Whatever you do, there is always something you could be doing better. This is my problem. I graduated PT school, but I am not in an advanced fellowship. I am a Bahá’í, and strive to do some good in the world. I do manage to teach a children’s class on most weekends, but I have resigned from two different institutions I was a part of. This was in part due to other life challenges I am facing and possibly in part to my own weakness and inability to manage all of the affairs of my life in an efficient enough manner. At times, part unconsciously, I have criticized myself for not being able to do a PT fellowship and serve on the LSA and ATC (the Bahá’í institutions) while also doing my full part as a husband and father. I can see people who have families while managing multiple other major responsibilities and of course I compare my weaknesses to their strengths.
At least that’s what I have done. I’m working on letting go of all that pressure, self-criticism and guilt. For some reason this is very difficult for me. There’s always the nagging feeling of, “you know you really could do those things if you worked harder and didn’t waste so much time.” There’s also the fact that 1) in the world of PT there is a tremendous amount of stuff to learn and I want to learn as much as I can and 2) the world has incomprehensible amounts of human suffering and I want to make some meaningful contribution to help that situation. But I can’t do everything, and heaping guilt and pressure on myself isn’t constructive.
There’s a great expression one of my patients told me a few weeks ago. “Don’t ‘should’ all over yourself.” (Say it out loud if you don’t get the pun.) I love that. It’s so true. You can fill your life with countless “shoulds”, feeling worse with each one you dump on yourself. And it doesn’t do any good. It doesn’t make you a better person. On the contrary, it robs you of willpower and kills motivation.
In the time when I was new to the Bahá’í Faith, I had so much inspiration. Reading, meditation, prayer and service just came naturally. I didn’t question or rate myself as a Bahá’í because I was new and had no expectations for myself. But as time when on, I gradually adopted the mindset of, “okay now you’ve been a Bahá’í for a while, you should be more effective in your service and more knowledgeable about the Faith”. Over time, the expectations rose along with the pressure and guilt. I was no longer an idealistic kid who was enamored with these teachings about the oneness of mankind and the search for truth. Maybe it was a necessary transition to get out of my “honeymoon phase” and become more mature as a Bahá’í and as a person. But the pressure and guilt didn’t need to become part of the mix.
So I’m working on letting them go. Just accepting the fact that right now I am not a perfect Bahá’í. I can find plenty of examples of other Bahá’ís who are doing more service than me, who are more knowledgeable than me, are more kind and less judgmental, and so on. But that’s okay. I’m glad the world has those people. I will just do my best and trust the God is merciful. I will do what I can to be propelled by inspiration and love rather than guilt and pressure.