As I spend time writing in New York, a few things have become quite apparent to me. I’ve spent some time over the last few months with a variety of friends. The first thing is how lucky I am with the friends I have. The second is the amount of ‘feedback’ that I tend to get from many of them. By feedback I am referring to ideas, thoughts or suggestions as to what I am doing wrong and what mistakes I am making in different areas of my life. I started thinking about self-awareness and I began to ask myself the question ‘am I really so much more flawed that I perceive others to be?’ and ‘after all these years, how come I haven’t changed as much as I ‘should’ have?’ Now since I’m hoping that there are some people out there that might relate to this, I wanted to address this and explore taking feedback on.
I am, indeed, extensively flawed. No matter how much time I’ve spent working on myself, I continuously notice certain aspects of my behaviour that aren’t as I would want them to be. Now, of course, I know many people will say that ‘you are perfect just as you are’ and I get that, I really do. I also believe that our behaviour is not perfect and therefore it’s a good thing to work on yourself. Accepting the mistakes and patterns I regularly engage in is crucial in understanding how to move past this. I first need to get back to what I believe is really going on.
Sometimes, in the field that teaches people how to be happy, successful, confident and more relaxed, there can be an onus on the teacher of the field to show the world how ‘perfect’ they are. If you do as I’m teaching you, you will be perfectly happy like me. You will be confident like me, relaxed like me or successful like me. The idea is that how can we listen to someone telling us how to be happier if they’re not perfectly happy all the time. In other words, if the shit that you say really works, then by logic, you should always be happy.
I was a neurotic kid. I was worried constantly. I was scared of a lot of things. I was very introspective, extremely sensitive and very aware of how others perceived me. I was clumsy, silly and awkward. My teenage years weren’t great. So I learned a lot of patterns and a number of triggers that caused me to feel bad. These triggers were around rejection, abandonment, not being loved, popular or accepted. They were around being lied to, betrayed or made a fool of.
The struggle I went through finally introduced me to hypnosis, psychology and NLP. I found something that helped me. I found something that made me feel like I could handle the feelings. But some of the triggers were still there. The patterns still occurred. In the majority of areas of my life, I managed them all extremely effectively for the most part. But there were some aspects or areas of my life that continued to involve me struggling. These areas, even to this day, I have noticed myself falling back into old patterns or being triggered into non-useful ways of thinking.
Now a few years ago, I used to feel what I call ‘meta bad’. This is feeling bad about feeling bad. It is like a professional bad feeler. I would attack myself for not being the perfect NLP guy. I would attack myself for being hurt by what others said or did. I would attack myself for not behaving in the best way possible at all times. Until one day I gave myself a break. I realised that ‘meta bad’ is classic stupidity and unnecessary. Instead, what was necessary was that I needed to be okay with whatever I would do. It’s a bit like eating healthily. If you eat something that isn’t perfectly healthy, that is okay as long as you do your best to keep eating healthily.
Accepting my flaws and continued flawed behaviour meant that I had a sense of freedom. It was the freedom in knowing that I didn’t have to live up to a perfect version of who I ‘should’ be or was ‘supposed’ to be. Instead, I could just stay on my journey, getting better little by little. Richard (Bandler) once said ‘People are always changing. They are either getting better or getting worse.’ So, I figured, as long as I was getting better that was enough.
That being said, the pain of disappointment or regret when you don’t live up to how you want to behave or act is important I believe. It is good to get a reminder that this isn’t helping you get to where you need to go. It is good to be motivated to change. If you know you are enough but enough isn’t the end point, then you get to improve without trapping yourself in the need to be perfect.
The truth is, if you really look inside yourself, there are flawed behaviours we all have. Some of us are more self-aware than others and some of us are looking for more feedback than others, but we all can improve in some way. We often don’t need to, but our lives will more than likely be better if we do.
It is in accepting that it is okay not to be perfect that allows me to be better. That core idea made a huge difference to me and helped me continue to move forward step by step. The patterns and triggers that still cause me issues in specific areas of my life, I will keep working on them, not because I need to but because I choose to. Because doing that is better than not doing that.
Writing as an ‘expert’ in a field comes with the responsibility of being a role model. Authentically, if I was to look at myself, I realised that though I was never remotely close to perfect, I was continuously getting better at most things and that enables me to be such a role model. Over the years, I’ve heard people attack various gurus or teachers because of some imperfection they have. My response was always to attack the guru they believed in back to put home the point that nobody is perfect. In reality, however, there is no need for that. The only need is to be okay with yourself and work to doing the best you can at any moment you have. The myth of perfection can make people feel worse. Realising it is a myth gives us freedom to become better.
You might have lots of people in your life telling you what you need to do and how you need to change. Remember one simple concept: feedback can be useful when you use it to help you take steps toward getting better. It is not useful when you use it as a beating stick to make you feel worse. That is one of the most important keys to taking feedback.