Ever feel like you're not living up to your own standards, hopes and expectations for yourself? Like you're letting your own self down in some (or many) ways?
If you find that you're "down" on yourself lately, consider this question: Why do you hold yourself to certain standards? Surely for the same reason that anyone does: you have an image of yourself as someone who is (or at least who should be) "good," "caring," "successful," "spiritually evolved," etc., etc. And when you catch yourself in actions that don't conform to the image you've set for yourself, you feel as if you've failed yourself.
The keyword in the last two sentences is the word "image." An image is just that: it's an image, which by definition is a mental representation, idea, or conception. What that means, in essence, is that it doesn't have permanence, reality or true substance, any more than any other thought does. And yet we imprison our own selves with standards and images for ourselves that we've taken on as "musts" from society at large.
No image can be consistently or permanently upheld by anyone. The person who appears "good" one day will, at least to some one or ones, appear to be "bad" another day. One who is "successful" and "spiritually evolved" one day is bound to appear "unsuccessful" and "spiritually immature" another day.
We all know that there's no such thing as a perfect or flawless person. But we like to imagine that we ourselves are very close to perfect and flawless. This is straight ego, that ego-sense that "I" am "special," I am "great," so all of my actions should support this image I have of myself. So when -- surprise! -- something happens to prove that we aren't, in fact, even close to conforming to our pre-held image, we often hate and berate ourselves for it.
If someone were to ask us point blank if we perceive ourselves as awesome at whatever we want to be seen as awesome for, we're usually realistic enough to realize we can't be "the best" at most things in life, and we would stutter out a humble answer. And yet ego tells us we can at least be pretty darn close to the best, if we just try enough. So we expect the highest standards from ourselves and we struggle to achieve them. We have to be a top rate mother, brother, son, aunt, employer, employee -- you name it.
This sets us up to become unhappy when we drop the ball and don't measure up. Likewise, we want others in our life to behave in a perfect and flawless way, especially toward us.
Isn't it time to free ourselves from the idea that we (and others in our lives) should be flawless beings? Rather than trying to hold yourself to a fixed image and fighting with the imperfections, allow them to be there. You don't have to be great, excellent, or even the best at anything to be 100% worthy. Just be you. Leave the super humanness to the super heroes.
Having ideals is generally looked upon not only as noble but also important. We're encouraged to cultivate and maintain hopes, dreams and ideals by which to guide our life and shape our future. If we're lacking in these, something is often thought to be lacking in us.
The ideals we pick up are many, from the small to the gigantic, and most of us carry a mixed bag of ideals with us throughout our lives, adding new ones along the way. These can vary from something as simple as doing our best in our daily life to something as major as actively working for world peace.
Worthy ideals, right? Well, actually... what makes you so sure? Have you ever examined your own ideals? If so, have you asked yourself if they truly serve you (and the world) -- more than merely serving a mental image you've attached to?
When we start to look within and pick apart the things that aren't really true or authentic about ourselves (i.e., the egoic self), it's actually a lot easier to spot and recognize the things we consider negative (anger, greed, jealousy, etc.) and let those go, than it is to spot and recognize the things we consider worthy and positive and let even those go.
We like to imagine that those "positive" things, like our spiritual beliefs, morals and ideals, for example, surely must be reflections of our authentic, non-egoic, self. But how can we be sure about this? Especially if we've never really looked at these or loosened our grip on them to see what would happen if we did?
Just like "negative" thoughts and outlooks eventually start to be seen and released as we go deeper into our authentic self, so also must "positive" thoughts and outlooks be willingly surrendered if we are truly sincere in our search for mental freedom.
This doesn't necessarily mean we will no longer be moved to promote world peace, if that's what we've been doing. It only means there must be a willingness to sacrifice even what we believe about world peace and our role in it, if we really want to know what is authentic and true for us beyond the beliefs and ideals we adopted from others and from society at large and took on as our own without even questioning.
The fact is that our ideals, no matter how loving, spiritual or world-saving, ultimately become our greatest limitations if we cling to them. They keep us trapped in our notions of what is true and important in life, instead of allowing us to open to what actually is true.
They keep us, even if very subtly, hoping, expecting and wanting things to be the way we envision they should be. And then we're no longer allowing in the true freedom that is free from any demands and expectations, no matter how subtle.
What if life doesn't match up with our ideals and never will?
What if all our ideals are just as false as our negative thought patterns? Can we accept this possibility?
How badly do we want truth? Enough to let go of not only our negative notions and beliefs, but also the positive ones that we hold so dear?
Are we willing to let go of everything?
Only when we are will we really, truly have eyes that are able to see what lies underneath all our notions, eyes that see things as they are without any filters blocking true seeing.
Just a gal experimenting with what it means to live outside of mind.
Read more about Notes to Self, the "manual" on living beyond mind.