Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Seduction of Impossible Standards

Like Woman of the World, I have had moments of wondering if I am “enough” and if “I have what it takes.” Because of physical injuries, I certainly don’t “have what it takes to” to succeed according to the standards I held for myself a few years ago.

Back then my daily reality was an uninjured body. Now, my daily reality is that I am slowly recovering from physical injuries that are subject to reinjury whenever my self-care is not adequate. My hearing injury along with constant ear pain and tinnitus, even after months of being seemingly healed, has recently been reactivated by a brief exposure to loud sound. I knew this particular sound might be a problem and even had hearing protection in place. So much for having regained the hearing I lost in that ear. It is gone again. My foot injury has been even slower to heal , also with many setbacks.

At times like these, perhaps the best thing to do is to take Dr. Brene Brown and Women of the World’s advice to allow myself to breathe through my feelings of vulnerability, without attempting to shut those feeling down. At least that allows me to remain authentic.

I’m not as loathe to do this as Dr. Brown claims she was in her video, and I might even be one of those people she claims to avoid, because a significant amount of the time I consider being present to feel those uncomfortable feelings as they come up to be a necessary, non-optional part of showing up for my life, but, honestly, if one of my choices was being able to walk and hear again normally and without pain, starting right now, I’d really like to chose that option.

However, as far as I can tell, that isn’t one of my choices. Maybe a great spiritual master could heal these injuries in an instant, but that isn’t something I know how to do, at this moment.

Realistically, my choices are just as Dr. Brown outlined: 1) to allow myself to feel vulnerable and thereby gain authenticity and connection with others and thereby preserve my ability to still feel positive states like satisfaction and joy whenever they happen or 2) allow my fear and shame to cut off authentic connection with myself and others thereby causing myself to feel only numbness and the misery of being disconnected.

Once again, as far as I can tell, choice number 3: full healing of my injuries now, and not at some unspecified time in the future, is not on the table.

My understanding of Woman of the World’s definition of “having what it takes” is engaging wholeheartedly with my life as it is and with who and what matters to me most, despite all my personal limitations and shortcomings, despite the ways my life is not how I would prefer it to be.

Yes, there is great freedom in getting to engage with what is, here and now, instead of being shutting down because there is a gap between the reality and my ideals.

However, you may have noticed that it is a recurrent theme for me that I’d like my injuries to already be healed. On this issue I am as bad as the boss who hands out an assignment and wants it done yesterday. If the standards are impossible, completing the task is impossible. If the task is impossible, I have an excellent reason not to put any effort into it. Pretty dumb, huh? The stink of self-sabotage emanates strongly from choice 3, despite my attempts to hide the stench with a veneer of noble and spiritual sounding language.

Obviously, my life is an excellent venue right now for learning how to hold more of a space for myself of tenderness, compassion, and good care. If I desire healing, I need to hold a more wise and consistent healing space for myself, day in, day out, over the long haul. I actually need to show up to the healing, instead of whine about still being hurt.

Yes, it sucks to be hurt. But it also sucks even worse to focus my energy on the problem (I want to be already healed, but I’m not) instead of the solution (giving myself the care I need to heal).

I welcome your prayers as I continue the process of growing up and showing up.


  1. Actually, my definition of "having what it takes" is even more simple: simply be choosing to be born, you already DO have what it takes. Realizing this, KNOWING this, brings the gift you write about: the ability to engage wholeheartedly with life as it is and with who and what matters most. Our personal limitations and shortcomings, as well as strengths, and all that we are, are just a part of that interaction, how we learn what we need to learn - and, as Dr. Brown has discovered, how we find joy and connection. That was the flash of inspiration I saw after that ceremony months ago.

  2. Thanks for explaining your simplier version again. I'm always trying to put unnecessary conditions on myself. It is good to strip things back down to the essential realization and relax into it and everything else that springs from that.