The paradox of trying too hard
Do you know this feeling when you can’t live in the moment because you either dwell in the past or dream about the future? I think you do, and I know this feeling all too well. I have been friends with my super ego aka inner critic for as long as I live and you know what? I stopped denying she is there and that she is a inherent part of me, and I slowly, step by step learning to accept and deal with her instead of trying to supress her.
Who should I become? How does my future look like? What should I do? These are normal questions to ask yourself. These are the questions I am constantly asking myself. Its good to have a vision for yourself, and to have goals. But it turns unhealthy the moment you catch your mind constantly overanalyzing the future which paralyzes you in the now. Being at the Art Academy at age 16 I soon was learned how to conceptualize everything what came out of my authentic core, everything that was creative. While the Academy can be a source of inspiration, development and connections, when young it can also be very dangerous when you take all the critisim all to serious. Being very influential at that time, unknowingly I started to integrate this same conceptualizing, over analyzing mechanism into my day to day life. Which I now take full responsibility for, and it was never the Academy to blame, but the way dealt with my own expectations towards myself and the way I choose the Academy to influence me at the time. Creativity combined with a lot of critisim and a 100 questions why you do what you do, confused me to the point that I feel I often have to over explain myself in everyday life. So where is this balance of maintaining a right vision goal or dream for yourself without turning it into a need, or a must? This is where my (super) ego jumps in.
So what is the super ego? According to Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, the superego is the component of personality composed of our internalized ideals that we have acquired from our parents and society. The superego works to suppress the urges of our sense of self, our aware identity and tries to make the ego behave morally, rather than realistically. It is that part of you that is aware of what it thinks you should do. The ideals that contribute to the formation of the superego include not just the morals and values that we have learned from our parents, but also the ideas of right and wrong that we acquire from society and the culture in which we live. As for our ego, which is inherently part of that, is the image we have of ourselves. Our social mask we put on for the world. Our titles and roles. Our analyzing thoughts thinking the same things over and over again. Often consumed by emotions. Its that inner dialogie in ourselves that is heavily focused on axieties, fears, doubts and self-criticism. ( “I am not good enough, I am worthless.”) Its that part of us that needs validation form other people to feel good about ourselves. Have you ever felt like you’re just not good enough? Have you ever looked at someone else and thought – I wish I was as good as they are? If you have (and let’s face it most people have done this) then this is also an example of being caught in the clutches of your ego. I t mostly depends on the level of how much self love you have, that is inherently connected to your ego.
Its pretty confronting to realize that you have been lingering on certain constructs and perceptions in your head of how things should be and what we think is good for us. How your future should look like and who you should become. Often I experience this duality in myself which goes as follows. One side in me, my being, my intuitive side know deeply I am good enough as I am by just being myself, and nothing more than then. That I don’t have to try that hard. It knows I already have an influence on other people just by interacting with them and inherently we humans are all the same in our core. But then my ego jumps in who experience the same things but immediately wants to turn it into a NEED, a concept. “You should do something with this Kirsten! What are you waiting for, do it NOW, we are out of time! We need to conceptualize this into some bussiness idea” Its like this nagging voice that distract you, from actually the REAL you. I am not my thoughts. This duality will always be there, and the more I try to surpress it the more my self-hate grows. It causes me to distract me from the present moment.
Why is the ego so hard to explain or describe? The ego is difficult to define because the ego isn’t one specific thing. It is actually made up of many different beliefs that a person acquires over their life. Those beliefs can be diverse and even contradictory. To further complicate it, each person’s ego is different. If someone were to clearly identify and describe all the parts of their ego and what it drives them to do, you might not get a good description of what yours looked like. The challenge of becoming aware of what your personal ego looks like becomes more difficult because our culture doesn’t reward us for directing our attention inward and noticing such things. The ego isn’t “good” or “bad,” it simply IS. I realise my ego is simply a tool. A biological survival mechanism. Where I wanted to hate myself for sometimes being all consumed by my doubts, insecurities that come from my ego I realise by supressing it, or the need to destroy it only reinforces my selfhate. On the contrary I also experience that The ego also exists as a vehicle for our spiritual growth; for us to become conscious of our own strength, love, and oneness. The ego is a doorway through which we can return to our True Nature.
More and more I learn to distiguise the difference between my soul, my ego and my super ego. It took me a long time and a lot of soul-digging to get it, and the fact is the moment I think I know myself I actually don’t know shit. (Which isn’t funny at that moment, but looking at it from a bigger picture it kinda is funny). I am not my ego, and everyday that comes by I see it again and I am deciding to greet it as a friend instead of supressing or denying it. “Ha! Hello there my friend. Nice try, better luck next time.” I realise this helps me, in dealing with my insecurities instead of punishing and beating myself up for not reaching my own high expectations of myself. The same expectations that paralyze me at some stages. Those expectations that no one but myself put on me, which is an always returning theme is my life coming from a deep fear that I am not good enough, which is ultimately an illusion.
We have spent years building our ego self-images, living inside of them, and reinforcing them. Extracting our genuine self out of this matrix of false beliefs will take more than a few days. Yes, it will take a while… so what. It also took a while to learn to read, do math, walk, and develop proficiency at any valuable skill. Things worth doing take time and practice. I am not perfect nor does that matter. I am perfect as I am, to be is already good enough. We have given the gift of life. So whenever I feel shit about myself I just try to remember that I already have the gift of life and that no matter what I do, I am loved, I am good enough, I am appreciated. Just like you are appreciated and loved for who you are and not what you do in life, or what titles you hold. I have to remember it is my creativity that I am grateful for at times I don’t know what to do. That is is an outlet to me. That I act out of a place of knowing, even though I have no clue where it is heading. Keeping faith and trying not to worry.
We not always have to do something with a talent, then to rather let it be. Let the flow in, and see where it takes us so it can flow naturally. Every day I am growing older I learn that keeping control and trying too hard is also ruining my fun in the present moment. Every day we are told in society we have to be succesful. Sometimes putting in to much effort destroys all the spontaniousy. Guess what, the only person that can make you succesful is yourself by giving yourself some slack and don’t raise the bar too high. That is what I still have to deal with every day and thats okay! I am writing this because even though on the outside like many others I look happy I am still struggeling this everyday, and that good and bad periods are bound to come. Even the people you look up to as most succesful will deep down inside still struggle. But it is the moments in between that you become aware of this that matter. And these moments will become longer and longer. Its totally fine to feel shit sometimes, and to not feel guilty to do something about it and to constantly trying to “improve” yourself.
The questions of why life wasn’t as easy as I was hoping for and wondering where the abundance was kept returning into my half-conscious mind. In this meditative state I sometimes have conversations with someone or something. Maybe it’s my unconscious mind, maybe it’s a guide or angel, but this voice can give me answers I can’t come up with when I’m stuck inside my head.
I was in a storm. A storm that blew everything around me away, people included. Afraid of being blown away as well. Suddenly there was a friendly voice who said: “You can relax. When you don’t worry about being blown away and loosen the tight grip of your hands, you will see there is actually no storm. Even though the people around you might experience a storm and even being blown away, you will see that when you stop trying so hard to hold on, nothing bad will happen. It will actually turn out much better, because you can let go of the worry and let go of the pain in your hands. Life is much easier when you stop trying so hard.”
Behind all those roles, masks, expectations, that heavy darkness there is light. A lightness that will never leave me. Even when I don’t see it anymore and I am fully consumed by my ego that wants to fill everything in, that wants to keep control, underneath that is my true self. My essence. A knowing and trust that everything will be allright. Its that part of me that knows its being loved. That knows it is love. That has burning desires and goals, but my sense of self-worth and happiness is not dependent on it. Its that part that wants to forgive myself for being so hard on myself sometimes and is forgiving of others. To accept myself and others as they are. To feel a deep sense of gratitude for being healthy and being alive. That part of me that wants to hug herself and is proud of who she is and to do the things that make my heart sing.
By sharing this with you I hope I can inspire you with my issues with perfectionism and want you to know that if you every experience the same kind of issues, that you are not alone. The experience I want to share with you know is that I am trying to love the enemy inside (and not because my ego says I have to love it) Once I sort of embrace it, or let it go, my ego becomes a bit more aware of itself and yields my power back to me. Those moments are great insights to me even though I sometimes still think I fuck up. Its my own perception and inner critic who thinks that. The ability to forgive myself for trying too hard, that is true power and that the way to get approval is to not need it.