“You can’t improve the things you love if you never allow them to be imperfect.” ~David McRaney
Here’s the thing: You have no angel wings; you have no halo; your heart is not made of gold; you have no holier-than-thou faultlessness that makes you better than everyone else; you are not perfect. You are equipped only with a clumsy body, a magnificent brain, and a finite heart that beats a-patter against an unquenchable infinity. The good news is: this is all you need. The bad news is: it may not be enough. And that’s “perfectly” okay.
You’re the stumbling personification of imperfection, at best. But so what? That’s where the juicy stuff is anyway. We need to dive into the deep end of being a flawed human in order to get to the succulent mess that can make us awesome, despite our inadequacies. The sooner we embrace our fallibility, the sooner we get through all that “perfection” crap, the sooner we can get to the imperfect gold that lies at the heart of being unique.
Underneath all our defective layers, our holdouts, our thrashing about, our tossing and turning through a less-than-ideal life, lies something magnificent and breathtaking: reality the way it actually is without all the gimmicks, the get-rich/happy-quick schemes, or the self-help shenanigans. Getting real is escaping the Matrix and facing the down-to-earth, nitty-gritty, all-too-painful Desert of the Real. It’s digging down deep into the guts of our flawed self and cutting through the red tape of perfection with the razor-sharp edge of our authenticity. It’s taking all the insincere bullshit and tossing it onto the compost heap so that it can fertilize the Desert of the Real and produce the tangible fruit of authentic courage.
1. All Things in Moderation, to Include Self-Improvement
“Books like The Secret act as life preservers for people who are in such a dark and miserable place that they feel as though they’re constantly drowning. But the point of a life preserver is to keep you afloat. Eventually you have to learn to swim for shore yourself.” ~Mark Manson
Here’s a little secret: The Secret is not so secret. The secret of The Secret is that it is a gross and insincere placation. It’s a deliberate exploitation of people’s hopes and desires. It blatantly encourages us to focus on things we can’t control, while inadvertently distracting us from the things we can. It works to the extent that self-affirmations work, but not much past that. Eventually real work is involved, and even then, even after plowing through life fueled with the blood, sweat, and tears of our sincere effort, even then, it may not be enough. Even then, life/fate/destiny/God may deal us a hand of poker that has no chance of winning. Indeed, even with life preservers like The Secret keeping us afloat, and having swam our little hearts out, we could still drown if we can’t find land, or we’re attacked by a shark, or God’s tempestuous heart decides to blow a tempest right over our sincere effort to survive, let alone succeed.
Moderation in all things is the key. Self-improvement is admirable, but so is self-deprecation. Moderating self-improvement is embracing humility, it’s engaging with our fallibility and getting in touch with being an imperfect being. And the best way to do that is with a good sense of humor. Hence the self-deprecation. I would even go as far as to say that self-deprecation is more honorable than self-improvement. Like Mahatma Gandhi said, “Humility is as much the opposite of self-abasement as it is of self-exaltation. To be humble is not to make comparisons. It is in this sense that humility is absolute self-effacement.”
2. Bend Your Goals to Fit Reality
“In the end, you’ll have more respect for the times you kept trucking through a meltdown than the times you were confidently cruising along because everything was going your way.” ~Michael Bennett, MD, F*ck Feelings
Since birth we’ve been subject to happily-ever-after scenarios and cursed with being successful at all costs. But real life is more like a series of crossroads than a yellow-brick road. There are way more in-betweens and messy-middles and rickety-bridges than there are white picket fences, knights in shining armor, or happily-ever-afters. Our fucked-up-ness sometimes gets the upper-hand on our successfulness. Usually things don’t work out the way we planned them. And that’s okay. Life is less about getting what you want and more about making the best of what you get. You want to get real? You want to be authentic? Then swallow the jagged little pill of disappointment, learn from it, and then transform it into information that can help you out with the way reality actually is, as opposed to how you’d like it to be.
We are never as interesting as when we’re dancing a jig between our notions of perfection and imperfection. You are both love and light and passionate darkness. You are a wholly integrated yin-yang going through the motions of intermittent chaos and order. The journey is truly the thing when we allow our goals to be flexible potentialities rather than rigid objectives. The journey is truly the thing when we’re not married to a particular fixed state. So kick up some dust. Blur the mirror. Accept that you are never going to be perfect, while at the same time striving to be the most balanced version of yourself possible. If you fail, so what. At the end of the day there’s always a shot-glass of don’t-take-yourself-too-seriously followed by a chaser of a-good-sense-of-humor. Wash it all down with a smile.
3. Don’t Let Your Feelings Boss You Around
“Either you eat-up yourself, and others around you, trying for perfection; or you objectify that imperfection in a work, on which you then unleash your own creative powers. In this sense, some kind of objective creativity is the only answer man has to the problem of life.” ~Ernest Becker
Keep your emotions to yourself. Embrace them, reconcile them, square the circle of emotional alchemy if you can, but don’t put it on your sleeve until you’re ready to be both vulnerable and reasonable with its energy. Being reasonable is allowing your emotions to filter through that magnificent brain in your head, to give yourself time to think things through. Being imperfect does not come without being responsible. In fact, we need to be more responsible precisely because we are imperfect. We are responsible for our own emotions. Nobody else. Otherwise we are constantly playing the victim. Others may be the cause of our emotion, but we are responsible for how our emotions affect us and how we are going to react.
Then again, screw it! There are times when putting your heart on your sleeve before you’ve thought things through is the thing to do. Sometimes there’s just not enough time to “properly” or “reasonably” react. Sometimes you just have to say, “fuck being patient and waiting for the “perfect” response.” Sometimes your shadow needs the floor. In short, fuck feelings. Feelings are overrated anyway. Get out of your own way. Stop allowing your feelings or the feelings of others boss you around. Stop sugar-coating bullshit. Sentimentality be damned. You’re not perfect and neither is the world. It’s high time we come to grips with that absolute fact. The sooner we can, the sooner we’ll become the boss of our own feelings, and the sooner we’ll be able to make reasonable decisions despite the unreasonable actions of others or the unexpected changes that fate throws at us. Responsibility is the key.
4. Belief is Overrated, Including Self-Belief
“You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.” ~Amy Bloom
Being human isn’t easy. Mainly because we’re not perfect and most of our beliefs are based on pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking. Then again, one of the reasons we were able to evolve as a species, within such a hostile environment as the universe, was by forming beliefs that have historically unified us and helped us get through unforgiving environments, regardless of how ridiculous they were.
Through millions of years of trial and error we’ve discovered that most of those beliefs were downright silly, despite their psychological/sociological advantages. So is there any reason why we should think our current beliefs may be any less silly? Maybe there is. Maybe there isn’t. But just in case they do happen to be (end up being) ridiculous, we can at least try not to take our beliefs so seriously that we’re bombing each other in whatever “God’s” name may currently be in vogue.
Not taking our beliefs too seriously is directly proportional to not taking ourselves too seriously, especially since we humans tend to become emotionally invested in our beliefs. A good strategy to have toward any of our beliefs is to understand from the get-go that beliefs are historically, if not actually, overrated. Even our belief in ourselves is overrated. Even with the best training, the highest self-esteem, and the greatest health, we can still falter. And just because our self-worth is high today doesn’t mean it will be high tomorrow. Self-doubt is just as important as self-belief. Both are overrated precisely because of the other. Balance is the key, especially in thorny briar patches like belief systems. Go ahead and believe in yourself, just remember that your flaws and fallibilities are part of the package.
5. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
“The thing that is really hard and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” ~ Anna Quindlen
The juggernaut of all obstacles toward the goal of getting real, and being truly authentic, is the way we think others perceive us. The way we think they think we think, is the ultimate hindrance to thinking clearly. That’s because, first and foremost, we are social creatures. We’re like psychosocial mirrors for each other. We can’t help but care about what others think about us because sometimes our very survival is on the line.
The key, I think, is to care about what people think, but only to the extent that our survival is on the line. Otherwise, let that shit go. Other people’s opinions can be helpful or harmful, and everything in between, but the only opinion we are responsible for is our own. Take their opinion into consideration, then move on smartly with your own opinion, while at the same time remembering not to take your opinion too seriously.
You want to get real? You want to get out of your own way? Then get down to brass tacks. Accept what/why/where/who you are right now, in this moment, regardless of how it compares to other people, and then focus on your health –mind, body, and soul– without getting hung up on perfection. The longing to be perfect is a perpetual anxiety. Choose acceptance over anxiety. Accepting the way things actually are –despite beliefs, feelings, goals, self-improvement, or the opinion of others– opens up doors to perception that, in the time before, could not be seen. Acceptance liberates the soul. And even if it doesn’t, at least you’re dealing with reality as it stands, in the here-and-now, instead of tripping over whiney, woe-is-me, should-a, would-a, could-a’s.
As Eckhart Tolle profoundly said:
“Give up defining yourself, to yourself or to others. You won’t die. You will come to life. And don’t be concerned with how others define you. When they define you, they are limiting themselves, so it’s their problem. Whenever you interact with people, don’t be there primarily as a function or a role, but as the field of conscious presence. You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.”
Read more articles from Gary ‘Z’ McGee.
About the Author
Gary ‘Z’ McGee, a former Navy Intelligence Specialist turned philosopher, is the author of Birthday Suit of God and The Looking Glass Man. His works are inspired by the great philosophers of the ages and his wide awake view of the modern world.
This article (5 Strategies for Getting Real About Your Life) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is printed here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Gary ‘Z’ McGee and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this statement of copyright.
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