Concepts like governments, laws, religions, or education or legal systems all create many ways for people to feel they are wrong. In the case of some religions you were even born wrong and your life is almost a form of apology where you try to make up for your failings to God. So we feel we owe God perfect behaviour, we feel we owe our parents and the system good grades, we feel like we owe it to society to obey laws—even the ones we don’t agree with.
Even the economy itself with its symbolic money means that you can now actually fail at just being alive. Born in Africa in a poverty-stricken war-torn country? Don’t have access to education or health care? Then too bad, you lose, because you won’t have the money to buy the food that you used to get for free from the Earth itself. But now someone invented the concept of ownership and then people needed guns to protect the things they owned and so now those fruits belong to someone else which means they don’t belong to you. A person somewhere else—someone with money—can eat it, but not the guy who picked it. That’s how silly our world is. We’ll actually let the picker die of starvation rather than let him eat. We’ll have the simple inexpensive medicines to save his life, but we won’t give them to him without the money.
Because modern life is loosely based on the rather undefined concept of progress, people will feel like they’re failing even if they’re standing still—because things like advertising or where they are on the bell curve at school will lead them to believe that everyone else is working harder than they are. So progress would be to work harder. And so modern life is set up around wants, which necessitates us starting from a position where we’re lacking, and effort or hard work will make up the difference between us and success.
So advertising or our church or our boss tells us we’re missing something and we need to earn the right to have it, and then we can check off the box that says we can stop beating ourselves up, (which in turn leads us into the habit of beating others up as well). Think about how much strife is caused by parents pushing for better grades and think of how incredibly seldom those grades mattered to the quality of life the person ends up leading. There is no relationship between external success and internal happiness, so why are we willing to sacrifice so much of the latter in an attempt to get the former?
So many people feel they are starting behind, and that where they are now can’t possibly be good enough. They tend to manage their lives based on avoiding the pain of failure rather than on cultivating a life that enables our natural satisfaction and appreciation to exist unfettered by thoughts about what’s missing or how we need more. Think about it. What if a God you totally believed in came down, proved his power to you, and then ordered you to be happy because he deemed you perfect. Hey! Good for you! Praise by God! Now what?
We don’t need to beat ourselves into doing a good job. If what we’re doing has any kind of value at all then capable, open people will always find a way to invest themselves in that work. People that work in the arts will try to make things that you like or enjoy or approve of or maybe hate. But the true artists among them will just be being themselves whether you like it or not. So there’s a career that at its zenith experiences no social pressure whatsoever. They can do like Klein and paint an entire canvass one shade of blue and still they can have happy lives and survive all the judgment. Because you’re not living a spiritual life if you’re conforming to what everyone else wants. You’re living a spiritual life when you realize with absolute certainty that even if there wasn’t a single rule in the universe, you would still be made of love and your pure self could act like nothing else.
It’s time to stop beating yourself up using your ability to think. You weren’t supposed to tell yourself stories where you’re the villain. Save thinking for remembering directions or traffic rules or something. But don’t apply it like you’re some kind of judge and jury to yourself. There was no crime here. There is nothing wrong with you other than the fact that you keep comparing your perfection to other people’s perfection. Your problem isn’t who you are. Your only problem is who you think you are. So stop all the chatter and just be instead. Because that would be just perfect. 😉
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.