(Information for this essay comes from articles written by Dr. Clifford Elliot, former United Church minister and Canadian religion author Tom Harpur, both published in the Toronto Star (dates unknown for both) and from the "Ann Landers Encyclopedia")
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Perfectionism does not exist; to understand it is the triumph of human intelligence; to expect to possess it is the most dangerous kind of madness.
- Alfred de Musset
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Most of us don't like ourselves. We look at the people around us, envious of their success, thinking that they have it all together. We are constantly being bombarded with images of success, adding to our inadequacies. We keep saying that if we had a better job, more money, etc., our lives would be so much better.
In her book, "The Imposter Phenomenon, When Success Makes You Feel Like A Fake," author Pauline Clance, an American psychologist suggests that 70 percent of successful people suffer from the Imposter Phenomenon - a constant worry that, although admired and respected, they will, some day, be "found out." They feel that they are failures masquerading as successes.
Dr. Clance believes that more than half the population suffers from it - at least, from time to time. Boiled down in its simplest form, it says "I don't like myself. I'm not what I should be - and I doubt if I ever will be."
And according to her mail, the late columnist Ann Landers stated there were millions of affluent "failures" and an equal number of "successes" who have nothing in the bank.
So why do we have trouble accepting ourselves?
I would assume much if it is due to our upbringing (i.e. family, friends, etc.,), our environment. We become by what we live by and learn from. If one is constantly living in an environment where belittling is the norm, it's hard maintaining confidence and self worth, let alone establishing them.
Then, how do we learn to accept ourselves?
We must realize that most people do not have it together. Canadian religion author Tom Harpur claims that we are all weak and the fact by being human we are all vulnerable. And he suggests that the way in which we conquer our weaknesses is to confront them directly. This is the first step in spiritual and moral growth.
Religion does not demand us to be perfect. It allows us to be human. In the old testament, Ecclesiastes 7:15 - 17, we read that we should be neither too good nor wicked.
The role to accept oneself is a painstaking process. Like an artist, athlete or musician who constantly practices to sharpen his craft, we, too, must diligently learn to accept and love ourselves, proclaiming our worthiness and importance. It is a never ending discipline.
Accepting and loving ourselves has little to do with money. The happiest find a purpose for their lives and live for others.
Nobody really has it together. Each one of us has heartache, some wound that hasn't healed or brings shame. No life is complete.
Few lives are to be envied.
In the words of a Greek proverb:" Count no man happy until he is dead."
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