Perhaps one of the most consistent themes in the therapy room revolves around the topic of humanity. This is a widely explored topic that does not discriminate. I’ve had my fair share of five-year olds whom I sit with on the floor with toys scattered about. Their brows are furrowed with concentration as they express their obstacles with humanness, a deep desire to “get it just right” and to “be perfect”. The desperation for “right” is expressed and modeled from the very beginning of their lives.
Then we have children whom are so preoccupied by the craving to fit within a dreamt-about model status which includes stellar grades, impeccable wardrobes and complexions, favorable friendships, and dreamy partners. Anything that steers away from this is incredibly distressing and all-consuming. The feeling of inferiority clouds their vision and pressurizes self-talk and everyday experiences. Their worlds scream “Try harder!” around every corner.
Fast forward to young adulthood. Those who have meandered their way into their twenties are faced with a whole different slew of pesky humanisms. Post- high school endeavors, such as college degrees, relationships, and careers, turn into a giant race heading toward a tantalizing, rumored finish line. This race quickly evolves into a marathon as young adulthood morphs into full-fledged maturity. As the race gets longer, the pressure to be anything or anyone but human continues to bear down.
I sometimes daydream about the ability to travel back in time to the moment our culture adopted the idea that embracing our humanisms was frowned upon. Was that moment in the Victorian era when women thought they were not “feminine enough” without a corset? Or does this tendency to outrun our imperfections go all the way back to the cavemen and women? Was there a feeling of inferiority and negative self-talk if someone’s cave painting was more profound than someone else’s?
It’s quite mind-boggling to think about the existence of self-talk throughout time and I wish there was a history book that followed the evolution of it. When did it become a normalcy for humans to punish themselves for being… well human.
Since when did anything good ever result from hate?
It would be like a dog chasing its tail and flopping down from frustration of not being able to catch it. It would then bow it’s head in the corner, perseverating on the fact it cannot bend like a fish.
We would take one look at this sorry pup and think it was being absurd!
“Of course you cannot bend like a fish!” we would exclaim.
“You’re a dog and you’re wonderful just the way you are! I would not be able to scratch your ears or snuggle with you if you were a fish,” we could coo as we consoled the distraught creature.
Just as this dog is in fact a dog, you and I are in fact humans. We cannot swim like a fish or run like a dog. We simply are not supposed to.
You see, being human is supposed to be complicated and messy. We have oversized brains that literally keep our young from being self-sufficient for a very long time compared to any other living and breathing thing. These wild, complex brains can conjure thoughts far more colorful and vibrant than any other life form on this Earth. The downside to this is, sometimes the color can be so profound, it can distract us from what’s really important.
Perfection and Normal do not humanly exist!
Read that again. Marinate in it.
These are dreamt about “destinations” our culture has decided to do its darnedest to make palpable out of our imaginations! It would be like willing Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy into existence with the notion “If I invest in this idea hard enough, they will become tangible”.
Sorry folks, that’s not how this world works.
We are human.
We are unique, and similar to a zebra, no one is an exact replica of the other. We have distinctions, birthmarks, nuances, and complexions that will forever be meant for us only. We have strengths and weaknesses. Opinions and preferences. We have the propensity to make mistakes, largely because they are the fundamental steps to learning and growth.
For the love of all things good, stop kicking yourself for being exactly how you’re supposed to be.
We are supposed to be messy. We are supposed to be complex and have opinions that differ from others. We are meant to have big feelings and experiences that are uniquely our own. As tantalizing as it might be to “turn off your feelings” or run toward the idea that perfect and normal are attainable, all you are doing is outrunning your truth.
The truth that we are all imperfectly humans that deserve compassion for being so.
Would you go to that dog sulking in the corner, beating itself up for not bending like a fish and say to it “You’re a sorry excuse for a dog. Work harder, I know if you keep trying and keep punishing yourself, you’ll bend like that fish. No pets until you do!”?
Of course not!
Please, stop punishing yourself for not bending in the ways we are not meant to bend.
Show compassion for the mistakes you and others stumble through.
Honor the messiness that growth is intended to be.
Don’t sulk in that corner.
Nothing good has ever come from hate.