How I Turned My Sacred Inner Work Into an Achievement

Obsessive “work” on the self is taking me off track.

The self-improvement space is ill. Or maybe, I’m ill — but externalize my internal issues to be able to blame someone or something out there for my struggles.

(The latter is always easier because, for a moment, it gives you an excuse. It allows you to fool yourself that you’re not responsible for your attitude to life. That’s it — personal responsibility covers our attitudes, rather than what we manage to make happen in our lives.)

In any case, self-improvement and the pursuit of a better life have brought me to a place of devaluing life as it is right now. It also reinforced my default, ancient belief that I can never be good enough. If you read my writing before, you’ve seen this theme come up more than anything else. But for my own sake, I need to reiterate it, speak about it over and over, until I realize:

The desire to optimize, improve and better myself has penetrated my life so deeply that it’s embarrassing to talk about it. I turned all my endeavours — spiritual ones included — into projects to prove my own worth. On the way, I also started comparing myself to friends who, the way I see it, are making faster progress on the path to a blissful and meaningful life.

I look at them, instead of myself, and see them as more grown, more conscious, more intentional. Comparing myself to others is futile and often, harmful to everyone involved. But with inner growth, it comes with an extra price tag on it still. Because comparison turns everything into a task with a beginning and end, it turns self-exploration into something it was never meant to be. It frames the most delicate and subtle art of life — the journey into the self — as something that should unfold according to my limited expectations.

I was never meant to become anyone other than myself. It’s such an obvious statement that it feels laughable to say it so bluntly. Yet, somewhere along the way, I lost sight of it. The programming I absorbed led me to believe that even the relationship with myself is, in some way, an achievement to be ticked off my bucket list.

I started measuring my inner growth by its external manifestations. I wanted to perform rituals and lead guided meditations. I still do — but I recognize that these forms of sharing spirituality must come as a natural extension of my inner life, rather than imposed measures to induce a spiritual experience. I can’t force myself to be myself through doing things. But I can turn inwards and, ever more gently, create space for who I already am.

Maintaining the sincere intention to nurture myself is tricky. I am inclined to disregard my tendencies for proving my worth through actions and pretend I’m doing all this “for myself.” In reality, the cry of an insecure child is still very pronounced. It often directs my external doings and disguises them as “inner work” while, in reality, they are means to gain attention.

Writing like this — confused and unstructured — soothes that cry. I recognize that what I’m doing here is a form of healing and an attention-seeking mechanism at the same time.

For the moment, I accept this duality and let it be. What else is there to do? I’m not an enlightened being — far from it. However, I do realize that admitting I’m not perfect and in the same breath recognizing I don't need to be is exactly where the potential for enlightenment resides.

What if you stopped treating your ego as the enemy and befriended it instead? To find out, read my new book, Ego-Friendly:

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