Throughout our lives we’re given subtle and not so subtle messages about where we will find happiness, what our value is and how to look at and cope with life’s challenges. These messages are conveyed to us, directly and indirectly, by our parents, our peer groups, society, and the pop culture of movies, music, TV, etc.
Perhaps you recall the line from the movie Jerry McGuire, a critically acclaimed box office hit, when he tells his love interest, “I love you. You complete me.” This is a common but erroneously held myth that someone else, even our special person, completes us. The truth is it’s up to each of us to develop a healthy relationship with ourselves in order to bring our better selves into relationship with another person. I believe we can influence, encourage and inspire each other to grow and evolve into better versions of ourselves. But I also believe that the on-going process of consciously striving to know ourselves more fully and heal our own emotional wounds is what makes us better partners and better humans. Its ongoing because as we experience setbacks and successes in life, we need to integrate them into our present way of seeing and understanding ourselves, which ideally is always growing and evolving.
Let me return though to those messages we get about what we need to become whole. The messages come to us from outside and inside of our being. And it starts early. We can even find them in some childhood nursery rhymes.
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall and had a great fall. No one was able to put the pieces of Humpty together again, not even the king’s men or the king’s horses. A simple explanation as to why Humpty remained in un-mended pieces is perhaps that it isn’t wise to rely on someone else to put us back together after we fall. It’s up to each of us to understand our fall (the fail, flaw, setback, imperfection) and do the work of mending and healing our broken pieces back together into wholeness. Not necessarily alone, without help, support, guidance or recognizing there is a learning curve. Rather, we do it for ourselves by being curious and developing self- awareness, initiating the process of change by seeking out help when needed, and being determined to understand ourselves better than we did before the fall. Learning to pick yourself up after a fall, even if that means with help, and doing the necessary work is how you learn to weather life’s challenges and develop a sense of resilience.
Little Ms. Muffet was innocently sitting on her tuffet when she was frightened away by a spider. We can include here any number of scary things that we try to avoid coming face to face with in life or in ourselves, such as those hurts, losses, disappointments, self- critical feelings. Imagine how the story might have gone if Ms. Muffet had been able to face what was frightening or threatening to her and she remained on her tuffet, standing her ground in the face of whatever fears were limiting her. It is in facing what scares you that you realize you are much braver than you think.
And then there was Jack and Jill. Even when we say the title of that rhyme It’s as if they are one. They both went up the hill, but Jack somehow fell and tumbled down. Did you ever wonder why Jill went tumbling after him? Maybe she didn’t have enough of a sense of her own self-worth and didn’t feel she was “enough” on her own, to stand alone at the top of the hill. What if Jill had had enough confidence and strength to stand firm at the top of the hill rather than be left to follow in Jack’s tumbled footsteps because she didn’t have a good enough sense of self to stand apart? When you can follow our own path and be true to who you are, you’ll feel more empowered. This is a way to discover your strength.
Having a non-judging curiosity, engaging in open self- inquiry, connecting with and valuing a desire to stretch and grow throughout life even when it means facing the hard stuff, having compassion and appreciation that as humans we all have breaks and cracks, is a fair amount of the “work” of personal growth. The good news is that with facing the struggles and disappointments in yourself and your life, it’s possible to heal and change and, in that process, find courage, become stronger and more authentic, have gratitude for what can be learned and bounce back from life’s difficulties with resilience and joy.
This is how you find wholeness, through recognizing your strengths and weaknesses, accepting your light and dark, and embracing all of the messiness of emotions, family history, interpersonal relationships, and most importantly, the complexity and yes, sometimes messiness, of having a life-long love affair with your whole self.