Try harder, work smarter, strive to be the best! It’s a dog eat dog world to get to the top! These messages are sent to us regularly in the society that we live in. Most of us are in such a rat race that we never stop to consider whether our goals are possible or that they even are our goals. We follow along blindly with our colleagues at work, not even aware if what we are striving for will give us happiness.
Our society places a huge emphasis on achievement and success. But what is success to you? If you were to win a gold medal at the Olympics or a race like the Boston Marathon, our status as reigning champion would only last a very short time. In addition, our reign as champion would most likely be accompanied by anxiety about losing it in the coming year. Success, it seems, is a precarious position. When we are on top someone is always trying to knock us down and take over our position. It seems we cannot escape suffering to retain our position at the top.
Tying our self-esteem to where we are in our life or to our accomplishments produces much unnecessary and even counterproductive suffering. When our self-esteem is built on the premise of successfully competing against others, we will always be perched on the edge of losing. Even if we were to successful overtake the person at the top, how long would it be before we were replaced by someone else? Being motivated to best someone is a surefire way to unhappiness.
Most of us are taught from an early age, to build our self-esteem by successfully competing against one another. Winning is what is important, and as we are growing up our self-esteem is tied directly to being on top. But it seems that competition is a losing battle. We certainly cannot stay on top forever. Feelings of inadequacy will be the outcome if our self-esteem rests on the premise of competing and being on top.
So how can we move from a competitive environment, to one of loving ourselves even if we are not on top or as successful as society tells us we should be? For starters, learn what compassion is all about. With compassion you value yourself not because you’ve judged yourself positively and others negatively, but because you are intrinsically deserving as much as everyone else. Compassion will leave your heart filled with love and your psyche feeling empowered and full of inner strength.
When you are filled with compassion you see failure as a learning opportunity. When your self-esteem is tied to being on top, failure would leave you highly self-critical and miserable. Competitive self-esteem needs to be replaced by compassion so we can judge each competition positively and favorably. If we see mistakes as failures then we will feel anxious and insecure, with the distinct possibility that we will give up early when faced with a particularly challenging situation. If we approach the challenging situation with compassion in our hearts we won’t be so hard on ourselves and we will be much more open to learning.
Compassion will foster a new attitude of self-nurturing. Most of us judge ourselves much more harshly than we judge others. We are so hard on ourselves. Compassion fosters acceptance and kindness and the critical voice within should begin to quiet down. Keeping that critical voice that is within us quiet is a major challenge. I find a regular meditation practice helps keep my critical voice within me quiet. Even stopping for a minute and reflecting inward on our goodness and self-worth helps quiet the critical voice that is within all of us. Of course nature will help you quiet the inner critic and so will doing hobbies that you love to do. When you do things that you love, compassion seems to permeate throughout your whole body.
Recognizing our essential goodness allows us to be less judgmental about our own personal failings. If we see the good within ourselves we will also be able to see the good in others. If you are highly critical of other people then your heart lacks compassion. Being compassionate entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves and others when failures and feelings of inadequacies’ creeps into our life. If we cannot see the good in ourselves we most certainly will miss the good in others. Compassionate people recognize that being imperfect, failing, and experiencing difficulties in life are inevitable. Rather than getting angry when life falls short, they exhibit gentleness and kindness. People cannot always get what they want and when this reality is accepted with sympathy and kindness, greater emotional calmness is experienced.
We also need to recognize that we are all connected. Frustration at not having things as exactly as we want them often is accompanied by a sense of feeling isolated – as if I am the only one suffering or making mistakes. Everyone mistakes and all humans suffer at some point in their lives. Unfortunately many of us learn what to do by causing suffering in our lives. Face it, the definition of being “human” means that one is imperfect and that we will make mistakes. Our definition of compassion should recognize that suffering and personal inadequacies is not part of something that happens to just “me” alone, but that it is part of the shared human experience. Suffering is something that we all go through and recognizing our essential inter-being allows us to be less judgmental about our personal failings. By recognizing our interdependence and that we all go through many of the same things, failings and life’s difficulties do not have to be taken so personally and can be acknowledged with nonjudgmental compassion and understanding.
Russel Bruhn is a clairvoyant, Angel Therapy Practitioner (ATP) and an intuitive healer. He is a Reiki Master, Certified Hypnotherapist and trained in the area of Integrated Energy Therapy (IET).
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