In Bruce Lee: Artist of Life, Bruce Lee wrote:
…if you are cursed with perfectionism, then you’re absolutely sunk. This ideal is a yardstick which always gives you the opportunity to browbeat yourself, to berate yourself and others. Since this ideal is an impossibility, you can never live up to it. You are merely in love with this ideal, and there is no end to the self-torture, to the self-nagging, self-castrating. It hides under the mask of “self-improvement.” It never works.
Many people dedicate their lives to actualizing a concept of what they should be like, rather than actualizing themselves. This difference between self-actualizing and self-image actualizing is very important. Most people only live for their image.
After reading this today, I felt like I was slapped in the face by one of my mentors. I’ve been focusing too much on the image of who I could be rather than who I am. I loved the idea of going on a journey toward becoming someone else. I would imagine what this person would be like, what this person would feel like, and it excited me. I never really considered who I am right now at this moment. I never once considered that maybe the man I am right now is the man I’ve always wanted to become. I’m forcing myself to keep moving my feet, to keep pushing myself, all in an effort to change myself because there’s this feeling at the back of my chest that I have to change who I am to become who I want to be. But during these past few weeks, where I’ve described (for the most part) my consistent happiness, I’ve been living a life as someone I’m happy to have become.
Would I have gotten here without this journey? I don’t think so, but I do think I was too hard on myself before. I wasn’t happy in the beginning. I hated who I was, and I wanted to run away from that as fast as possible. Once I owned my actions, though, I started feeling better. Once I owned who I am, I became happier. Bruce Lee talks a lot about finding the essence of who you are, and that’s something I’m having a tough time understanding. I mean, I understand what he’s saying, but I’m having difficulty figuring out how to find my essence. I think that’s the point, right?
Nothing worth doing is easy. Changing my perspective from who I want to be towards who I am is hard. It’s easy to imagine this perfect image of this person — this stranger — in my head and feel envious and motivated enough to try to become him. It’s hard to accept who I am, to own all that I’ve done, and remove these concepts of someone else and focus on the facts of who I am, on unleashing the full essence of my being. But the thought of doing so is exciting. For as long as I can remember, I was driven by how other people saw me. I wanted to be liked, I wanted to be seen as smart, I wanted to be seen as strong and confident and honorable. A lot of my actions were driven by these thoughts of strangers, and I never gave myself the opportunity to express who I really am.
I’m imperfect. I can be selfish. I can be narrow-minded and forget that the world does not revolve around me. But I’m also kind and loving. I’m creative and dedicated and ambitious. Of course I’m other things, too, both good and bad. The journey is to reveal and own all of these different aspects of myself. To be confident in who I am and to be as in touch with my soul as I possibly can.
And all that, to me, sounds like fun.