Art work by @toyoufromsteph
On my life journey, I often find myself arrive at a fork in the road. One fork leads to the Path of Perfection, and the other leads to the Path of Growth.
Many times in the past, I had chosen to travel down the Path of Perfection. I had certain expectations as to what my career, relationships, or even my healing journey needed to look like. And I would put in a lot of effort to get it right. When things didn't go the way I had envisioned, I would beat myself up and put more pressure on myself to try even harder.
Inevitably, life didn't always deliver what I wanted despite my striving to get it together. In those moments, I tortured myself with more self-doubt and punishment. Ironically, even when I did get what I wanted, it never brought me the joy or satisfaction I had hoped for, because I already moved on to pursue the next thing so that my life trajectory would keep going up and up.
Very often, we try to avoid the messiness of life by being in control and doing things perfectly. If we could just do everything right, play it safe, work hard, and manage how we appear to the outside, we wouldn't have to experience the painful feelings that might show up when we “fail” at something. In this way, the Path of Perfection leads to the rejection of those parts of us that feel unworthy, not good enough, and unlovable, and banishes them to the basement of our psyche. Except we can never truly get rid of our parts. They are waiting below the level of our consciousness for the right moment to escape. And when they inevitably do, they can take down the house of cards that we have so carefully built over the years.
But there is another path - the Path of Growth. On this path, instead of wrestling with our shadow, we are becoming aware of it. It is the path where we face those parts of ourselves that we might have judged or shamed. We begin to really get to know them, understand their role, be compassionate towards them, and help them release their painful emotions and limiting beliefs so that they could be integrated as healthy members of our psyche.
The Path of Growth is clumsy, messy, and certainly not perfect. To the outside world, it might look like our world is falling apart. The masks we wear to keep up with appearances begin to drop. This might look like quitting a career or leaving certain relationships behind as we come to terms with our true Self. But on the inside, there is an ever expanding awareness of who we are. On this path, we give ourselves the permission to take risks, change course, take steps backward, and make mistakes. We hold space for the feelings of discomfort, disappointment, unworthiness, grief, and shame that show up. We develop kind and loving relationships with them along the way. This love we give to ourselves is exactly the kind of love we have been waiting for.
Our soul deeply longs for healing, expansion, and aliveness, which only the Path of Growth can provide. We can learn to be gentle with ourselves and not beat ourselves up when we prioritize growth as our highest purpose. We learn to embrace challenges as necessary steps on our journey. Every detour, every mistake, every obstacle demonstrates our courage and ingenuity, rather than as an affirmation that something is lacking in us. Our external world begins to shift as we learn accept life's challenges as lessons that bring us closer to our the next level of our evolution and no longer resist or blame our way through them.
We are being continuously created and transformed by the journey itself. The ultimate reward is not in the outcome but in the person we become in pursuit of it.
Which path would you choose - the Path of Perfection or the Path of Growth?