Note to Self: Let’s Get Real- Part One

At times, everyone struggles with what is and what could be. Perhaps one of the hardest arenas for this tension is in our inner world, our image of self.

While having ideal desires is human, it can promote a battle between our “ideal” and our “real” selves. Without guardrails, the “ideal” self can dominate and judge our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. We begin to demand perfectionism from ourselves, to feed the ideal, which eventually can starve the “real” self.

In his book, Changes that Heal, Dr. Henry Cloud states that it doesn’t take much to assess the negative impact of the battle between our “ideal” and “real” selves. Simply pause and focus on the “perfect me,” then think about the possibility of doing everything perfectly. For most, the inner, undercurrent of anxiety begins to rise. Cloud emphasizes that if we adopt a judgmental tone toward what is real, we have a divided house, and various defenses are erected to hide the “real” self.

At first, the idea of perfectionism seems harmless enough. It serves as a type of goal, but it is a slippery slope. The pressure to be something other than our true self is a toxic potion, and is often the root of many emotional difficulties. Depression, compulsion, guilt, shame, and anxiety are some of the outgrowths that ultimately affect our relationships and quality of life.

So, what do we do with this inner battle of ideal vs. real? Cloud explains that “if we adopt a loving and accepting tone toward our real self, there is hope for transformation.” While our natural tendency is to strive to perfect that which we deem not good or imperfect, the result is more striving, and compounded emotional struggles. To short-circuit this cycle, acceptance of the total self is necessary. Self-acceptance sounds simple, but the journey to healing can be complex.

Good relationships begin with a healthy relationship with one’s self. Unfortunately, we are often the hardest on ourselves. Consequently, outside therapeutic help is often needed to assist in holding the ideal, and accepting the real. The next blog will focus on ways we try to self-manage this inner conflict.

Written by: Sheri Schulze