Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I Forgive Myself

Every year on Yom Kippur I meditate on forgiveness, and post my thoughts here. Last year I was inspired by Steve Jobs, and learned from him that forgiveness is for the forgiver, not for the forgiven. That post made me rethink my attitude towards forgiveness, not as something that I bestow on others (and only if they are really sorry and promise it will never happen again), but a gift that I give myself, regardless of how the forgivee acts or even if they accept it.

What about forgiving ourselves though?

For a driven, Type A person like me, forgiving myself is the hardest thing of all. I just finished reading Kamal Ravikant's Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It, which is predicated on the idea that loving yourself is the foundation for all happiness and success. It made me realize that I can't love myself unless I forgive myself, accept myself. But first, some of the things I need to forgive myself for:
I have so many flaws to hate myself for. I'm socially awkward and cluelessly say things that hurt people. I don't know how to balance getting things done well with keeping people happy, and fuck up relationships accordingly [1]. I don't connect with people because I'm so scared of bring vulnerable. I've lost the self-discipline I had when I was in high school and worked out every day; I'm overweight, in terrible cardiovascular shape, and terrified of working out. It's not the first time I've been so terrified of doing the wrong thing I do nothing at all. I have terrible posture and the results are beginning to show on my body. When I'm tired I'm more likely to succumb to a nap than to push through. My depression is a real issue, but I rely on it too often to excuse bad behavior.
I'm a consummate underachiever. I've been so lucky to have been given so many advantages in life,  and I haven't done anything with them.  I live in a community of overachievers, of nothing-is-impossible, just-do-it folks, and I look around and ask myself how I stack up: I haven't founded or built a company worth millions of dollars like many of my New York Tech peers; I haven't even earned the respect of building a company and failing. Sure, I was a VC, but not for that long; I did less deals than my friends, and I didn't stick around long enough to be part of the current wave of promotions from Associate to Principal [2]. I went to great schools, but didn't take advantage of my time there. I speak four languages, which sounds cool until you realize that languages are a skill, not an accomplishment; like computer languages, what counts is not knowing the language but what you do with it. I've had lots of cool experiences, but so what?

On top of it all, I have to live with myself every day, every moment, a constant reminder of my shortcomings and failures; I have no place to hide.

Wow, that's a lot, and it's barely scratching the surface. And yet, I'm the only me that I have and I have to keep living. I can fight who I am, try to resist my tendencies and change myself, or I can take the more difficult step of accepting myself, of letting go of the voice that tells me every day that I'm not good enough, that nothing I do can make a difference, that I'll always be a fuck-up. That voice is really strong, and it doesn't want to go, but it has to. As long as I'm judgmental and ashamed of myself, nothing will change.

The only way out is to acknowledge who I am, to forgive myself for it. Kamal makes the analogy that feeling darkness is like being in a room with dirty windows while outside it is light. Clean the window, and light enters naturally, replacing the darkness.

Kamal's mantra is, "I love myself," and I have been repeating it. It's only been a day so it's too early to say if it works, but I like the way it makes me feel so far. Forgiving is letting go of a grudge; self-loathing is the biggest grudge of all, a grudge against ourselves for not being better than we are.

I love myself, and there is no love without forgiveness.

I forgive myself.

[1] I'm a big fan of using task-oriented vs people-oriented as a framework for understanding people, described in more detail here:
[2] Congrats RahulWestonNikhil, and anyone else I've missed!

1 comment:

  1. Jordan,

    Thanks for the lesson and the great honesty.