“Real love is accepting other people the way they are without trying to change them. If we try to change them it means we don’t really like them.” – Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements
This wonderful quote says something I think we all know deep down. And yet it has an implication that is profound. One that I’ve struggled with most of my life and that I’d like to reflect on with you today.
The most important person this quote applies to is you – it’s yourself.
We live in a world where we constantly feel we don’t live up to expectations. And the highest bar often isn’t the expectations others set for us. It’s the expectations we set for ourselves.
And so we beat ourselves up, we feel unworthy, we think “I’m not enough.” We constantly strive to improve, to “self-actualise”.
But when we need to change ourselves all it means is we don’t really like ourselves. And if we don’t really like ourselves it’s impossible to love and accept ourselves the way we are.
That is why real love must begin on the inside. You cannot give to others what you don’t yet have. You cannot love others without loving yourself. And if you feel constantly like you’re never enough, you will always feel like others are never enough too. You will constantly look for more, for better.
This belief will manifest itself in thousands of little actions and attitudes, slowly poisoning you and the people around you. Your disappointment in yourself will be reflected in your disappointment with others. Your judgements will make others feel unworthy, not good enough, and before long they may come to believe it. Their own belief reinforces your assumptions and reflects back on you. Until a deep, throbbing frenzy of self-loathing and striving becomes the norm.
Escaping this vortex is simple, but it is not easy. All it takes is for you to acknowledge that you don’t need to change yourself. That you’re only human. That you are enough, just as you are.
Now, before you get anxious at the thought of giving up your journey of self-improvement (I know this feeling, I’m there with you right now) let me tell you one thing: this decision doesn’t mean you can’t change; it doesn’t mean you can’t improve and become a better person.
But it will fundamentally change the whole fabric of that journey.
Because once you accept yourself for who you are; once you love yourself unconditionally, for all of your failings and mistakes. Well, then the reason for changing suddenly shifts.
You could change, or you could not, sure. But shifting your attention from the agony of your own inadequacy will allow you to look up and around you. And when you decide to step forward into self-improvement, it won’t be to salve the wounds of your own self-hatred. It will be because you want to make the lives of the people around you better. Starting with the person right next to you – wherever you are – and growing in ever wider concentric circles.
There is no other way. You cannot trick yourself by re-framing and rationalising your motives. Simply waking up one day and trying to force yourself to believe “I’m doing this for other people” is like gold-plating a turd. It will just be another act to maintain, to others and to yourself.
The only way to get here is through the surprisingly difficult realisation that you are ok. In fact, you’re more than ok, you are awesome.
You are the incredible result of hundreds of millions of years of entropy; the sum of the sacrifices of billions of animals and human beings and moments.
You are enough, whoever you are, just as you are.
You are enough.