Growing Into Our Humanity | Steve's Quest: The Animated Musical Web Series

Growing Into Our Humanity

I used to be in search of a book, workshop or practice that would, in a matter of hours or days, change me forever.  I’d stop doubting myself, my relationships would always go smoothly, I’d become courageous enough to always say how I felt, and so on.

I had this goal in mind, consciously or not, with every self-help book I bought, workshop I attended, and spiritual practice I tried.  “This is going to be the one,” I’d say to myself.  “This teacher will transform my life and end my suffering, once and for all.”

As my self-development journey wore on, it began to become clear that this wasn’t going to happen.  I wasn’t going to have some sudden breakthrough that would blast all my neuroses and shortcomings to ashes with white-hot divine light.

Being Okay With Being A Mess

My first reaction, when I realized this, was to blame the personal growth teachers I’d been learning from.  “They promised me all this wonderful transformation, but I’m still the same old mess,” I griped.  “They must all be frauds.”

But after spending some more time working on my growth, I began noticing something remarkable:  I was becoming more okay with “being a mess.”  My insecurities, the weird ways my body tensed up in certain situations, and so on started to seem less shameful and more acceptable.

Gradually, what I discovered was that having fears, neuroses, and other “flaws” is actually a built-in part of being human.  I recognized that most of my suffering actually came from expecting myself to be more than human — to be a perfect, godlike being, free of limitations.  No seminar, book or practice, I came to understand, could turn me into that.

Acceptance Creates Transformation

And here’s the real kicker:  the more I began accepting my hangups, the more they started falling away.  The more “okay” I became with my humanity, and all its quirks, the less I suffered.  Tight spots in my body that I thought would stay clenched forever finally began to relax.

One of the practices I found most valuable was to sit across from someone and just admit, as honestly as I could, what I felt as I sat with them — whether it was a fear that they were bored with me, a concern that they might not find me attractive, an irritation with them, or some other “compromising” fact about my experience.

Simply revealing, to another person, all the thoughts and feelings I was once too ashamed to discuss has been deeply healing.  There’s nothing like the experience of showing up as the imperfect human being I am, without being criticized or shunned, and sometimes even being loved.

After being on this path for a while, I’ve come to believe that self-development, at its best, is about learning to embrace being human, with all the gifts, and limitations, that come with being part of our species.  It’s great to strive for “neverending improvement” and all, but working to change ourselves can bring great suffering if we do it from a place of disliking who we are right now.

Interestingly enough, I think, when we become able to honestly say “if nothing about me ever changed or improved, that would be okay,” that’s when real transformation takes root.  But at that point, transformation is really the icing on the cake — the greatest gift is being able to accept who we are, right now.

12 thoughts on
Growing Into Our Humanity

  1. Evelyn Lim

    I was expecting the major transformations with each course I bought too. Recently, I also realized that the value that I got out of each program could only correspond to the amount of effort that I had actually put into practice. It is one thing about reading the tips but quite another to actually do the exercises. Even then, I’d say that even if I have not been quite as diligent as I would have liked to be, I wouldn’t be who I am now if I have not bought any of these courses and programs.

  2. Sara

    Chris,

    I think this is one of my favorites of your many excellent posts. I agree that we seek outside fixes all too often when acceptance of both our strengths and weaknesses might be a better option.

    I don’t know about sitting across from someone and sharing all my fears, but I can understand how it would release them. I think my expectations of what someone thinks of me is probably more scary than what the person actually DOES think:~)

    While I may not be ready for that step yet, I do work at accepting more things about myself that I once used “self-help” guides to try to eradicate. So, I have a few “weeds” in my field; they often make the soil stronger:~)

  3. Fred H Schlegel

    I’ve found that if you think you need to throw everything out in order to start a new path then you are likely to flounder. Acceptance provides a solid platform to build on, judge new ideas, and find satisfaction from day one.

  4. Chris - Post author

    Hi Evelyn — yes, I would agree that it’s important to have a regular practice of some kind — and, even if I do meditate regularly or do something else, I can still find that nagging sense that “I should be getting more out of this” coming up — so, for me, letting go of the desire to become a super-being is a constant aspect of any practice I do.

  5. Chris - Post author

    Hi Sara — thanks for the appreciation. I really liked what you said about letting go of the need to “eradicate” parts of yourself — and that’s exactly what I think a lot of people, me included sometimes, use self-help books or spiritual practices to do. Some people I’ve talked to who say they’re looking for nirvana — which literally means extinction or extinguishing — seem to be motivated by a desire to hurt or annihilate themselves, because who they are right now isn’t perfect or “spiritual” enough. How liberating it would be to let go of that sense of not-enoughness, and to have a practice that was about that letting go.

  6. Chris - Post author

    Hi Fred — good to meet you. Yes, I think a lot of us approach personal development from a place of wanting to “throw ourselves out,” and could benefit from a bit more acceptance of where we’re at right now.

  7. Jannie Funster

    You are WONDERFUL, Chris Edgar!!!

    I guess the part of me that hemmed and hawed and tried to avoid singing my new song on video is the part that told myself I had to be PERFECT in every way — my vocal, my hair, my clothes, my expressions and inflections — my je ne sais quoi.

    Well, this morning I recorded it impromptu and it’s NOT perfect, actually quite imperfect, but it’s real. It’s Jannie! And I should be posting it Sunday if all goes technologically as I hope it — and expect it to — iPhone and YouTube willing.

    xoxo

  8. Susie Amundson

    Dear Chris,

    One of my favorite sayings is “Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional.” This goes hand in hand with the difficulties that we create for ourselves.

    Your post is a vital reminder to allow ourselves to understand and embrace our quirks and idiosyncracies and grow into our core essence.

    Blessings abound.

  9. Chris - Post author

    Hi Jannie — that feels really relieving to me to hear you letting go of the need to look or sound a certain way. I’m looking forward to seeing you in all of your glorious imperfection. :)

  10. Chris - Post author

    Hi Susie — good to meet you. I like the saying you mentioned, and it’s always remarkable to me how focusing our attention on the pain, as opposed to living our lives striving to escape it, can actually lessen our suffering, in my experience.

  11. Patricia

    I grew up in a household of perfectionists and they actually accomplished a great deal of good in the world and made the world a better place.

    As I have learned to relax, and I think as I have grown older, I have become more patient with myself. I seem to like myself better every year passing.

    I am with Evelyn though, I read every book all the way through and then I put it into practice and practice and practice….My Father used to say, “Try everything and then throw out what does not work!” When I find the point of greatest discomfort that is where I know I must put my focus to find the soul message of the change I need to make…

    I enjoy being human and being alive….I love my quieter lifestyle, I just wish I could figure out how to make some funding for it. I still carry the guilt of a big medical debt.

  12. Hilary

    Hi Chris .. it’s interesting isn’t .. that one day we suddenly ‘wake up’ and think well come on .. let’s actually do something .. and as you say – we are who we are … acceptance creates transformation.

    Thanks – really useful thoughts .. clearly set out .. Hilary

    Great reading everyone’s comments and your responses ..

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