How concerned are you about what other people think? Some people worry about that a great deal. They are very concerned about things like social acceptance, whether others will like them, whether they are good enough – that sort of thing.
Of course, we all want to be liked, and certainly you don’t want to cause harm intentionally or to be blind to the consequences of your actions, but some people tiptoe through life ever fearful that they are going to “do it wrong” and get someone else upset. But as long as you are not being negligent, why can’t you give yourself some slack for your mistakes without feeling irresponsible or defective?
We’ve all done dumb things, and I’ll bet that if I told you about my mistakes, you’d be understanding and forgiving. But then, why can’t you forgive yourself? OK, you hurt someone’s feelings. No one likes to do that, but if it was unintentional or even perhaps insensitive, should that cast you out from human society into eternal damnation?
If you have done something wrong, own what you did, apologize, make amends and then move on! But we don’t do that do we? I have had clients who were still beating themselves up for things they had done in high school! What’s the big charge on our behavior? What makes our screw-ups cling to us like Super Glue?
Part of the phenomenon is cultural. Our conservative Puritan ancestors, like most fundamentalist religious groups, kept a very tight leash on the flock. All behavior was subject to criticism and condemnation. That was pretty much the Anglo-Protestant (the dominant culture’s) social norm until after the Fist World War. Although a lot has changed since then, some of that old judgmental influence still hangs around. But there is more going on than just social values.
Everyone has a dark aspect that lurks in their shadow. This part fears exposure because it has been hurt and it has a low self-esteem. It seeks to protect you by encouraging you to avoid potentially risky situations. And for some people, that includes avoiding just about everyone else!
This dark aspect jumps at the opportunity to expose flaws in your behavior so it can blow them out of proportion and hook you into your shame. It hopes the shame will make you to withdraw and avoid exposing yourself to further condemnation and criticism. This is not done from malice or cruelty. This aspect sincerely believes you are unworthy – after all, that’s what you have been taught! And it is trying to help you the only way it can to avoid further difficulty.
The conflict between you and your shadow tells us that you do not have a good internal compass. You have not been encouraged to find and live your own values, but rather have been obliged to navigate life through the reactions and approval of other people – a very risky and unreliable process! Thus your worthiness is defined by your behavior, not by who you are.
Humans are imperfect beings. We learn through our mistakes. Even the best people screw up! If all we see are our flubs, then we measure our lives by our learning difficulties rather than our accomplishments! Every flaw, every misstep becomes a black mark.
We must not let our problems determine our worthiness. Trust me, God does not care about the disruptions in your life (so long as we’re not intentionally hurting anyone). The only thing God cares about is what you do with the issues He/She sends your way. And He/She will keep sending them until you get it.
The conflicts in your life are here to teach you. If you are having difficulties, you are being unloving either to yourself or towards another. Otherwise you would only be having a problem, not a conflict! This issue has been created to bring your beliefs to your attention so that you can make changes. Ducking the issue only means that it will be brought up again, but with greater intensity in order to break through your resistance.
As painful as they may be, YOU NEED YOUR LESSONS! The trick, the key, is to learn from each situation, make changes AND THEN LET THEM GO! You see, it isn’t the events, but rather the beliefs you carry from them that matters.
Think about a recent difficult encounter you have had. Where did you shut down your love? If your heart had been open, there would have been no strife, just a problem to resolve. So yes, there was something for you to learn there.
And if you went into the situation already feeling inept or unworthy, you could have had a grand time crucifying yourself afterwards for being stupid or inept. So maybe you did screw up, but you aren’t a screw-up. I want to be clear, I am not trying to excuse thoughtless behavior, but I learned long ago that in life there is only love or the longing for it. There is nothing else. Life is just helping you work through your issues.
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