On Perfection and Self Worth

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We all experience highs and lows in our confidence and sense of self worth. We go through seasons of doubt and phases of exuberance, and that is all part of being a complex human being living a rich and complex life. We think we have ourselves all figured out, and then the shifting sands reveal something we didn’t know was there. Sometimes it’s something we are happy to find (“I had no idea I could do that!”) and sometimes it can be a little disappointing (“I thought I’d conquered that, and here it is again.”) We seem to always be in progress.

The traditions of Chassidut teach that God recreates the world in every moment. We do not live in a “set it and forget it” universe. Rather, the world is in a constant state of regeneration and divine intention. It is a piece of art that is never finished. Doesn’t that bring you courage?If God himself believes it worthwhile to constantly nurture His creation, how can it not be a holy task for us to refine and cultivate our own characters? If God is never “done”, why should we lay on thick layers of perfectionism and yearn to finally be finished with our own evolution?

It can be challenging to remember that no one around us is “done” with creating themselves, either. You may have seen the quote, “Don’t compare your inside to everyone else’s outside.” It’s easy to look around and think that everyone has this life figured out. But, in truth, each of us constantly feels this flexing of the muscles, this stretching of our own identity. And while sometimes that can be exhilarating (“Look at me now!!”), it can also be uncomfortable. Our skin may not seem to fit us quite right, and we can’t find solid ground beneath our feet. But better times do come, and we do make progress. There are days when we look in the mirror and see that we are THRIVING.

Here are a few thoughts that help me as I evolve and struggle and sometimes even thrive.

You do not walk alone.

Whether you believe in a God who is a constant presence in our universe, or in the power of humanity and community to transcend hardship, know that you do not struggle in isolation. You have a family, a culture, a community, or a nation at your back, and you can walk straight and proud as a daughter or son of that legacy. You deserve the space you occupy.

We are made for this, and called to this.

“Even today, says [author David] Brooks, you know when you are in the presence of someone who has the eulogy virtues. They “seem to possess an impressive inner cohesion.” They are not leading “fragmented, scattershot lives.” They are grounded, they have roots, they know what matters in the long run, and they can tell the difference between the music and the noise. The result is that they are not “blown off course by storms,” nor do they “crumble in adversity.” They radiate, he says, “a sort of moral joy.” They are not defeated by failure or wounded by criticism. They have a massive internal strength and they make a real difference to those whose lives they touch… We can, quietly, develop the strengths of character that will make a difference not only to our own lives but to those around us.”
(Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, here)

Put bravery above perfection

Watch this! Reward and applaud yourself when you are brave, not perfect.

Know who and what brings out your best self

Devote time to the things that make you feel like “you“. We all have something that brings out our flow. That makes us feel strong. That reminds us how brave and joyful and free we can be. Do those things! Surround yourself with people who bring out your best self. When something or someone lights you up, that’s where you belong.

Wishing you all a beautiful weekend. Shabbat Shalom!

 

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