I had an encounter recently that was reminiscent of many I’ve had over the course of my career. I’m going to describe it as pertaining to a woman, but there are male versions that come to mind as well. It goes something like this. I’m sitting with a young woman in her mid 20’s to mid 30’s. It’s a beautiful, accomplished, smart woman with a lovely disposition. And she is telling me about her low self confidence, esteem, unattractiveness and perhaps even a lack of merit. The Beauty and her Beast.
Her beast is the version of herself that lives inside telling her everything that is not only not okay with her, but is the opposite version of what most of us on the outside believe we are seeing when we look at her. We may seem kind, encouraging and may even believe we have empirical evidence when we try to contradict her Beast, but we are often no match. The Beast has held her captive for quite some time.
What about those of us who aren’t strikingly beautiful, don’t have stellar credentials, or won’t get invited to Mensa? How are we supposed to feel great about ourselves when the people we aspire to emulate still don’t get to feel that they are even near the finish line? Does that mean OUR Beasts are real or justified?
I think not. I think part of the human condition is that we are a constant work in progress and because of that, we never feel “ready” or complete. There is some merit to that idea, as it is a motivator towards expanding ourselves. But how about evaluating the incompletion simply as a stage rather than a judgement? When I bake brownies, I know that at the half way point they are simply not done rather than flawed and incapable of reaching optimal tastiness.
One of my favorite children’s books is called “There’s a Nightmare in My Closet. The little boy who is afraid of the nightmare in his closet discovers that his nightmare is equally afraid of him and he has to ultimately comfort the nightmare. Perhaps our beast is really just an untamed, part of ourselves who may even have been unjustly wounded a long time ago rather than an abusive dictator to whom we must submit. Maybe we could see our Beast as perhaps uneducated, or lost in an earlier time. Maybe our Beast is really a product of collective voices that no longer fit in the world we now live within. Or maybe our Beast is just a scared part of us that needs to be comforted so it will stop being a bully.
Either way, it becomes increasingly clear to me that achieving something on the outside is not what will make us feel better, ready, richer, happier. We are who we are, and while we hopefully will continue to grow and evolve until our last breath, the state of feeling enough is ours simply for the price of deciding it is so. Beasts need not apply.