People like to say we start out perfect. “Look at that perfect baby.” I remain unconvinced regarding the accuracy of that statement. If nothing else, positing “perfect” as the default position is unkind.
Having met babies, it’s also, I believe, inaccurate.
Parenting teaches you that kids are imperfect no matter how cute. It also teaches you that they come, to some extent, factory hardwired. As with most things that are shipped, sometimes there’s damage during transit. Life adds wear and tear until suddenly, the perfect babies are adults with broken bits we’re desperate to fix.
We spend much of our lives pursuing repairs, in one shape and another.
And yet, couldn’t it be said that making repairs and improving ourselves is the point of life? We accumulate damage, but without it, we’ve no reason to push on. Growth isn’t possible when things are perfect. Or so I suspect. I haven’t encountered perfection so far, so it’s just a theory.
But repairs can lead to disasters if we focus on shortcuts and quick fixes. Unfortunately, that’s our nature. We like our solutions to be external and easy. We’re not getting philosophical or searching for God. We’re searching for easy payment plans and quick results.
We look for things we can eat, drink, and distract ourselves with. We look for the person or people who will make us feel whole. We want to deal with the damage, but quickly and easily.
Maybe I can buy it on Amazon?
It’d be nice if that was possible, and I’ve bought things I’d put into the “fix me” category over the years, but I’ve come to believe that solutions that last must come from within.
Fixing us requires us to look at ourselves, see the truth, and make adjustments to our thoughts and behaviours. No one and nothing can do that for us.
Repairing the holes is definitely a “you” problem.
What you do determines the end result. It informs whether you’re repaired or simply shored up. Most of us pick temporary patches. It’s an easier choice and that factors in. We’re a species that likes easy.
We choose the temporary fix we don’t understand is temporary because we aren’t encouraged to spend time thinking about the person we want to be and how to get there. Working on ourselves is not a big part of our education.
We’re encouraged instead to show productivity. To get good grades, positive reviews, and tangible results. We’re encouraged to embrace pre-established roles and slot into societal demands. We aren’t encouraged to analyze the kind of person we want to be in those roles or even if we want to try them on. Even in the twenty-first century, rocking the status quo is hard.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?” A question most of us heard ad nauseum. A better one that is rarely asked is, “Who do you want to be?” Most of us aren’t encouraged to explore that question and it’s a shame. I think it would be a helpful bit of information.
If you know who you want to be, it can help you repair the holes and broken bits in the right way. It can help you get past the things that are preventing you from reaching personal and character development goals. It’s better than a temporary patch that lets you carry on, but not thrive.
I have a lot of holes – factory-installed and life-acquired – and I’ve used a lot of temporary patches over the years. My eating disorder, my tendency to buy too much, my tendency to get into relationships with damaged people, my tendency to numb. I didn’t know they were temporary fixes when I applied them. I thought they would permanently ease my discomfort and make me okay.
I jumped from this thing to that one, looking for the magic solution that would fix me overnight.
Real change, however, takes time. And a plan.
I’ve been working on my design for a few years now. I’m getting there, slowly, but that’s okay. Methodically’s a good approach to take if you want the changes to last.
The plan is simple on the face of it: stop doing things that hurt me and become the person I want to be. Defining that, however, takes time. Hopefully, the “year of being a good person” will help.
Part of the plan involves studying philosophy. It’s helping me answer the “who do you want to be” question. It’s helping me repair rather than patch the holes. It may not work for everyone: I’ve never believed in the “one true way” argument anyway. There’s more than one correct way to human.
Do you consciously work on your growth and evolution? Do you have a plan?