Here’s how guilty and ashamed you’ve been made to feel: you now apologize for not working hard enough even when you’re working harder than you ever have. Everything from religion to school grades taught you to feel like a worthless failure, and the notion of penance and guilt motivate you to indirectly brag about your suffering.
When a friend of mine’s boss found out someone lower on the corporate totem pole had bought a car more expensive than his, he immediately set out—not to buy a car he either wanted or needed—but to buy one that was simply more expensive than his underling’s. And within a week he had done exactly that. That is not a free person. Not in the slightest. Likewise, where I live people will brag about the cold weather as though their suffering makes up for their guilt. They’ll exaggerate the temperatures, the durations, and the effects all as a way of saying, “yes world, I’m suffering too.” This is First World guilt over having it too good.
Two friends and I have grown up not with a goal to own this or that, or achieve this or that, or become this or that—but all three of us wanted to have a life filled with interesting experiences. Many of our very bright and caring friends told us we were being irresponsible. If I have to leave some job status on the table to get more free time and captivating work, then that’s an easy decision. One thing—impressing people—happens to other people not me. But the other thing–the time for fun and captivating work–is what’ll be going on in my consciousness.
Yes, sometimes life will need you to be busy. Using the example above, two of us are currently working very hard, but for very good reasons that we both feel good about. Sometimes life is like that. But it’s time to stop glorifying suffering. It’s time to start making being happy the cool, hip thing to do. It’s time to trade the tension and waste of energy that machismo is, and hug instead. It’s time to stop backstabbing and gossiping, and instead we should offer compassion and a helping hand.
Egos are busy. They are a mindless spinning activity. Your spirit is calm in its activity. Your spirit is mindful of all that it is experiencing. And it is doing that without the ego’s sense of judgment.
Stop talking about your busy-ness. Stop working harder to get more stuff you don’t need. Stop judging your life as not good enough. Stop apologizing for wanting to enjoy your own existence. You don’t owe the world anything. It just happens to be that cooperation works better for everyone. But you should pursue that cooperation selfishly, because it makes the experience of your life better.
Change your language. Change what you talk about. Rewire your brain–and collectively the culture’s brain–about where the value in society really is. Because if we think it’s in our wardrobe, hair, furniture, or the amount of time we suffer, then we are doomed. But if we see that we can succeed by relaxing, by needing less, then we truly become free of unnecessary suffering.
Be conscious of what you convey to the world. Be aware that your story is you. Live the person you would most like to be. All it takes is for you to make your decisions consciously.
Enjoy your day.
Following a childhood accident should have left him dead, Scott McPherson spent his life meditating on thought, consciousness, reality and the self. Seeing the emotional damage done by ego-based overthinking he began dedicating a part of his life to guiding students toward more peaceful and rewarding lives. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, Canada.