If you’ve got stuff in your past that you don’t like (and who doesn’t?), you might feel it’s affecting your present. And since the past has already happened, you figure that you’re just stuck with its effects. From here on out, you’ve got this flaw that’s not going to go away — or so it seems.
But I encourage you to take a closer look at who you really are and what you have the potential to accomplish.
Is there something fundamentally wrong with me? No, nobody is fundamentally broken. If you’re willing to integrate and learn your lessons, you can be a productive member of society, fulfill your intelligence, and bring your authentic self to the forefront.
Is There Something Fundamentally Wrong with Me? I’ve Made Mistakes
This is one of the biggest struggles I notice as I work with my coaching clients. People often look at their past, identify times of trouble, and determine that their inherent flaws must be the reason for each and every struggle. They believe that all the problems in their lives have happened because they are fundamentally broken.
If I’d only been the type of person who’d done things differently long ago, I wouldn’t be in this predicament now. Maybe you’re nodding along because this sentiment resonates with you. If so, I encourage you to try a new perspective.
Yes, there may have been mistakes that you’ve made in the past. You might wish you could redo some things in your life and approach them differently.
Those are normal feelings, but your psychology can turn them against you. The regrets and mistakes can take on a larger-than-life personality that urges you to think that you’re broken beyond repair.
That’s not the case, though. Your past may not be quite what you’d like it to be, but that doesn’t mean you’re tragically flawed.
It is possible to acknowledge your mistakes and then work to repair them. When you resolve to have a positive relationship with other people and the world around you, you can start to operate from a place of possibility. You can then move toward a future that includes the reality that you want to experience in the world.
Is There Something Fundamentally Wrong with Me? I Reject Myself
Another thing I notice is that people try to run away from themselves and everyone else. They figure that they’re so messed up that no one will be able to accept them, so they probably shouldn’t accept themselves either.
We tend to believe that secrets are our best bet — that we’d better hide away who we are and what we’ve done in the past. If not, we assume that everyone will reject us and hate us.
Running away feels safest. In some cases, that means literally running away to start over in a place where no one knows you. More often, though, it’s metaphorical running away by hiding your story and your real self.
In doing so, you end up rejecting yourself too. It’s a common reaction to a deep-down fear: “What if I show up and people aren’t willing to accept me? I’ll be rejected.” And so we reject our authentic selves so that we don’t risk rejection by others.
If you’d like encouragement to let your authentic self be loved by yourself and others, turn to this article. The ideas I share there can help you work toward greater self-acceptance and openness with others.
Is There Something Fundamentally Wrong with Me? I’m Short on Courage
When you look at your past actions, perhaps you don’t see examples of yourself charging head-on into challenges or dangers. In response, you’re down on yourself for your lack of courage.
But courage isn’t going and seeking out danger. That’s not the measure of whether you’re courageous. Rather, courage is about showing up when it’s important to show up.
My rule of thumb for clients is that 20% of the work is insight, and 80% of the work is practicing and showing up.
You can make a plan for how you’re going to show up in situations that you know you’ll be facing. One tool for this is future pacing.
For this, you’ll look at a previous experience and ask yourself, “What was my learning from this experience?” You can do this with experiences you consider negative or ones that you think of as positive.
After you’ve distilled what you’ve learned, you can ask yourself additional questions:
- Given this new insight and awareness that I now have, if I were to go back and have this exact same situation happen again, what would I do differently?
- If I were to do it that way, do I think that I would have gotten a different result?
- If so, do I think I would be happier with my world now?
Hopefully, the answer to that last question is “yes.” If not, circle back to “What was the lesson?” and do some more work there.
Otherwise, you can keep going with your series of questions:
- In the future, how will I use this lesson?
- When would I know it was time to practice?
- What kind of situations can I be on the lookout for to make this new conscious decision based on the insight I’ve just had?
You’re starting to practice this in your mind’s eye and integrate it into your life. You don’t run headlong into situations, trying to make the scene happen for real. Instead, you focus on practicing it in your mind so that you’re ready — and courageous! — when the situation does arise.
Is There Something Fundamentally Wrong with Me? I Experience Pain
Perhaps there’s an aspect of your life that’s caused you pain, so you’ve tried to divorce yourself from it. But try as we might, the past can still hurt us.
If you want to be an integrated person, a higher version of yourself, then it’s time to stop avoiding painful lessons. Pain is the way that we grow. We learn from it and then, hopefully, we won’t have that same pain happen again.
My acupuncture schooling provided me with important lessons about pain.
We all tend to turn away from pain whenever we can. When our heads hurt, we pop painkillers. After a leg injury, we try not to walk on it.
But in the acupuncture model, you’re putting needles into the body. You might say that the needles are causing discomfort. More importantly, though, the needles are actively drawing focused attention to that place. That is a fundamental part of the healing process.
Acupuncture draws your mind and your resources to that spot where the pain is. It doesn’t cause new damage. Instead, it repairs the old damage.
Here’s the lesson I take away from that: The fastest path to healing is leaning into the pain.
Pain doesn’t mean that there’s something broken about you. Rather, it’s telling you that there’s something you can lean into.
Is There Something Fundamentally Wrong with Me? I’m Dissatisfied With My Life
“I’m a terrible person. I’m a bad friend. I’m a difficult spouse.” Have you had those sorts of thoughts before? If so, then you probably know that it’s not really a comfortable place to hang out. In that space, there can be a lot of dissatisfaction with yourself and your life.
But that doesn’t mean that you’re a fundamentally broken person. Rather, it’s a sign that it’s time to start making positive identity meanings.
Here’s how you practice positive identity meanings. Whenever you say (or think), “I am,” only follow that with words that feel good for you.
- I am confident.
- I am a person who can figure things out.
- I am able to handle whatever life throws at me.
Train your thoughts into the light, not the darkness. That way, you will create from that place.
I love the idea of entelechy. It’s an ancient Greek concept that says that everything has within it something that it is inherently meant to become. An acorn contains the potential to become a giant oak tree.
And we all have something similar inside of us. So, no, you’re not a broken person who’s fundamentally wrong inside. Rather, you’re a person who has great potential within you.
If you’re not taking the responsibility to reach that potential, then you may be experiencing some dissatisfaction in your life — a sense that there’s more out there for you.
But when you give what’s inside of you the proper nourishment, such as acceptance of your authentic self and the opportunity to grow through your pain, you can create the life that you want to experience in the world.
Would you believe that Simba from The Lion King learned some of the same lessons that we’ve discussed here in this article? You can listen to my wife Paige and I chat about that in Episode 31 of The Shift to Freedom Podcast.
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