There we are, palms sweaty, starting to rub off some of the ink on the first page of a stack of resumes we have been holding for about ten minutes. Interviews never seem to start on time, and it does not really matter how nice reception is. We are probably always going to feel like the next shuttle to lift off. The longer we sit, the more steam we build up, until finally our interviewer arrives, and fire shoots out of our feet like engine thrusters. We sit down, and someone who looks slightly uncomfortable in garb that is a little dressier than their day-to-day clothing selection asks us to tell them a little bit about ourselves. Our brain says with enthusiasm, “What are you waiting for? Tell her what she wants to hear!” And that is how we conduct ourselves when we meet strangers, isn’t it? They ask us about our life and about our work, and our brain says, “Sweet mother! What is the good response? What do they really want to know? Can they tell that I am not nearly as good as I seem?”
That’s how we feel. That we are not as good as we seem. Resume classes tell us to be colorful in the way that we describe our strengths and past work activity. Tailor it to the job for which you are applying, they say. Dating experts give the same advice. Present your best self, and whatever you do, don’t be boring. And then it’s out there. Shit, I’m boring. I don’t do enough. I haven’t accomplished enough. I don’t have enough children, a big enough house, a nice enough car, a good enough job, and a good enough body. So, what do I say? I can’t tell them that. Like the resume people told me, I will just embellish a little.
And as soon as you can say eggs and bacon, you have begun a breakfast exchange by talking about the successful company you own, which is actually a web domain and a mission statement. You talk about your commitment to fitness, and how you are considering training for a marathon this year, when in truth you have a stale gym membership card that hasn’t been used in some time. Then, the worst thing happens. The interviewer, professional or just some amateur schmo outside a coffee shop, decides they like you, and find your life interesting. Only, its not your life that you have been describing, and now you feel like a jerk with a sucky life.
The pressure to describe ourselves in the ways that I have just articulated don’t seem to have a particular origin. People have been trying to impress others, since time immemorial. How do you think the first Mr. Tyrannosaurus distinguished himself to the first Mrs. Tyrannosaurus? Of course, he lied. There is no way that he can touch his nose with those stubby arms, but he had to impress her, right?
The problem with being insincere is that it communicates to us immediately that we are not good enough, and rather than seek a life that is crafted towards meeting our unique needs, we seek the life that will impress others. Quick recap. We lie to please others, which makes us feel not good enough or perhaps, more accurately, never good enough. Then, we pursue some life that we think somebody else wants, which is definitely not the life that we want. The more we engage in these behaviors, the more we persuade ourselves that we are actually pursuing the life we want. This makes us feel like incompetent idiots, as we acquire all the things required for this ideal life, but still feel unsatisfied and self-critical. If you follow this path long enough, you will begin to feel like a field with no crops covered in manure, there will be a lot of shit in your life, but you will reap no rewards.
Sincerity works towards compassion by saying, “Let’s cut the shit! You are already good enough, and I am tired of dancing to someone else’s song. Let’s take the risk of being ourselves for once, so it is at least possible to attract the people and life that we want.”
To truly be kind to yourself, you must make space to accept yourself as you are. Society makes that difficult with its unreasonable expectations. Pictures of perfect bodies (touched up by technology) position themselves on magazine covers and internet pages. Well-crafted profiles of individuals and companies with inflated success find their way into our social media feeds, and a burgeoning philosophy that requires you to take on all social/interpersonal/work roles independently to be considered a success weigh on our minds and our hearts.
Paying attention to social programming is not keeping you in the loop, it is poisoning your well-being, so find a neutral space in which to reflect, bullet your actual needs at present, and make a list of some goals that would seemingly make you happy that are unrelated to social demands.
Finding a Neutral Space
It’s pretty common knowledge that the way we think and behave are connected to our environments. Most of us think about work, while we are at our workspace. We think about the gym when we are there, and we think about family and friends, when we are in their company.
Do not try to swim against the current and try to plan your life goals or figure out who you really are in any of these arenas. There is a very ridiculous theory out there that you should be able to do anything in any environment, if you want it bad enough. I want badly for you to use your common sense, and choose the environment in which you can find the most success, in this case, a neutral one.
A neutral environment is an environment with the least social programming, so the beach (if its empty, the sand and the water should be calming), a nature trail (nature couldn’t give a hot farmer’s flatulence about whether or not Jenny has lost 30 pounds and you haven’t or about Mike’s new high profile job on the trader’s market), your parent’s or perhaps your own basement (hey, it’s not the Ritz but, if sparse, will cut off social access and social programming).
Wherever you go, turn your social media finders off (phones, tablet, smart watches), and if you can, dress in a comfortable way. Much like candles and wine before a night of romance, you want to set the mood. Work into a relaxed state. Put on some comfortable clothes. Put on some relaxing music. Take your time in getting to this social refuge.
Bullet Your Needs at Present
Whenever I ask someone what they need, they almost always freak out like I just asked them if they wouldn’t mind donating all their blood to alien research. I like the use of bullets because they are short, quick, and don’t give you time to overthink this task. If you are already in your neutral space feeling relaxed, imagine moving to a desert island and thinking about the things that you just couldn’t do without right now. Trust your brain and your heart. They know stuff!
Do not make a list of things you hope to have in the next 25 years, when your silver, speckled unicorn comes down from the clouds, and blesses you with a rainfall of money and a romantic partner that wakes up everyday wondering how they can make your life easier.
Just focus on the immediate needs that, if met, would add pure well-being (goodness that does not come with pressure or responsibility and energy that decreases the current amount of stress on your nervous system). After you have written down all of your bullets, shrink your list to ten absolutely essential things that you cannot do without. Now we have something to work with!
Building Bigger Goals
To set aside bigger goals, you need to know who you are, and what you want. Don’t. Freak. Out. Write down your three most important values. Imagine your child or someone you love dearly finds themselves in the care of a family far away. Think of the three most important values you want them to have, and instill in your child, and you will know what your most important values are.
Next, record yourself or write down (if you prefer) in 5 minutes or less stating what you would want the people you love most to say that you did at your funeral. Don’t get caught up in the sadness. The only person who might die is the fake one that you are so tired of carrying around on your shoulders like the book bag full of schoolbooks your high school self wished it could have chucked into the river.
Listen to the recording, and write down the goals you can pull out of it. Then write 3 things you can do in the next year to move towards those goals, and come up with 1 small (yes small!) thing that you can do everyday to get closer to those goals.
Ta da! If I had a sincere diploma, I would give you guys one right now, and as appropriately as possible, I would cry in front of all your friends because I want nothing more than to see you live a life everyday that reminds you that you are good enough, that you are smart enough, and damnit that people like me just love you. I can’t help it. It’s a curse, but a good curse.
Of course, this entry is replete with humor, but it is full of honesty too. And, I would definitely cry. Sometimes, tears are just your heart’s way of thanking the universe for taking care of the people you love most. When you are greedy like me that includes a lot of people. So sneak yourself in there, and have a great life. The tears will be a small price to pay for your happiness.
365 Days of Kindness. Self-Compassion. Day 53. In the Books.