The Many Faces of You

Years ago I saw a fascinating movie about ten strangers – men, women, and a child – stranded together at a desolate motel during a torrential rainstorm. One by one they are mysteriously murdered until the last remains, after which time the audience is shocked to learn that each victim all along represented a distinct part of the killer’s psyche.

All of us have various “parts” to our personalities, so many in fact that we probably have never taken the time to take inventory of them. Some parts we like, and others maybe not so much. Problems arise when we reject a part of ourselves with a force so powerful that a negative emotional charge is generated each time this part rears its head.

Let me explain with a personal example.

I set high standards for myself. No problem with that. But when I get carried away and expect perfection from myself rather than excellence, I set myself up for failure. It’s hard enough living with perfectionistic tendencies, but what would be really hard is if I despised this aspect of myself.

Self-hate and the ensuing suffering arise every time that one of our parts surfaces that we try to reject or avoid. Such a strong aversion, whereby we attempt to exorcise this part of us from our very being, is an exercise in futility. You can run from a hated part but you can’t hide!

What’s worse, when we see this same trait of ours in others, we reject them too. That’s a whole other story…

What to do?

If you had this same tendency (and maybe you do) and I just said to you, “Love that part of you – instead of trying to purge yourself of perfectionism, welcome it!” you might think I’m off my rocker. Just hear me out for a few seconds, and I’ll explain what I tell myself about this “negative” trait of mine.

“It’s true that no one can be perfect. It’s also true that this tendency can be stressful to myself, and annoying to others. I do best to strive for mere excellence (attainable) rather than perfection (rarely attainable and usually unnecessary), but sometimes I come up short and succumb to this powerful trait.

But here is the blessing: This part of me makes me a better doctor. It keeps me on my toes so that my patients are kept safer and have better outcomes. If having this sometimes difficult trait is the price I must pay to provide high quality care to pregnant women, then I welcome it with open arms.”

Think about this: Would you rather go to a physician who is neurotic about checking test results, or making sure no stone is left unturned when trying to make a diagnosis? Or would you be content to put your faith in someone at the other end of the spectrum who’s laid back and nonchalant (“Too bad I didn’t check Mary’s test result before it was too late. Oh well – you win some, you lose some.”).

So even though this aspect of my personality can be stressful at times, I value this part of me in the final analysis because it makes me an conscientious individual in all aspects of my life that matter most – father, husband, friend, doctor. Being a conscientious physician is one of the many blessings hidden within my perfectionistic tendency. The blessing of conscientiousness thereby gives this trait meaning and allows me to embrace it rather than reject it.

Is there any part of you that you feel “desperate” to get rid of, or that at least bothers you enough to take a closer look at it?

If so, take some time – as much as you need – to casually ponder what the blessing might be that is embedded within this bothersome trait of yours, a blessing so compelling that it transforms the desire to “move away from” this characteristic into a willingness, even desire, to “move towards” it…

… to Accept it, Welcome it, Embrace it, and finally to Love it, so that it can dwell in harmony with your other parts… deep within you.

This is the way of a peaceful mind.

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