Here is a question for you. Do you believe you are “good enough”? My thoughtful self balks at even writing those two words, which invite another couple of questions, good enough for whom or what? This post is provoked both by reading the daily meditation for 19 September in my daily reader, One Foot in Front of the Other, on perfectionism and also by the remorselessly critical inner voice that lays me to siege from time to time and most especially on the days when I am not travelling as well.
In this reading Tian Dayton, the author writes :
Dark forecasting was a residue of a childhood dysfunction and trauma. I experienced a loss of trust and faith that the world was a predictable, safe place, that my needs were meet-able and not too much, that relationships could be fulfilling rather than disappointing.
As the reading goes on Tian talks of how a sense of seeking perfection of ourselves and others and looking for the worst can begin to prevail in our lives and alter the way we think about people, life, experiences and relationships. It can also affect the way we think about ourselves, most especially if how we were or expressed ourselves was deemed to be bad or an inconvenience for others, our true feelings and needs, ignored, punished, misunderstood, denigrated or shamed, leading us to internalise this treatment. The healing path is to recognise the impact of our past and the role it plays in our thinking.
Today my inner critic began one of its familiar rants : what a waste of space I am, growing less attractive, as I age, just not measuring up at all. Today was the first time I’ve told the voice full throttle to Fuck the hell Off. I was aware that my body was being pulled into the downward spiral of post traumatic stress. As I yelled back at the voice and allowed my self to get really angry at it (this dear reader is a first for me!!!) I did some powerful; resistance stretching, got dressed and moved out into the brisk cold windswept day to walk, my dog Jasper by the lake. I then went to our local fruit and veg markets, read my book and had a cup of coffee.
While I was smack bang in the middle of this experience I looked down and noticed the complex textures and colours in my denim jeans, flecked cardigan and scarf. I felt the wind on my face and as well as feeling with my fingers the texture of the page. At that moment I felt joy in just being present. I had the awareness that I was actually grounded in my body rather than stuck in a world of thoughts. I also had a very strong experience of how full and complete the present moment is.
I’ve been having some bodywork lately to deal with the impact of my post traumatic stress. I needed to call the therapist today as I was getting overwhelmed. In my state of overwhelm, she drew attention to the fact I wasn’t breathing, when the breath slowed down there was a deep sadness and a lot of tears, I had not been able to feel before our contact. This experience made me question :
How often am I actually split off from my body, from what I am actually feeling?
How often am I trapped in thoughts instead of just noticing where I am presently in the room?
And how much of my thoughts related to memories of the past experiences that hurt me and keep me trapped, in the car or flung flat on my back with a massive head trauma which made me feel disoriented, nauseated and overpowered by trauma?
Also : how much does that experience entrap me now if I don’t keep track of the present moment and make the differentiation between the past and present?
I am not entirely sure how this relates to feelings of not being good enough only to mention that I recently read that one of the impacts of trauma is to blame ourselves, even when we are not at fault. Also add to this that our trauma in affecting others may lead them to blame us for it too.
On the difficult days I feel I am not very far along in my life and have been in a kind of prison for the 10 years since that last major trauma on the first anniversary of my marriage ending. My attitude then shifts to the negative when I focus on that too much, instead of seeing all the ways in which I have coped and continued to front up on the tough days when I can. Considering the number of times I have felt extremely suicidal, just being alive is a miracle for me.
Being discarded by someone can leave us feeling we did not measure up in some way. It’s a painful legacy to deal with. I was watching a show about a person who had been discarded in such a way last night and she was crying about feeling like in some way she had failed to “measure up” and wasn’t good enough. I could really empathise with her pain. I know it well. But whose standard was it she was failing to measure up to? Was it realistic for her? Should her feelings for herself be tied to this person’s lack of approval?
It’s a journey to move away from that kind of pain. It takes a real mental effort, not one that is about denying reality but about accepting it. I have to watch also when my own inner standard it too high for who I really am in this life and turns toward the negative, when the expectations I have internalised are not mine but someone else’s.
My mind can be my greatest enemy or my greatest ally. It depends on how I use it. When my day goes sour rather than try to manipulate others (by trying to be what they want) or complain about my fate I will step back and observe what is going through my mind.
What is going through my mind may not be about the reality and promise of the present moment which holds all kinds of simple pleasures and gifts but about past things or circumstances I cannot change, such as someone not loving me as I am or my past trauma which I also cannot change. But I do have power on this day. I do have the choice to love and care for myself in this moment by thinking in a way which frees me rather than locking me deeper in an inner prison of trauma and dark forecasting which endlessly repeats.