I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t trying to fix something about myself.
As a little girl I wanted to be a better pianist. Then a better equestrienne. As I grew older I wanted to become a better student. Then a better lover. Then a better broadcast production engineer. Then a better wife. Then a better writer. And all along the way—at least after I hit puberty—there was the constant inner dissatisfaction with my weight, my hair, my complexion, my pathetically short eyelashes, my boobs (not big enough), my car (not new enough), my condo (not fancy enough), my bank account (not flush enough.)
When I learned that “Once was not enough,” I began to fret about not being multi-orgasmic.
Dammit. I could never ever measure up. And then at age thirty I had a spiritual wakeup call and learned about enlightenment. Suddenly “measuring up” in normal social terms wasn’t enough. I’d glimpsed the breathtaking capstone of human potential and all I had to do to become this “ultimate me” was wake up. Which meant meditating, being mindful, reading the right books and manifesting enough money to attend all the right workshops.
I was on the spiritual journey … the ultimate self-improvement gig.
It took a lot of years before I realized that the “self” who wanted more good hair days, more money and more success was the same self that wanted enlightenment, and that this was problematic.
Because the “self” is a total illusion—a mental construct with no reality whatsoever. There is no “attaining” enlightenment, because enlightenment is the absence of any sense of personal self. Enlightenment occurs when there’s nobody left at home to attain a damn thing.
But forget about enlightenment. Let’s just look at self-improvement.
Have you ever wondered why it’s a never-ending uphill treadmill that provides only rare flashes of satisfaction? And then you do all that work on yourself and then what? Even Arnold Schwarzenegger’s mighty muscles will wither and sag one day. WTF?
Why are we never (ok rarely) happy with our selves? Why is the ego such a whiner and soooo insecure?
Maybe it’s because the ego self isn’t really “us” at all.
I know a lot of people in lockdown who are chafing for things to “get back to normal” right now. But do we want that?
Right now, the ego’s “normal” world has been turned upside down. You can’t go to work (the ego’s usual proving grounds.) You can’t get to the gym. (Your main exercise is prowling around the house checking the refrigerator every 15 minutes and those once-tight abs are getting soft.) All the bars are closed and there’s no reason trying to look good. (You haven’t been to the salon in six weeks anyway.)
Maybe this is a good time to give your normal “self” a break.
Maybe it’s a good time to look in the mirror and reassess who/what is really there, and imagine, just for a moment, a Self that needs no improvement at all.