Let Go and Grow!
By: T. Franklin Murphy | September 2014 (Edited August 2018)
Our preconceived notions of self interfere with desired changes. We must challenge these notions and grow.
We can’t help it. We live with ourselves every day. Living shapes ideas about our role in the surrounding world—relationships, employment, and purpose—molding a concept of self. We emerge with an unspoken and strongly held notion of self. These held views (mostly unconscious) are subjective, formed from parental interactions, successes and failures, and biological sensitivities. Once we establish a theory of self, the view meddles with all perceptions. Whether we see ourselves as strong or weak, loyal or unreliable, intelligent or stupid, the evaluations shape our lenses for viewing the world. When our evaluations of self are challenged, we strike back. Our ego shudders, denying a need to adjust concepts of self; so rather than reevaluate, we distort incoming information to fit our faulty beliefs. The world becomes a big fat lie.
We can’t implement change, reaching beyond worn-out routines of a tedious life, until we challenge restricting self-images, accept imperfections, and ditch lowly self-deprecating stories. We want security of sameness, but stability obtained by upholding lies impedes growth. I work closely with a man emotionally distraught over every slight or perceived slight, holding onto hurts and regrets for decades; but his perception of self is much different. He perceives himself a man unaffected by others, driven by higher values, and quick to forgive. He doesn’t see the cracks in his perceptions. The hurts that overwhelm are confusing and retaliated against with hate and fight.
Acknowledging personal weakness rocks the fragile ego; but when fault is unveiled (and accepted), we clear the rubble blocking the path to improvement. We must face the fear of imperfection, losing our perceived footing of a higher ground, and begin to push up from the faulty foundation from which we stand. Too much fear and we freeze, scurrying back to the safety of miscued self-identifications; newness of experience discomforts, shaking up our normal and predictable life. It’s scary. Denying shortcomings soothes the fear and cloaks vulnerabilities. But like a child covering her eyes, the unseen danger still lurks with power to destroy.
We’re not perfect. Developing desirable skills demands significant effort, beginning with challenging views of self that enable current behaviors. Our histories, beliefs, experiences and genetics funnel into the moment creating who we are and what we feel. Change denies pre-ordained destinations, adjusting the flow, escaping from these trajectories. We can view our current existence with disdain or denial; but this doesn’t help. Harsh judgments, suggesting we should be something different or that life should be something different, fails to motivate. We can sulk and continue; or we can constructively change.
"Our histories, beliefs, experiences and genetics funnel into the moment creating who we are and what we feel."
We must find balance, identifying weakness without a harsh and degrading judgment of self. We mitigate the flow of realized flaws by discovering hidden strengths. Self-discovery should lift rather than hinder. We drop unfair comparisons with others—their strengths, weaknesses, histories and environments. We must courageously believe we can transcend the marks, scars, and blemishes of our humanity. A welcome freedom is the knowledge that survival and success does not demand perfection.
A young child, with supportive caregivers, experiences confidence in aloneness, not because the parent’s protective shield is seen; but because the child intuitively knows he is safe. As adults, we must achieve the same intuitive knowledge of safety—not because life is predictable but because we trust in ourselves, our supporting casts, and our preparedness. If our self-evaluations undercut the necessary trust in our abilities, then we must address this first. We cannot achieve great things until we see ourselves as capable and intelligent.
We must challenge distorted views of self, recognizing harmful and limiting invasions into our psyches. Whether we blindly ignore flaws or harshly judge, our tainted views of self impede efforts to change. By contesting interfering evaluations, we transform our relationship to experience. Instead of hapless victims to a cruel world, we see ourselves as an active participant. We see it different through clearer lenses, we relate to life different, and we respond to it different. We change. Let Go and Grow!