I want my learning to happen like this!
I met my friend Heidi today for lunch. I was kind of dreading it as much as I was looking forward to it. (Sorry, Heidi. Lunch was great!) When I asked myself why I was feeling dread, I realized that I didn’t want to tell her how incredibly messy I feel these days. It turns out I firmly believe these things about messes:
- Messes are unlovable.
- Messes are ugly and disgusting.
- Messes are supposed to be hidden and private. No one wants to see my messes.
- Messes are just bad. Oh, and people that make them are bad, too.
Wow! No wonder I didn’t want to talk about my messiness!
Confession: This blogging thing feels really scary to me. Why? Because I’m exposing my mess, somehow surmounting my belief that only products that are perfect and shiny and polished and elegant deserve public airing. (Why am I doing this again?) I can appear good and worthy only if my messes don’t show. But because I believe messes are bad and I know that I make them — a LOT of them — I’ll NEVER really feel okay/good/worthy. No messes — emotional, or project-driven, or shitty first drafts — allowed here. I must follow external direction and do it perfectly if I want to be loved and respected. Because following my internal compass leads to messes (again, a LOT of messes), and they’re obviously MY messes. I can’t claim I was just following directions. This accountability and the seeming inevitability of screwing up scares the hell out of me.
I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one with this particular constellation of beliefs hiding out in my neurons.
So, using the four questions of Byron Katie’s The Work, I’m sharing with you what I came up when I worked the thought “Messes are ugly and disgusting.” (Note that there are many thoughts I could have chosen. This one felt the most “charged.”)
1. Is it true that “messes are ugly and disgusting”? Yes.
2. Can I absolutely know it’s true? Well, no. Not really.
3. How do I feel and behave when I have the thought that “messes are ugly and disgusting”?
- I feel hard, closed, resentful, and tired.
- I sit on the couch and read a lot or watch TV.
- I stop a project as soon as it looks like it’s getting messy.
- I hide my interior mess from others.
- I don’t ask for help.
- I eat too much.
- I strive compulsively for protection.
- I don’t acknowledge my hard work.
- I envy those who can do what I want to do without making messes. It’s not fair!!!
- I look outside myself for direction and approval.
4. Who would I be, how would I behave, if I were somehow unable to think the thought “Messes are ugly and disgusting”?
I would be free to play, experiment, and step into the arena. I would be much calmer and accepting and joyful and grateful and brave. I would feel warm and open and floaty, like a butterfly in a sunny field of wildflowers.
A couple of turnarounds for “Messes are ugly and disgusting”:
- Messes are precious jewels of awesomeness! (Messes are evidence of growth and change, stepping stones to what will eventually be elegant and functional, and the byproducts of play.)
- Perfection is disgusting and ugly. (Perfection is dead. It can’t change and grow. There’s no air, no light. It’s a closed system with no room for anyone else, needing nothing from anyone.)
- Other possible turnarounds: Messiness should be public. Everyone wants to see my messes! Messes are lovable and beautiful.
I feel so much better!! The four questions of The Work, along with turnarounds, are ways to start building new neural pathways in my brain, creating thoughts that feel better. With practice, my brain will think “Messes are beautiful” with alacrity, and I’ll feel better about making them. Maybe I’ll even come to celebrate my messes. And that’s such a gift, because I can see a LOT of messes in my future.
So, there’s my mess. Thanks for being here with me!
I’d love to know what you think about messes and perfection, and about The Work.