All of your so-called faults, all the things which you don’t like about yourself are your greatest assets. — Debbie Ford
Debbie Ford’s message is simply; love. In The Dark Side of the Light Chasers Debbie shares what she’s learned on a long journey toward self acceptance and self love. You must love yourself before you can fully love others isn’t a new message by any means. However, Debbie makes a convincing argument that the only path to unconditional love is not in the denying and shaming of our bad parts, but by accepting our dark sides and finding the power hidden within them. Without bad there could be no good. Denying our bad, or our weaknesses, actually impairs our ability to live happy lives and love ourselves and others freely. We often spend so much energy battling what we view as “wrong” with ourselves that we’re left with little vitality to pour into living the lives we deserve. Deserve simply because we are here on this earth.
Fear may urge you to maintain your current direction, yet love may urge you to take a turn. You must quiet your mind to hear your highest calling.
Debbie struggled early in her youth. She spent 15 years addicted to drugs and men, hiding from her depression and anger. A child of a divorced family, Debbie carried guilt for the situation that wasn’t hers to carry. After close to two decades of counseling for alcohol, food, and other addictions, Debbie found relief, landed at the Chopra Center, and began writing books, teaching, and living a fulfilling life. Sadly she passed away in early 2013 after a bout with cancer.
We tend to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to fix things. Things being ourselves. We live in a culture that sells Coca-cola as the prescription for happiness and where happiness and healthy merge at Walgreens; which I assume is somewhere between the aisle of vitamins and the freezer stocked with Ben & Jerry’s.
If we deny our ugliness, we lessen our beauty. If we deny our fear, we minimize our courage. If we deny our greed, we also reduce our generosity.
The message I receive from Debbie is we’re not broken and happiness comes from embracing our flaws as an integral part of our genetic make-up. We can affect our genes only in the sense of how we react when internal or external stimulus trigger them; in other words we can’t erase them, only turn up or down the magnitude of their presence.
We live under the impression that in order for something to be divine it has to be perfect. We are mistaken. In fact, the exact opposite is true. To be divine is to be whole and to be whole is to be everything: the positive and the negative, the good and the bad, the holy man and the devil.
Our flaws are equally as important as our strengths, in fact our flaws may be our unique strengths. If we unconditionally accept our flaws, and reframe our perspective of them, maybe we’d spend less time in negative self-talk when those flaws show themselves. In turn perhaps we’d engage less in the addictions we adopt, thinking they’ll quiet the chatter and pain.
Our society nurtures the illusion that all the rewards go to the people who are perfect. But many of us are finding out that trying to be perfect is costly. The consequences of emulating the “perfect person” can eat away at us, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Chasing perfection, as portrayed in the media (social or traditional), is catching up with us. A recent study shared in the Chicago Tribune shows a steady increase in suicide rates over the past three decades. We’re finding it more difficult to sit with our imperfect selves because of our compare then fix-it mentality. We must learn to navigate the pitfalls that may come with the picture-perfect exterior we package ourselves into via Instagram, Facebook, and the “Like”. Portraying life as a staged snapshot in time of the perfect body, meal, landscape, or platitude, may result in repressing the bad that needs to bubble up. A fear of not living into our brand and being found a fraud could be widening the gap between Self and selfie. Truth may be that shedding light on the darkness may resonate more genuinely with people.
Debbie also posits we attract the people and things into our lives that we’ve repressed and need to work on. Often in relationships we’re attracted to people who have qualities, or personality traits, that we ourselves have forgotten. The thought being intuitively, if not consciously, we know the aspects of ourselves that need to grow. The mirror another human being provides helps us progress into our complete selves. In the same way, often what we judge in others we deny in ourselves. If we criticize someone for their greed, we may have issues with our own selfishness. If we condemn others for poor eating habits, perhaps we really aren’t happy with our own, they being that mirror we don’t want to peer into.
We’re afraid of imperfect, of realizing that the things we hate about others are really just the things we hate about ourselves … We are so fearful of being rejected that we sell out our most precious gifts just to fit in.
We project our own perceived shortcomings onto others. We say to others what we should be saying to ourselves. When we judge others we are judging ourselves. If you constantly beat yourself up with negative thoughts, you will either beat up on the people around you—verbally, emotionally, or physically—or you will beat up on yourself by destroying some area of your own life.
The following statement in poignant for me. I tend to be envious and hyper-critical toward others that are fulfilling their dreams, particularly when those dreams are a reflection of my own.
You deserve to have whatever it is you see and truly desire. The only difference between you and the people you idolize is that they are manifesting one of the qualities you desire and probably fulfilling their dreams. When you start to fulfill your own dreams and goals you’ll become less interested in what other people are doing.
Rather than look at others as an inspiration and validation that my dreams too can become a reality, I condemn myself for not taking the action they have taken. The truth can be hard to swallow; that being lack of action and negative self-talk are all that keep me from fulfillment. The habit of observing other people live their dreams in snapshots is solely a distraction to the doing. We follow athletes and celebrities because we’re afraid to pursue the life we want and therefore project our dreams onto those who are already living them.
If you want to manifest your full potential you have to reclaim the parts of yourself that you’ve denied, hidden, or given away to others.
As with most of the books I share, there are far too many nuggets of wisdom to dissect into a less than two-thousand words digestible post. So, to practice what I’ve learned, I’ll refrain from getting caught up in perfecting while accepting I’m not being lazy (or am in a good way that keeps you from becoming bored). Nonetheless I’ll close with a few additional excepts that resonated with me.
We think we’re mad at the world, that we want to change the world, that if only the world were different we’d be able to live our dreams. But it’s we who need to change. We’re angry at ourselves for not persisting, for not honoring the god force inside us, for not giving ourselves permission to express ourselves as we truly desire.
When we integrate the negative into ourselves, we no longer need affirmations because we’ll know that we’re both worthless and worthy, ugly and beautiful, lazy and conscientious. When we believe we can only be one or the other, we continue our internal struggle to only be the right things. When we believe that we are only weak, nasty, selfish–traits that we believe our friends and families don’t possess–we feel shame. But when we own all of the traits in the Universe, you’ll understand that every aspect within you has something to teach you.
Unfortunately, most of us don’t commit to what we really desire. We lie in bed at night and pray for a better life, a better body, a better job, but nothing changes. This is because we are lying to ourselves. What we pray for and what we have committed to are often totally different things. We pray for a healthy lifestyle but we are committed to being sedentary. We pray for a rewarding relationship but we are committed to sitting at home. We are most comfortable with the status quo. But when we realize that no one is coming to save us, or do it for us, and that our old wounds are there whether we love them or hate them, then we realize that we’re the ones who have to fulfill our potential.
I lied. I need to include one additional piece I came upon just after finishing this book. It reflects the same sentiment. The words were written by Ralph Waldo Emerson in his 1841 essay Compensation.
Our strength grows out of our weakness. The indignation which arms itself with secret forces does not awaken until we are pricked and stung and sorely assailed. A great man is always willing to be little. Whilst he sits on the cushion of advantages, he goes to sleep. When he is pushed, tormented, defeated, he has a chance to learn something; he has been put on his wits, on his manhood; he has gained facts; learns his ignorance; is cured of the insanity of conceit; has got moderation and real skill.
The message throughout time has been the same. It’s often spoken by those who allow inner reflection to shine through and influence their being. It isn’t profound, it isn’t knowledge, it’s wisdom that resides in each of us. We need only create the space to allow it to inform our lives.