I have always changed. I was born a chameleon. It could be genetics. It could be the influence of my mother who was a seeker. It could be because I am a life long sufferer of Bipolar disorder. It could be early childhood experiences. Whatever the reason, I have always striven to be a better person
In the beginning, my self improvement was motivated by being at outcast at school. By seven years old, I was already discussing my social problems with my mother. By 12, I started exploring other religions. By 13, I was in psychotherapy. By 16, I decided I was a Buddhist. Psychotherapy and Buddhism both helped me to become a better listener, more patient, more generous, better at asserting myself, more compassionate, etc.
It is not clear to me at which point I stopped blaming others and looking to myself for my problems, but after a while, self-improvement became an end unto itself. The pursuit of happiness for me was about being a better person.
The most valuable feedback I get is from self-reflection and when someone tells me I have hurt them. On the other hand, I am shocked by how off the mark someone’s perceptions of me can be. Often the criticisms are 5 years out-of-date. It takes a while for people’s perceptions to catch up. At other times, the critic is ahead of me. It may take me a while before I understand what they are telling me.
This is why it is so important to evaluate what people says. Is it accurate? Could I be in denial? Are they laying a trip on me? Are parts of it true? If you are not sure, you can give yourself a few days to think it over and observe yourself in the mean time. It is OK for them to have their opinions, even if you think they are wrong. Not everyone has to understand you or agree with you.
Living with people is a great teacher as long as you don’t fall into the trap of either blaming them for everything or blaming yourself for everything. There have also been major life crises that have taught me a great deal. Getting fired and marrying a borderline personality disorder are two that come to mind right away.
In summary, our teachers in life include other people, self-reflection and life experiences. We just have listen to what they say.
©2016 Stephen L. Martin
Painting: Cupid and Psyche by Francois Gerard
The myth of Eros and Psyche is about personal growth.