The Self-Improvement Ghetto

Jen Louden wrote this amazing blog post challenging us to embrace our brilliance.  I’ve heard a lot of New-Agey stuff like that (and I’ve even used it from time to time), but here’s where she got me:

“You cannot heal yourself or help heal the world from the self-improvement ghetto.”

Yeah, I’ve lived there.  It sucks ass.

I went through a few years of trying to “heal” every single flaw, whether real or imagined.  I went over every pore, every wound, every mis-step with a magnifying glass and some bleach, scrubbing away what I thought was “wrong” with me.  I bugged some healers I know (godbless’em), hoping they’d fix me and finally make me really okay.

Do I need to tell you how exhausting and potentially expensive that is?

The tricky thing was that all this effort looked like virtue.  It seemed like such a noble thing to dredge up every flaw and fear and try to make it something else.  I mean, isn’t that the essence of healing and spirituality?

Nope, it isn’t.  I see now that I was living in the ghetto and calling it a monastery.  I think healing might just be about seeing how perfect we already are.

Being in the ghetto (cue Elvis song) is a fear-based exercise in not-good-enough. We  live there when we think we’re inherently unworthy of having what the good people have.  Moving in means we’re in a perpetual state of personal excavation. We work ourselves hard to get good enough, even though that’s not really, truly possible because there’s no external marker, no amount of validation from other people that can create the certainty of worthiness we’re seeking.

Slowly, I’ve shifted my perspective by cultivating a better relationship with myself and trusting that Spirit has my back.  You might call this new place a Brownstone of Basic Goodness or the Compassion Condo.  The foundation is made of love instead of struggle.  I’m seeing that I’m really pretty cool.  I’m an okay human being, even on my worst days and when I screw up.  It takes some practice to allow myself to be human sometimes, but I know I’m at least worthy of practicing.  I don’t need to go back to the ghetto if I gain five pounds, lose $100, or put my foot in my mouth.

Is a red flag going up for you now?  Like, is this chick seriously telling me not to bother with healing?  What if I never grow?  But in the same way that I accidentally equated self-improvement with virtue, it would be easy to mistake self-love for complacency.  The truth is, when I love myself I want to be happy and healthy, which might mean healing old wounds and shifting habits.  I want a minimum of baggage because that’s what feels good to this worthy being that I am.  (And that lightness makes me of better service to others, too.)

So there is some tending, basic upkeep and maintenance, but it’s motivated by confidence and love—not by the fear that I have to do it or else.  Even when I’m working on something, I know I’m showing up with a fundamental not-so-badness.  

I’ve let go of the ghetto and I’m settling into a sweet little MikMansion.  It’s MUCH MORE RELAXING.  I’m so relieved that I don’t have to work so damn hard that I want to share this feeling with everybody.

If you live in this neighborhood already, I’m really excited for both of us!  If you’re waiting for your ghetto lease to run out, come and join us soon, okay?  There’s lots of room, and we need some more good peeps on this block.  Let me know if I can help you get here.

Happy housewarming.

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