For years, I’ve been on a quest to grow. Or so I thought. I’ve gone through hundreds of self-help books, so much so that I feel queasy just thinking about them now.There’s hardly any theory in psychology or philosophy related to the self that I haven’t heard of. I can safely say that I’m an expert. But I don’t think that knowledge went to my heart. Let me explain.

When I decided to deal with my depression, I was 17. I had tried to ignore it for over two years by then and I realized it wasn’t going anywhere. So slowly but surely, I tried different methods and tips to ‘fix’ myself, to no avail. That I was a hardened perfectionist only made things worse. I was constantly harassing myself into figuring things out. What was I missing? Why was I so daft that I couldn’t ‘get’ it? What was I missing that everyone around me seemed to understand? Needless to say that I felt extremely ashamed and angry with myself.

Earlier this week, I found myself in similar territory; I was exasperated and pissed with myself. Why couldn’t I be mindful? Why couldn’t I embody what I’d read in the latest book? Heck, I was even scolding myself for scolding myself! The thoughts seemed familiar, and sure enough, I retraced it to the beginning of my quest. It dawned on me that this was just another ploy to avoid myself. I was essentially looking for an elixir to make me ‘perfect’, to restore me to normalcy. I was avoiding living in me. I feared being intimate with my soul.

I felt it like a blow to my solar plexus. I’ve been running, all these years, only to come back to the start. It was a mixture of devastation,disappointment,rage,sadness, and hopelessness. I busted myself and for that I was mad. I felt safe as long as I had that distant aim in mind; soon I’ll be fine, after I read this book, after I lose 5 kg, after I meet prince charming.It kept my eyes away from the now and that was all that mattered. I felt, I feel like I’m inherently broken. I feel that whatever improvement I achieve is a scam, soon to be exposed. I fear writing in the capacity I’m capable of because I’m afraid I’ll leave evidence of my falseness in my wake. I’m like a cocoon; I don’t want to become a butterfly. I don’t want to fly. I’m afraid my wings will be scrutinized and I’d be abandoned on the cold, hard ground with nothing to wrap myself with.

4 responses to Counterfear

  1. Baby steps, my dear, baby steps! What’s that old saying, “The longest journey begins with a single step.” (And then another and another.)

    We’re all broken. Perfection is a worthy goal, but an unattainable one. Always remember that life is about the journey, not the destination, and we each need to find our own path.

    Maybe it’s not as apparent from the inside, but from the outside we can see you growing and exploring new territory. Be easy with yourself; you’re doing fine.


  2. I couldn’t have put it any better than Wyrd Smythe.

    Oh my, have I been there! For years and years, my life has been one stream of self-improvement projects. Until I realized that perhaps the greatest of “self-improvements” might be to let go of the mountains of literature and be with what I am for a minute.

    And that, dear Mulki, is so hard that even the greatest of philosophers will never be able to achieve a state of perfect centeredness at all times. We are made to look for ways to improve; that is at once beautiful and tragic. For this reason, becoming mindful is not a click-moment, it is a life-long process, and an amazing one. You begin with one tiny thing, and when that brings you joy, the spark will jump over to the next thing.

    And by the by, in noticing that you are scolding yourself for scolding yourself, you ARE being mindful. It is a misconception to assume that mindfulness will always feel peaceful. Mindfulness is accepting what is and looking at it with curiosity and kindness. So you are scolding yourself for scolding yourself. Is there a part of you that can be gentle with the angry, perfectionist, harsh side of yours? That can look at that side and understand where it’s coming from? It didn’t come from nowhere. It was made by the forces of time and childhood and voices you heard and sentiments you picked up on.

    There will be days when we manage to feel close to ourselves, and days when we don’t. But you are well on your way. It is very visible to us out here 🙂


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