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Self-improvement has been my biggest obstacle to happiness.
I thought it was my shame. I thought if I could just get rid of my shame, heal my trauma, make sense of my past, and unburden all my limiting beliefs, then I can be happy—then I can show up for my life.
I think you see the problem here.
When “healing” means “fixing,” I am already looking through the lens that I am not enough. “Healing” and self-improvement become just another avenue to prove my worth. If I can just become that guru, then I’ll allow myself to be seen.
But until then, I’ll perform on stage for others until I can go behind the curtain again and vigilantly scan myself for everything that is not right so I can “heal” it. But when I start looking for what is not right, that’s all I see. So I double up on the self-help books. I double up on the journaling and therapy and all those habits I am supposed to be doing in order to reach my “best self.”
Once I am my best self, then I can pull back the curtain and truly connect with others. Then I can let myself be loved.
But we never reach our “best self,” do we? I sure haven’t.
I finally asked myself the question, “If I am always bettering my best, then how will I ever experience myself as enough? If I am always looking for what is not here, how will I ever enjoy what is here?”
You know what caused me to finally slow down and ask these questions? It was the very thing I feared the most. Failure.
I started dissociating on a call with a potential coaching client. I froze and could not speak. I tried to save face, but all my saving face just made it all the more embarrassing. She started taking care of my emotions there for a second, and I had to end the call abruptly.
I was flooded with shame and humiliation. The voices in my head were saying nothing but mean things to me. I had not been able to control the song and dance I was doing in front of the curtain. The curtain got pulled back in front of someone else, and she saw I don’t have everything together.
I’d spent all this time “healing” and fixing myself so this exact scenario would never happen. But it was all my fixing and trying that got me to this scenario in the first place.
When I start with the lens that I am not enough, I split in two. One side of me doubles down on the outward performance, and the other side doubles down on the behind-the-scenes fixing. I believe if I can just clean up all the behind the curtain stuff, I’ll actually be able to live up to my performance, and then I’ll be at peace.
But the more I psychoanalyze everything that is wrong with me, the more wrong stuff I see. My wrongness becomes my entire experience.
The distance between who I see myself as and who I believe I am supposed to be grows farther and farther. My self-esteem becomes brittle and based on how well I perform.
It gets so brittle that when I have one second of not knowing the next question to ask in a coaching call, I am flooded with so much shame that I dissociate.
All my trying to avoid failure is what manifests failure.
I thought it was the trying to “better myself” that was going to help me avoid failure. I thought self-help was going to get rid of my shame entirely so even if I did fail, it wouldn’t be a big deal. But my constant psychoanalysis of myself is what made my shame intensify.
Whatever you resist persists.
If I believe I am not enough until I get rid of everything behind the curtain, I’ll never experience myself as enough. If I believe I am not enough until I perform at 100 percent all the time, I will never experience myself as enough.
Do you know how I found my way out of all the crippling shame I felt after my failed coaching call?
I reached out to people. I let them see me in all my vulnerability. I told them exactly what happened and how I felt. I told them I couldn’t see my way out of it. I pulled back the curtain and let them see the real me.
And you know what?
They were so nice to the real me. They were so supportive. They thanked me for being so vulnerable with them. They shared their own struggles with not feeling like they are good enough coaches. They showed me in a real way that I wasn’t alone. That I was valued for who I am even in my failure.
I had a conversation with my mom that day that was incredibly healing, because for the first time in a long time, I was vulnerable with her. Instead of me helping her in her vulnerability, she helped me in mine. I had been complaining to myself that I didn’t get as much nurturing from her as my brother did, but this made me realize that I was mostly responsible for this because I never showed her the side of me that needed nurturing.
My relationship with my boyfriend also totally changed. I am so much more present and connected with him. We are communicating differently. I am experiencing sex differently as well—it’s more human and connected, and I much prefer it.
All because I let people see me as I am. All because I was forced to stop the “fixing myself” charade.
This failure humbled me so much that I even surrendered to God that I will endure a lifetime of failure if I must. Keeping myself from failing is no longer the point. Hiding what is behind the curtain is no longer the point. Becoming whoever I think I am supposed to be is no longer the point. The point is showing up as I am now and connecting with others.
I don’t need to fix anything. It’s not my job to improve myself. It is my job to surrender to what the grace of today is asking of me. It is my job to connect with who I am with in this moment. It is my job to replace “fixing” with playing. It is my job to step out of my own way—to stop both my hiding behind the curtain and my performing in front of the curtain—and stand in this present moment, arms wide open, surrendering and responding to whatever is here.
If I achieve anything in this life, it will not be because I did it. It will be because I stepped out of my own way long enough for God to move.
My work as a coach is not about me. The Universe has given me specific gifts that they intend to use for the good of all. My only job is to trust I am enough for whatever I am called to do and whoever they bring across my path.
I don’t need to wait until I am “healed” or totally actualized before I can show up in the way the Universe is calling me to. I don’t need to be anything other than I currently am in order to interact with the people in my life. I don’t need to wait or achieve anything before I can let myself be happy.
I am enough—all that’s left is play and presence.