A few years ago, I was asked to write a short essay about ‘what I know for sure,’ what I’d want to share if I only had one thing to say. This was my response.
On a daily basis, I pause, put my hand on my heart and whisper to myself, “I will not make war against my own heart.”
I have so many opportunities to practice. Every day, I make mistakes. Every day, I want to jump all over myself when I make those mistakes.
Every day, I have the opportunity to judge – to blame myself – or to let go. To let go, however, feels so tender – for it means releasing my judgments, releasing my self condemnation, and releasing my belief of, “It’s all my fault.”
This is an act of courage for me, for it goes against a long ingrained habit of beating myself up.
It is not easy.
It’s also an act of vulnerability. The greatest irony of self judgment is that in its own way, it’s how I’ve tried to feel safe, how I’ve tried to have a grasp of power and control when life felt scary and overwhelming.
So when things went haywire, or when life hurt, my mind would judge and blame me – “You should, you shouldn’t, you shouldn’t have.”
My mind loves to go after perfection – and that includes self perfection – because it’s trying to get me to a place where I feel safe, and it’s trying to get me to a place where I finally feel like I’m enough. I thought this was the key to inner peace and happiness.
So if only I was healed enough, mom enough, spiritual enough, eating disorder free enough, together enough, resilient enough, whole enough….then I’d have the Holy Grail.
I spent a lot of time and a lot of energy (and read a lot of self help books) in pursuit of this ‘enoughness.’
I remember cracking open Tara Brach’s book on softening self judgment, Radical Acceptance, and thinking – well, I’ll consider accepting myself …. but first let me fix a few things. The idea that I was loveable and okay just as I was felt like a leap over a great chasm, all the things that I thought were wrong and flawed and that I wanted to change.
For years, I shamed, blamed, or hid those tender parts of myself that didn’t fit my mold of perfect: insecurity, self doubt, irritability, fear, bad Mom moments, an obsession with my weight, or ways I’d isolate myself when I was hurting,
But I most loathed those parts of me that felt dark or troubled – the parts of me that carried my wounds and suffered from depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. These parts made me feel like I didn’t belong on planet Earth – like I was trying to keep my head above water when others seemed to be swimming laps around me.
Slowly, I learned: the pursuit of ‘enough’ is a false hope. As poet and writer Danna Faulds writes, “perfection is not a prerequisite for anything but pain.”
To stop the war, I’ve had to let go of those dreams of perfection and the imagined safety I thought I’d find there. I’ve had to turn around and embrace all those parts of myself that I wanted to eliminate, or perfect.
I’ve had to listen to the inner voice – something deeper, something wiser than my pursuit – that whispered, “Enough.”
Here’s what this voice says:
Love your humanity. Love your imperfection. Love your sensitivity. No more. No more will I hate you. No more will I blame you.
I will care for you. I will forgive you, over and over. I will hold you tenderly. I love you.
When I listen to this voice, I hold more loosely onto my list of “faults.” I can care for them, I can honor them, and I can acknowledge their own form of wisdom – even if it comes out sideways.
My fear told me that if I truly faced myself and acknowledged my flaws, that I wouldn’t survive, that I’d crumble in shame. But facing my pain and my wounds has brought connection, not separation.
It also brought rest – the rest of humility. In humility, I found ground to stand on: a ground where I’m no better and no worse than anyone else; where there’s “nothing to prove, and nothing to protect,” as Father Richard Rohr writes.
I’m imperfect. I make mistakes. I’m in need of love and forgiveness. This makes me human, not shameful. So I breathe and let go, and I feel the warmth as my heart expands.
Bapuji said that each time “we judge ourselves we break our own hearts.” Oh join me in this holy refrain – I will break my heart no longer. When the voice of self judgment arises, forgive it. Forgive, and come home.