So many of us go through life trying to be better than... better than someone else, or better than who we think we are, or better than who we've been. We have a picture in our heads of how we "should" be, a picture of how life "should" be, and we endeavor to live up to that picture. However, it's just a picture. It's a figment of our, or of someone else's, imagination. It was implanted there either through personal aspirations or as a form of self-defense.
Just as Bruce Willis's character in The Kid, we go around trying to "achieve" -- achieve changing ourselves, changing others, and changing our world. On the surface, that may seem like a good thing... after all, we want to become a better person. Yes, but at what cost?
Are we trying to become someone we're not? The Kid sums it up when he says (and I paraphrase) that his adult self's job as an image consultant entails "helping people hide who they are so they can pretend to be someone they're not". Is this what we're doing to ourselves? Trying to "put up a good front" so others will love us, accept us, give us the promotion, take us on a date, or whatever. Are we pretending to be other than we really are to impress others, or perhaps so we can be loved? Or perhaps so we can love ourselves?
Disney's The Kid - Trailer:
Trying To "Improve" Ourselves?
In trying to "improve" ourselves, we need to ask ourselves a question... Are we trying to improve because we just can't stand who we are? Do we dislike ourselves so much that we can't wait to become someone else? If that's the reason behind our taking personal growth workshops or reading books on becoming a better person, then I think we're starting at the wrong place.
Have we accepted what we were told (sometimes subliminally, sometimes blatantly) throughout our childhood? That we weren't good enough? That we were stupid, ugly, nerdy, vain, not fit to be played with, would never amount to anything, whatever, whatever... Did we take those comments to heart -- comments made by an angry or confused parent, by an insecure sibling, a frightened bullying classmate, an exhausted teacher? Did we take those comments to our hearts, and then proceed to build a wall so others could no longer laugh at us, or mock us? Did we close the door to our heart so we wouldn't be vulnerable, so we wouldn't get hurt?
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How many of us sealed off the door to our heart promising ourselves we wouldn't let others hurt us like that again? How many of us struggled to "become" a success so that we could "show them" that we were OK, that we were lovable, that we were "worth something", that they'd been wrong in their judgment of us? Or did you go the other way... accepting what "they" said about you, and not even bothering to try... Accepting that you were unlovable, and worthless, never would be anybody...
Learning To Love The Kid You Were
Why do need to go back into our childhood? Is is to dredge up all the hurtful events, to examine them one by one, so we can face up to the pain? That might be part of the process, but it is not the goal. Is it so we can forgive everyone in our past? Again, that may be part of the process, but it is not the goal. Is it so we can forgive ourselves? Again part of the process...
The reason it is important for us to get back in touch with the kid we were, is so we can learn to love that kid, exactly as it was. With the lisp, or pimples, or chubbiness, or whatever it was that you didn't love about yourself. Whatever it was that you felt made you "not good enough"! Whatever it is that you still judge yourself for being "way back then" and are intent on not letting anyone see in you now... Whoever it was that you were, that you're busy trying to change...
The ultimate goal of "going back to your childhood" is so that you can finally love that person, that kid... that kid who was simply doing the best it could in the circumstances... whatever those were... Whether your childhood was so-so, or miserable, or even happy, there is a ghost you have been trying to bury... and that ghost is you.
If we can't love ourselves, if we can't feel love and compassion for the child we were, then we are simply trying to be someone else, someone we are not. Of course we made mistakes, of course we did stupid things in our childhood, of course we didn't "have it all together", of course we often took the blame for things that had nothing to do with us, or perhaps blamed others for things we had done...
No, it wasn't your fault that your mother was always grumpy, or sick, or tired, or whatever. No, it wasn't your fault that your father had to go to work everyday to put "bread" on the table. No, it wasn't your fault that the other kids gathered in a circle and talked about you, or laughed at you, or whatever...
It wasn't your fault! It simply was what it was -- an experience you had while growing up! And that's it! It wasn't "because of you" -- it wasn't "your fault".
The Kid (2000) Scene: "I thought you never cried?"
Letting Your Kid Come Out to Play and Be
The movie "The Kid" encourages us to meet up with the kid we were -- not to change him, but to understand where he's been, where he's going, and where he truly wants to be. Does he really want to be a high-powered executive that lords it over everyone, or does he simply want to love and be loved?
Does the successful job, big house, and great car make him a success, no longer the "loser" that he always felt he was? Or is he still a loser even with all those trappings of success? And is it too late, on the eve of his 40th birthday (or 60th, or 80th), to finally learn how to have a happy childhood, right here and right now? Can he "unbury" the kid he was, and finally let him come out and play, finally let him be himself? ...finally live up to his own dreams, not someone else's?
All these questions, and more, are some that we might want to stop and ask ourselves. If the kid that we were was to show up in our life today, would we be living the life he'd always dreamed of? Or would we still be a "pathetic loser" in his eyes, just working our butt off to become someone we don't think we are... trying to "become someone" instead of realizing we already are someone and maybe what we need to do is discover who that is...
Instead of trying to create a new "us" from scratch, or think we have to "fix up" the current model of who we are, maybe we need to dig up the "original" us and see who that really is and finally let that kid be really who we are...
Clutter Busting Your Life: Clearing Physical and Emotional Clutter to Reconnect with Yourself and Others
by Brooks Palmer.
Over the course of his career helping people let go of things they no longer need, Brooks Palmer has been struck by the many ways that clutter affects relationships. In these pages, he shows how we use clutter to protect ourselves, control others, and cling to the past, and how it keeps us from experiencing the joy of connection. With insight-prompting questions, exercises, client examples, and even whimsical line drawings, Palmer will take you from overwhelmed to empowered. His gentle guidance will help you to not only clear clutter from your home but also enjoy deeper, more authentic, and clutter-free relationships of all kinds.
About The Author
Marie T. Russell is the founder of InnerSelf Magazine (founded 1985). She also produced and hosted a weekly South Florida radio broadcast, Inner Power, from 1992-1995 which focused on themes such as self-esteem, personal growth, and well-being. Her articles focus on transformation and reconnecting with our own inner source of joy and creativity.
Creative Commons 3.0: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Attribute the author: Marie T. Russell, InnerSelf.com. Link back to the article: This article originally appeared on InnerSelf.com