I got lost again this week. I don't know when it happened, I'm not sure how it happened, and I really don't like myself when it happens. I didn't physically get lost, of course, I lost my sense of balance. I feel it happening and there's a sense of fear, followed by anger, and then regret. There were many contributing factors to how I lost myself and more importantly, there were things I had in place (coping strategies), that helped me refocus, redefine, and refine my goals and purpose each day. Three ways I lose my balance include: extremes, comparison, and criticism:
Extremes Start with the All-or-nothing Thinking of Perfectionism
Perfectionism is a mindset I developed to handle things when life felt out of control. When I fall back in to this mindset I become very extreme and have very little grace. This could be housework, exercise, personal hygiene, and cooking. Weird stuff that is relatively anticlimactic in reality, but in my extreme thinking, perfection is attainable. It doesn't just get directed at me, though, it often escalates with me yelling, shutting down, and feeling like a complete failure. Extreme words like "complete failure," "total waste of time," and "worthless," lead me to my next imbalanced thought: comparison.
The Imbalanced Scale of Comparison
Comparison is a very slippery slope because it can also be extreme. It's often self-loathing or self-praising. It never allows for equality. In regard to shopping for a coffee pot, it's capitalistic. When it creates sense of self-worth and equality, it can be a lethal weapon. Comparison cuts off compassion because it often produces judgment. If you're a fair judge, your comparisons might lead to peace, but if you're a merciless judge, your comparisons can destroy relationships to with yourself and others. Comparison can cut off communication and ultimately, it erases compassion. When comparison is paired with merciless judgment, you have discovered the worst extreme: criticism.
Beaten Down by Your Inner Critic
I used to think the harshest critics were people I knew, but I recently realized, I am often my own worst enemy. I didn't need someone to point out my flaws, my weaknesses, my failures. I did it daily, relentlessly, and without an inkling of compassion. As I was recently studying the Book of James, I came across this passage and realized the measure I criticize others is measured by the criticism I have of myself. "Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment." Freedom, mercy, and a judgment free life is possible when you offer compromise, compassion, and seek inspiration by refocusing, refining, and redefining your why.
Refocus. Redefine. Refine.
To refocus means I still see the same things I saw before, but I decide what I will focus on. When I refocus, I can redefine what success is and refine my goals and attempts at improvement rather than perfection. Life can get really muddy especially when I'm on social media, when I have friends and family making observations, and when I'm not being kind to myself. Hope rises again when I find the courage to offer myself the same compassion I'd show a friend who's hurting. It rises again when I forgive myself for my flaws and mistakes and offer that same forgiveness to those who have hurt me. Hope rises again and gives me the strength to find new purpose and meaning in my own life. It is always good to believe hope can rise again.