When I first moved to Cambridge, I worked as a cook for a community of nuns. I’d always thought of myself as a pretty good cook, but had never done it professionally. Even though I’d enjoyed cooking (somewhat) over the years, I agonized over every meal that I prepared for the nuns. I always doubted it was good enough. So, four nights a week, I made dinner for this community, stressed and sweated it out, and had to try to let it go as I drove home each evening.
After a couple of months, one of the sisters whom I’d formed a pretty close relationship with, asked if she could speak to me alone. I was sure I’d not lived up to their expectations, try as I might, and they were going to find someone else to cook for them, or at the very least give me more pointers on how to improve. But the conversation wasn’t about that. As we sat in her office, she looked at me with the most compassionate and loving smile and told me that I was trying too hard, that I needed to relax.
Trying too hard? Trying too hard to please, to do the right thing, the perfect thing, the best thing? How could I be trying too hard to be better?
I felt in my mind that trying to be “the best” was what I was supposed to do. That the more I tried to please, anticipate needs, go above and beyond expectations, the more I’d be appreciated, respected and loved. And in one very short and loving conversation, I was told that this wasn’t true. I also saw that all of my trying to impress and please them was not overflowing from my sense of self-love, respect, and care, but from an absence of it.
I was trying to make up (by over-doing) for what I deep down felt about myself…and it didn’t work….thank God. There is so much talk these days about finding out what you are supposed to do for work in the world; how to find your true calling, your passion, your gift, your hidden talents and abilities, and how to share these with the world. There is so much focus on doing.
It has taken me a long time to realize that what others really need and want from me is exactly what I need from myself. What I want to be is a relaxed, confident, peaceful, me. When I come from the place of inner peace, inner knowing, self-love and trust, then everything on the outside supports that inner vision. This is my true work: be first, then do.
“When I began observing my own flawlessness, I started to notice my external world reflecting this….so, the kinder I am to myself, the more outward events will reflect that. The harder and more judgmental I am toward myself, the more my situation will match it. The universe always proves me right in my opinion of myself!” pg. 160 from the book, Dying To Be Me, by Anita Moorjani