Have you ever found yourself in a position where you are aware of your own perfectionist or people-pleasing tendencies? Watching yourself do waaay more than your share? Trying to prove your goodness, your excellence, your value, or impress someone by what you are able or willing to do? Before I go any further, let me clarify that this message is not for the purpose of you unraveling the psychological reasons why you do what you do. Rather, my hope is, this message will give you an opportunity to turn your head; to experience a shift rather than "self-helping" your way to another outcome. I have experienced this in my own life, and it is incredibly liberating. So, from that point of reference, I'd like to offer some ideas for you to ponder that may actually be far more helpful than obsessively focusing on, or pulling apart, the threads of your life that got woven into your "justification" story. The very ones that you likely believe, "insist" you do the behaviors that absolutely may be helping others, but may be doing so at your expense rather than your benefit.
Have you ever felt like you were continually proposing the question to yourself, "How can I create visible, tangible proof that I am good enough?" Even if you aren't formatting that question consciously in this exact language, when we want to prove ourselves to someone, especially in order to get something we want (whether its from our families, in relationships, career or even spiritually), our minds can work this way. The inner question of your needing to prove you are good or worthy, is something you might want to listen for. Why? Because this can often be the question that paradoxically brings to us greater servitude than freedom, a greater belief in our limitations rather than our abundance, and locking oneself into a lack mindset, preventing the true and authentic, deep claiming of what you were chasing in the first place. Proof of your goodness, worth or value.
In general, the need to prove our value comes from the mind. Our logical minds pick up on the times that we feel like less, or the times that we want to be seen as more or feel like we need to be more. In the mind, that thought reflects our belief as limitations or flaws being greater than our talents or strengths. Our minds begin to strategize about what we can do to improve that situation, of course, because it doesn't feel good to think of oneself as not enough! The catch though, is in that moment of desperation. We want something we perceive we do not have, so we strategize all the things we can, could or must do, in order to have the thing we believe we lack. Of course the desired result is to be seen as the person we want to be seen as; capable and worthy, accepted, loved, appreciated. That said, we may instead end up running ourselves into a rut of "do-gooding," and justifying those actions as a future "currency" to get what we want. That could mean a relationship, a promotion, or simply being "seen" and valued. I believe this is ubiquitous in learning as well as in career environments. We are always in a heated competition to beat the other guy in whatever ways we can out-do-good them. Sadly, even though we may take on these actions, ultimately the "wins" we experience are often unsatisfying, shallow and short lived.
So how do we solve this? We need to be aware of our mental habits that say, "if I do this: ________, then I'll get that: _________. We simplify with our logical minds, how to get what we want. If I want a relationship, a promotion or more acceptance and appreciation from my family, then I begin to entertain, how can I: out-work everyone else, make the sacrifices no one else will make, prove I want it more than anyone else, or give more (time, money, freedom, security) than anyone else does. The problem with this method is that we start to keep track of the "good" that we do; we see and undoubtedly feel the weight of working at these proportions. We falsely believe we are "earning" our rights to the thing that we are chasing. We use our good deeds--counting them as currency--or a way of checking off the list of our proof that we are indeed worthy and deserving of what it is we want. Here's the problem with this strategy: not everyone who's in the situation with you is actually playing along..a.k.a. your currency of "good" may end up being to another, as useless as trying to pay their mortgage with Monopoly money.
What might be a better approach? Let's start here: "Life" is not a job. It's a j-o-u-r-n-e-y. At it's authentic best, it is not a measure of 9-5, what we have or what we get. If you can wrap your mind (and heart) around this, you are half way home. I define "Life" as simply, a continuous flow of experience. If we expect to be happy, we need to start letting go of the transactional deals we make with ourselves by our limited minds to get what we think will prove our value. A journey says we cannot be measured by accumulating a currency of only "good" actions. If it were, we'd lose touch with our humanity by missing opportunities to experience our own infinite nature, both perfect and imperfect. A journey's value is seen in the slow progress of personal evolution, with regard for all experiences being helpful to us in one way or another. This is the most valuable currency; living with presence and acceptance. What we may not appreciate is, the journey says you don't get "extra points" for how overworked, overstressed or overextended you become in the name of getting what you want. A successful journey leaves one with a sense of growth and satisfaction, contentment, peace and acceptance, i.e., based on inner values, vs. emptiness, exhaustion, fear, irrational competition or doubt that comes from focusing on externals to define our personal value.
A pivotal piece to start growing beyond "good-ness currency" is by addressing our head's desire to do good from a transactional space. That is the only way we can ever hope to experience our lives as a journey; a flow without beginning or end rather than from one transactional choice to the other. What the mind reacts to comes from a belief in lack. What the heart responds to comes from a place of infinite resources and wisdom. The currency of the mind is to prove worth or goodness through doing, with an intention of gaining the wanted validation. In contrast, the currency of the heart is reflecting deep worth and goodness through infinite resources arising from the power of purity and wisdom. When the heart takes action, it may also want to do good, but does so from a space of knowing that goodness already exists in an infinite way. The other marker of the heart is, it does what it does without expectation of a certain outcome. The intention of the heart is to give without concern for the measuring of it; giving away too much or not enough. It simply gives what is called for, with integrity, purity, clarity and wisdom. This currency is welcomed and accepted everywhere; in all places, at all times. Bonus? It is highly beneficial to both giver and receiver.
It might be an interesting exercise to ponder what your life could look like if you gave up fully using actions of goodness as currency. You might find a whole new road to what really has the power to make you deeply and sustainably free. It is only when we choose to embrace our infinite inner resources that we fully free ourselves from generating good behavior, actions or results as a currency of expectation. Being good--from the heart--is just one big beautiful YOU-TURN that continuously validates your worth, goodness and value from within your own self. Times are changing. If we want to come out of the times we are living in with any semblance of sanity, we must learn to embrace some new rules with commitment. It we do, we can look forward to an overflow of the currency of inner satisfaction and authentic goodness to generously and powerfully share, without expectation, with the world.