I once held the mistaken belief that I had to strive to be the best in everything before I am able to receive love, or be seen as likeable.
I bought into the idea that my life must be as flawless as possible – without stain or blemish, in order for those around me to accept me.
I have of course since found this to be untrue, and only at the point of realisation did I start to truly live. It was only recently that I discovered how this inner state of high stressfulness came about.
Growing up in a perfectionist environment, my value and self-worth as a person was pegged to how my parents viewed me. The threat of losing their love if I failed to perform up to their expectations, or if I made choices that deviated from theirs, kept me on constant survival mode. Without realising it, I was always living in fear.
What happened as a result, was that not only did a subconscious unhealthy resentment towards my parents start to build-up over the years, but it also made me very afraid to live as who I believed I truly was.
I have been blessed in recent times over the past year to find out over sharings with friends that I am not the only person facing a similar struggle with self identity.
Neither am I the only one trying to move away from living up to the expectations of others. Many struggle to break free from the controlling and stifling influences of well-meaning family members, loved ones, teachers, coaches, or close friends.
Very often, there is an inner conflict that exists in us that we are unable to reconcile with. What we view as us trying to be “dutiful”, “filial”, “loyal” and “honest”, is actually the very thing that prevents us from voicing out our deep unhappiness and frustrations to be authentic, as we settle for living out a life which isn’t truly ours.
Only at the point of self-realisation are we finally empowered, and the first chains of this particular unfreedom in our life removed. Likewise is the realisation that there is nothing inherently wrong with failure. Our fear of failure, making mistakes, and being judged by others is an unfreedom that prevents us from being ourselves and living to our fullest potential.
Overcoming these then, allows us to move away from people-pleasing mode towards authenticity of who we truly are and what we are actually created for.
As counter intuitive as it was for me at first, I’ve found that once we’ve had a taste of authentic freedom, being life-giving towards others comes naturally; and we also develop a greater capacity for compassion, becoming less judgmental, making room for genuine love without expectations to grow.
There is little room for expectations in authentic living, because unlike perfectionism which is filled with expectations, authenticity only asks us to be true to our real identity. And the truth is, none of us in this life is called to be perfect. We are only called to be real.
We are each born an original, and there is no one else in the world like us. So when we go in search of our meaning through the opinions of others, we can never find the answer we truly seek. When we allow others to define us, we merely exist but do not live.
So who then, are we really?
“All humans die, but few have lived. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. It’s not what you are underneath, it’s what you do that defines you. How will you use your gifts? What choices will you make? Will you follow the crowd or will you be an original?”