Didn’t you identify with a super hero when you were a kid?
I know I did, children often use imaginary role models to build their personality, yet now that we’re adults, do we still need that kind of substitutes?
Like for instance, did you hear about the notion of “Higher Self”?
I’m referring to the term as used in self-help literature.
Think of the higher self as a fully blossomed version of you. It’s who you should become in order to accomplish your mission on earth, a perfected version of you, after years of improvement.
It’s obviously a very enticing idea, but I’ll call bullshit on it: I think that it’s a misleading approach if you really want to grow and improve your life.
You really don’t need that kind of pseudo-spiritual marketing jargon to set inspiring goals for yourself and achieve them.
I wrote this article to show:
- Why this higher self thing doesn’t work
- What to do instead
Why the higher self won’t get you anywhere
Your higher self is who you’re supposed to become once you’ve fully developed your potential. It’s the ultimate achievement of all your personal goals. Anything you’re trying to improve eventually sums up as this “greater you”.
To put that chronologically: one day, once you’ve worked your tail off on your social, professional and spiritual skills, the reward will manifest as a blissful fusioning with your higher self.
That’ll be amazingly great and epic!
Well, sorry to ruin the show but there’s something wrong in this picture:
Why should this “new you” be better than who you currently are?
Aren’t you already good enough?
My point is not to challenge the notion that we should evolve, I’m a big believer in personal-growth, but my experience has taught me that some strategies can quickly become totally neurotic. This “higher self” thing belongs to this category, here’s why:
- A Higher Self is simply an ideal, by definition ideals can never be reached
The idea of a higher self functions like a mirage: the closer you get, the further it goes. There’s no attaining your higher self.
In personal development, you want clear, achievable goals, unreachable objectives are nonsense, they’re only frustrating and disempowering
- The Higher Self reinforces the belief that you’re not good enough
Where does this idea come from?
How are you going to be able to progress if you don’t accept yourself in the first place?
- The Higher Self notion secretly implies that you have to be perfect
Then only, you’ll deserve happiness, Isn’t that screwed up? Seriously.
If your goal is to fully develop your own potential, I’d recommend to stop projecting on a hypothetic future persona and start focusing on the now.
I guess at this stage, most over-achievers will shuffle to sexier self-help material, and that’s OK :)
For those curious of a more serious growth strategies, though, please read on:
What to do instead?
As said above, the “Higher self” concept fails to be a useful transformation tool since it creates an arbitrary gap between yourself and your goal.
It doesn’t promote self-acceptance either.
Mature people will tell you that self-love and understanding are the keys to real change.
If you want to change anything you need to accept it first.
That implies starting where you are and come to peace with yourself simply because you are your only partner on the transformation path.
You’ll have to walk it all the way with yourself as sole company. If you can’t stand your own guts, can you imagine how horrible the trip will be?
Don’t frown, there are simple ways to make self-acceptance sweeter:
Scan you qualities
In order to tolerate yourself and set your goals based on the reality of who you are, why not assess all the good parts of your personality already?
I bet people keep praising you for the same things over and over again. Did you pay attention to what they were saying?
You should, because they’re probably right (your mom’s opinion also counts, no matter how biased it might be).
The trick, here, is to really understand that you might think your qualities are “normal” or granted, but they’re not.
I know a lot of people who are great at repairing things. They under-appreciate that because they simply like to fix that washing machine and they consider that there’s no merit in being good at something you like.
Other people have a great touch with animals. To them, there’s nothing special about them.
Wrong. Ask a regular person to pet a cat they don’t know.
You should take a piece of paper and write down 10 things people always praise you for. Then you should wonder: “does everybody have these skills?”
Even if you think you have no merit being endowed with specific know-hows because you were born that way, you should know that every single part of our personality is the result of your training, conscious or not.
Hug your imperfection
From the ultimate perspective, you are perfect. That’s what the “Higher Self” refers to in Hinduism.
From the daily point of view though, you’re not, and that’s OK. In fact, it mostly depends how you look at it.
Take any of your defects, and you’ll see that they’re the dark sides of your qualities:
- If you’re a little too gourmand, chances are you’re a good lover
- If you’re a naturally stressed person, you probably have great work capacities
- If you find it hard to move on, I bet you’re a faithful friend
- If you’re too sensitive, how about your amazing insights?
Consider those shortcomings as natural aspects, they’re not diseases. That tolerance will boost your capacities to work on your limits and improve in your life.
The relationship you have with your shortcomings will also condition how you set your personal development goals:
Set non-destructive goals
You don’t want to define objective to eradicate what you hate about yourself.
I’ll take a personal example, I’m the skinny type.
I used to be skinny in the bad sense: skinny like…really skinny.
My metabolism makes me lose weight for any reason. It’s absurd but it’s like that.
I’ve been called a locust, a skeleton, my karate teacher even told me that I looked like a “stick insect”.
A stick insect…You have to know what it looks like.
As a result, I hated my body and set these insane muscle gaining objectives. Was eating three times my weight everyday.
Until I got sick.
In the long run I learned to accept my lanky figure as a characteristic that some girls actually liked. I changed the way I was eating and exercising and packed some muscle.
It’s a paradox but often, when you get a positive outlook on yourself and you decide to set a goal just to go further in the right direction, it magically works.
Does reality always give you more of what you focus on?
Is that what they call “the Law of Attraction”?
I’m not a specialist but it looks like that. What about you?
Did you decide to become the “greater you” of just the best of yourself? :)