This is the third email in a 3-part email series by Ideapod writer Nathan Dennis. Read the first email on the myth of happiness here and the second email on the intelligence of your body here. Sign up to Ideapod’s newsletters for more like this.
It’s Nathan from Ideapod. Today I want to share with you the most important lesson I learned from Laughing in the Face of Chaos, by Rudá Iandê.
It’s the idea of the Idealized Self and The Failure.
(Quick note: Out of the Box and Tribe members get access to Laughing in the Face of Chaos. Not yet a Tribe member? Join here.)
The Idealized Self is one of many “holograms” or projections of our psyche that we give dimension and weight to.
The idealized self, according to Rudá, is one of the most powerful of these holograms.
“Among all the holograms of your psyche, there’s one that remains untouched and immaculate, looking down from above all the rest…it’s your idealized self. The idealized self is the most perfect version of yourself. It’s your ‘best you,’ your ‘higher self,’ maybe even ‘your potential.’ It’s that guy you not only want to be, but you believe you must be.”
So what’s the problem with having an “idealized self?”
Well, Rudá explains that.
“Most of the time, we see the Idealized Self as our true nature and consider our actual selves simply a corrupted version of him. This hologram is a tyrannizing mechanism of the psyche designed to create tension, keep you from ever resting, and constantly push you forward in your life… We’ve all lived under the shadow of the Idealized Self and his oppressive standards of perfection. It hurts us and suffocates us.”
Let’s unpack this.
We have a higher self that we build up in our heads. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s good to have goals that we hope to achieve.
The problem is that we view this Idealized Self as our true self. For example, maybe my Idealized Self is 10lbs lighter (true statement). The problem is when I begin to view my real self as 10lbs lighter, and my true self as a corrupt version. When I allow this hologram to take charge, I’m denying that my current state of living is valid.
I’m basically saying “I’m the broken version of myself.” “The 10lbs lighter version of me — the version that I am currently not inhabiting — that’s the real me.”
You see how this is a problem, right?
This Ideal Self keeps us from being happy, as we are constantly chasing after making our actual selves into our Ideal Selves.
The problem, of course, is that this is impossible. The Ideal Self is Perfect. It’s impossible to become perfect.
This is why the ideal self suffocates us.
So what happens when the Ideal Self suffocates us?
“It destroys our self-esteem, makes us feel like crap, and overloads our lives with an endless feeling of frustration, which gives birth to yet another hologram: The Failure.”
Meet the failure.
The failure is what arises when our actual self fails to live up to the expectations of the Ideal Self. This failure to meet expectations leads to feelings of guilt, anger, embarrassment, hopelessness, and anxiety.
The failure causes us to look at all of our accomplishments with grey-colored lenses. Nothing we do seems productive, because nothing can live up to the impossible standards of the Idealized Self.
It’s true that encouraging ourselves to do better and reorienting ourselves when we miss the mark are good ideas, but kicking ourselves for not reaching perfection is self-abuse. It causes us to not respect anything we do, and it makes us miserable.
So what is the solution?
The solution is to embrace our true selves.
“Beyond these imaginary standards of perfection, you can finally see your True Self: a Human Being. Not a good or a bad person, just a person…One who is perpetually a work in progress. One who dared to live and who one day will die — a piece of nature and a spark of life.”
We have to accept ourselves as human beings. We’re not giants, we’re not magicians, we’re simply human beings. And we have to respect our failures, our triumphs, and our mortal limits. We can always improve ourselves, but we have to accept our imperfections.
And this is hard stuff.
Rudá knows that too, “It takes humility to ground yourself in your True Self. There’s nothing special about your True Self — nothing that makes you better than anyone else.”
This is the hardest part of letting go of the Idealized Self — embracing that you are an imperfect human, no better than anyone else. When we let go of the idealized self, we let go of believing there is something special about us. We let go of orienting the universe around ourselves, and embrace that we are simply just one of several billion humans, trying our best.
It’s hurtful and painful to go through this process. It is humbling! But it is important.
It’s important because it removes us from this harmful, dehumanizing embrace of the myths that society wants us to believe.
And instead it allows us to embrace our organic, natural selves. The selves that have myriad intelligences — intelligences that have evolved through billions of years of life.
We are products of nature, and we must embrace that wild, raw, and humbling state.
It’s a wild, natural state of acceptance.
And it’s available to you.
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