s helpful to have language for them. But – and here’s the problem – it’s easy for our ego-minds to take those distinctions and twist them into a mental reality that sounds like this:
“Being in soul, ease, vulnerability, love is ‘good.’ Being in ego, striving, defendedness, and fear is ‘bad.’ When I’m in the space of the good things, I’m doing good. I’m getting it right. I’m measuring up. When I’m in the space of the bad things, I’m bad. I’m falling short. I’m failing.”
Have you been there? Are you there now?
Earlier this week, I wrote a post about the benefits of identifying with soul and the challenges that come with identifying with ego. I believe in what I wrote there 100%. But this post is a necessary follow up- because I don’t want those ideas to become fodder for you to feel bad, or like a failure, when you are identified with ego.
That kind of thinking is just a new version of the ego’s endless asking/judging of “do I measure up?” But now the ego gets gnash you to pieces with this question in the sneakiest way: by smearing it all across your diligent, intimate work on yourself.
So the question is: how do we hold on to helpful distinctions like “ego” and “soul” without their becoming structures for self-criticism to hang itself on?
Here’s what I think: When we find ourselves acting out of the not-so-helpful modes (like striving, like defensiveness, like fear), we can respond not with judgment but with compassionate inquiry.
That sounds/feels like putting your hand to your heart or giving your shoulder a squeeze and saying, in a loving voice – aloud or silently: “Okay honey, what’s going on?” You become super curious, truly curious, about what little fears or wounds sent you into fear and ego-reactivity. And when you find them, you respond to them with compassion, love and reassurance.
Any time you are operating out of ego-reactivity, fear, striving, defensiveness, that’s not a call to self-judgment.
It’s a call for compassionate inquiry. It’s a sacred opportunity to learn what fears are lodged in you, and heal what needs healing in you.
In doing that, you grow, heal, and change yourself. But in a mysterious way that is hard to articulate, I also believe you raise our collective consciousness. Because one of the things humanity most needs to learn at this time is that fear is what causes us to do harm. When you come to know that by looking deeply into your own experience, you do your part in moving the collective into an understanding of the truth.
What’s one spiritual or emotional ideal you’ve been beating yourself up for not achieving? What will be different if you bring a, “Oh honey, what’s going on?” when it comes up – instead of a story about your own failure?