My mother often questions why her children are so lazy. She’s done this my whole life, and it’s quite understandable. My mom has a fierce amount of energy and accomplishes more in a given day than anyone I’ve ever met. Have you heard about how the average worker is only productive for 3 hours per day? Well, that’s not my mom. She’s productive for about 16 hours per day. So, when she compares her children to herself, of course we’re slow!
I can’t say for sure that my mom’s claims have had a huge impact on my life, but a study done in the late 60s demonstrated how labels can have profound effects on people. Basically, scientists Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson told a some teachers at the beginning of the school year that a few of their students could be expected to have an intellectual boom within the year, even though they were really just average students. But when the students were given IQ tests at the end of the year their scores were significantly higher than the rest of the class. The teachers had unconsciously encouraged their “special” students to excel, spent more time with them, and were enthusiastic about teaching them. With the extra attention, the students felt more capable and intelligent, and performed accordingly. A simple story had a great impact.
I’ve always accepted my mom’s statements as truth: I’m slow and inefficient! I was satisfied with fulfilling her story, because no one expected more of me, and I didn’t need to risk suffering if the world didn’t like what I was producing. However, after recently taking inventory of my life accomplishments, I noticed that I’ve done too much cool shit for a lazy person. After realizing that my mom has really just been telling me stories, a great weight was lifted off my shoulders; I felt productive and able. Inspired by a friend, I then began looking inward to see what other stories was I believing, whether from someone else’s projection, or from comparison to other people. I wrote a list.
The ego makes judgements because it thinks those stories will protect. For example, “I’m a terrible writer,” translates into, “as long as I don’t show the world my writings then I will never feel the pain of ridicule.” How does that story serve us? If we were to live without those judgements then our lives would fill with experiences. By rejecting these stories of the ego we enter a fruitful state of vulnerability. Ask yourself, how will your vessel be filled if you don’t place it out in the rain?
- Write down a list of all the stories you tell yourself.
- Read the list and smile.
Seeing your list of stories allows you to step back and see yourself as an individual — a friend. If a friend were to tell you these stories about theirself, they would likely blush, and you would give them a smile and a hug, and tell them that they have nothing to worry about: they are perfect just the way they are.
- While reading through your list put a line through the stories that aren’t true. If any are left uncrossed, reread them to see how those stories serve you. “I’m creative”. Cool. Awesome. Yep. “I’m intelligent”. Yeah, got it. What does any of this mean anyway? Why does the ego even need this sort of validation? Aren’t we enough, just as we are, in the present, without any descriptive words?
- Take your list and light that bitch on fire.
Stories are just stories, positive or negative. When you label yourself with adjectives and nouns you are placing yourself in a box. All you need to know is that life is always changing, you are always changing, you are always doing the best that you can at any given moment, and who you are at this very moment is enough.
When we let go of these stories we are able to drop into the moment and experience the sensations of being — our ego drifts away and any worries, doubts, or pretenses dissipate. The present moment has no story. Of course, we can’t stay in this place, but it’s nice to practice visiting.