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In Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection, she focuses on the idea of perfection being the barrier to becoming our best selves. Ironically, as one attempts to be perfect in order to bring more happiness into their lives, it is actually just that pursuit that prevents them from attaining true fulfillment.
Recently Oprah sat down with Brown to discuss the idea of letting go of perfectionism and allowing oneself to be vulnerable, and a few interesting ideas popped up that caught my attention.
Just as our thoughts contribute to the quality of our lives, our actions, not surprisingly, do as well. But it is behaviors that we often disregard as benign that actually become the obstacles to living the life we desire.
Today, I’d like to reveal to you a handful of behaviors that we may engage in absent-mindedly that block the most fulfilling life we’ve always wanted from taking shape, beginning with . . .
1. The pursuit of perfection – rather than pursuing perfection, pursue excellence and focus on improving upon the person you were yesterday. So long as you compete with yourself, you will always improve. So long as you always do your best, you will never be disappointed. (Click here to read more on perfectionism.)
2. Sarcasm – As John Knowles reminds readers in the classic novel A Separate Peace, “It was long after that I recognized sarcasm as the protest of people who are weak.” Sarcasm, while on the surface appearing witty, is a defense mechanism of those who feel vulnerable and wish to put up a barrier. Derived from the Greek word sarkasmos, meaning “to tear flesh; bite the lip in rage or sneer”, it is a form of verbal aggression from someone who feels defenseless or has nothing valuable to offer to the conversation and wants to gain some shred of control back.
And when we engage in sarcasm, we ultimately push people away because we’ve either offended them or created a situation in which they can’t trust what we are saying to be honest and sincere or a jab to bring them down. Neither which foster strong, healthy relationships.
3. The need to please – The desire to have everyone like us strangles the person we are, denying anyone the opportunity to ever truly get to know us. If we are constantly being exactly what other people want, we are presenting a false self, and not only doing a disservice to those who accept the facade, but demolishing our chances of finding a truly content and fulfilling life based on the unique gifts each of us has to offer the world.
4. Refusing to commit to anything – While over-committing and spreading ourselves thin emotionally is not a healthy decision, refusing to commit to anything so as not to be hurt prevents us from experiencing quality relationships, accomplishing our dreams and achieving success. If you, like every person in the world will eventually experience, have experienced loss or pain, it’s not something we wish to bring upon ourselves. However, only those who risk greatly can love or achieve greatly. Decide today to commit yourself to at least one thing that holds a dear place in your heart, and never give up (per Monday’s post – “find a way”.)
5. Cynicism – Pre-determining that all people have ill-intentions and refraining to skepticism no matter what the situation, keeps any potential opportunity from blossoming. When we respect the power of our thoughts, we come to realize that what we imagine, we ultimately have the power to create. And so if we choose to live our lives assuming the worst, and thereby looking for it, we will often find it.
6. Controlling everything – “Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.” Oscar Wilde reminds us that when we try to control anything beyond ourselves, we are actually pushing others away and only hurting ourselves. While as adults we need to find the middle ground of controlling our lives, we also need to accept that we cannot control everything, and accept the beauty of this gift. It is in accepting that life and people are unpredictable that should excite us, not frighten us.
7. Gossip – One of the lowest and simpleton forms of communication is gossip. Eleanor Roosevelt famously states, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” It is when we fall prey to gossip that we focus on the flaws of others, deflecting attention away from ourselves, preventing insightful, enlightening conversation that allows people to get to know us. So in a way, gossip is a form of armor that keeps people out, rather than helping to cultivate worthwhile relationships.
As you can see, the reversal of simple decisions or behaviors can open up the doors to amazing positive growth in our lives. Choosing to live consciously, being aware of the words we utter, and the expectations we set for ourselves can not only change the quality of our day to day lives, but also serve as an example to those around us, that such debilitating behavior is not constructive. And once they observe the quality of your life improving, they may be inspired to change as well.
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