April 1, 2009
I’ve been humbled by some recent critical feedback. It seems that some people close to me, both personally and professionally, have been quite frustrated with me – especially as I ramp up for the release of my new book. Ironically, the things they’re upset with me about have to do with the exact things I teach – appreciation, authenticity, positive communication, keeping things in perspective, and more.
Although my ego wants to (and has been) defending myself, making excuses, and trying to justify my actions – it’s clear to me that their feedback is accurate. I actually struggle in many ways, especially when I get scared or stressed, to practice what I preach. As I’ve been making my way through my feelings of remorse, embarrassment, and confusion – I’ve been thinking a lot about the well-known saying, “We teach best what we most need to learn.”
Isn’t this true? So often the advice we give to others is the exact advice we need ourselves. It’s ironic that we sometimes don’t recognize this in the moment (or at all) and also sad that we don’t give ourselves permission to listen to our own good advice. Too often, we hold ourselves to some ridiculous standard of “perfection” (which no one ever attains) or we’re too self-conscious to admit we struggle with some of the very same things we advise others to do.
However, what if we did listen to ourselves and could realize that the things we passionately want to teach other people (whether or not we think of ourselves as a “teacher”) are the things we, ourselves, truly want to learn and embody. This takes a vigilant level of self awareness and honesty that many of us, myself included, don’t always want to practice. When we do, not only can we grow personally, we can also enhance and deepen our relationships with others and our ability to impact them in a positive way.
Here are a few things we can do to learn from ourselves and use our own advice in a positive, not self-righteous, way:
1) Be Honest – As the saying goes, “the truth shall set you free.” The more willing we are to tell the truth about how we feel, what we want, and what we see – the less likely we are to be arrogant, self-righteous, judgmental, or defensive with others. This means we’re willing to admit our own hypocrisy to ourselves and others, with compassion.
2) Have Compassion – Remember that everyone, including you, is doing the best they can in each and every moment. Having compassion is one of the many things in life that is simple, but not easy. The place for us to start is with ourselves. When we can forgive ourselves and get off our own back, we then have the ability to that with others as well.
3) Stop Trying to be Perfect – Perfection demands never work – whether they’re focused outward or inward. When we expect ourselves, others, or things to be “perfect,” everyone loses. What if we didn’t have to do everything right, know everything, and always “walk our talk.” Sometimes we don’t, and that’s okay. When we stop trying to be perfect, we can accept ourselves as we are. Acceptance leads to peace, joy, and fulfillment in our relationships and our lives.
Remembering that life is filled with irony and that it’s okay for us to make mistakes, pretend to know stuff we don’t, and act like we have certain things figured out when really we struggle with them, can be humbling at first. However, when we embrace the idea that we always teach best what we most need to learn, we can create a deep sense of freedom in our lives that actually gives us the space and the power to be ourselves and impact others in the positive way we desire.
How does this relate to you and your life? Share your thoughts, ideas, and questions about this article on my blog here.