Recently at a conference I was reminded of the pedestal effect, this phenomenon that happens when we see someone and consciously or not place them up on a pedestal; essentially on this place of a position of power over us. This person for whatever reason we hold at such high esteem and admiration that we view them to be “better than” ourselves for one reason or another. Inadvertently though it puts who we are beneath this other person.
We are looking up to this idealized person and in turn looking down on ourselves.
What I find so fascinating though is usually there are many people we are exposed to in our lives that we view as being “up there”. These people embody some quality which we crave to have for ourselves. These people along with the messages we get from culture, school, friends and family create a person in our minds who we hold almost higher than all the others . . . the person WE COULD BECOME.
This better version of ourselves that we wish we could be and strive to become. But just like looking up to some other, the cost of placing this “Better YOU” on a pedestal means that the YOU right now is less than, that she might not be worthy of praise and celebration and embrace.
During my own healing journey I noticed that I did this often. Thinking I would be a better person if meditated everyday. That if I wasn't in so much pain, then I would really seize the day and be successful. I should eat super clean and work out everyday then I would be healthy and fit. If I had a baby then I would have a place in this society. That if only I could manage those icky emotions like anger and jealousy and be fucking happy and positive then I would be a more worthy of love and acceptance.
But all these thoughts I had did not motivate me to be better, really I was just shitting on the person I was.
It made who I actually was at the time, feel unworthy, unlovable, and unsuccessful. I was living in the shadow of this idealized fictitious woman who I believed I could become someday if I just acted right.
I remember after my second miscarriage I was sitting in a restaurant and I saw this beautiful glowing pregnant woman walk by and it felt like someone had just punched me. And then I noticed jealousy, "Why does she get a baby and I don’t? It’s not fair. I am a good person, is she? Is that why she deserves a baby and I can't have one??"
Being a regular meditator I noticed these feelings and thoughts right away and I immediately followed up the shitty feeling of jealousy with self-beratement that made me feel even worse. “Geez you are awful! How could you say that? You should feel happy for her. You don’t know her story! See maybe you aren't a good person after all and don't deserve to be a mama. You should be grateful for all the things and privileges you do have in your life! You could have it sooooo much worse. Stop being such a whiny ungrateful baby.”
And just like that, who I was, in the moment, was simply unacceptable.
I hear it all the time, people putting this higher version of themselves above who they are right now. Sitting on the ground looking up in reverence of this perfect version of who they could morph into if only. . .
Believe me, I am not saying that desiring to eat healthier, or become more understanding, or working at refining our craft is wrong. I would just ask do you think that this person who you could be as being more worthy in some way? Somehow much better than the you today?
And if so can you begin to see that they are just different? Not better than or less than, just different from one another.
When I began to truly learn to accept myself and love myself just AS IS everything shifted.
All changes I made in my inner and outer world came from this already accepting place, a place where I felt brave enough to try bigger things because I already loved who I was just as I was. I wasn't on performance waivers with myself.
So I challenge you, what if that person you could become is no better than who you are in this moment, what if she is just at a different place than you are right now? What does that feel like? To love you just as you are?
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