How many carbohydrates do you have to eat in one day to fulfill your basic requirements for protein? That’s a question I ask almost every patient I see. The typical response I get is a quizzical expression, a thoughtful, reflective pause then, as though a light suddenly turned on, the statement, “You don’t get protein from carbohydrates. They’re two different things.” That’s exactly right. The reason I ask this question. Is because most of you put forth tremendous energy and effort toward tasks, activities and goals which never satisfy your basic need for a sense of worthwhileness, lovability and appreciation for who and what you are.
I could ask the same question in a myriad of ways. How much money do you have to make in order for you to be okay? How much recognition will it take for you to feel adequate? How many: books do you have to write, meals do you have to cook, accomplishments do your children have to experience, or possessions do you need in order to make you an emotionally healthy, self-satisfied, truly content, happy human being? If you think about it for a moment, you realize that, no matter the abundance of these endeavors, none of them can do very much more than to provide a short period of happiness or satisfaction. It’s similar to buying a new car. Getting in the driver’s seat for the first time, taking a deep breath of the newness, cleanliness, and leather and feeling totally satisfied. Thirty days later, the “newness” wears off. You may still enjoy the vehicle, but your brief sense of excitement and happiness has long since passed.
Sadly, may you never recognize the fact that no amount of carbohydrates can satisfy your need for protein, which explains why so many human beings repeatedly behave in nonconstructive manners. You think, “If I don’t feel a state of exultation based on the money I’ve made up to now, perhaps it’s because I haven’t made enough money.” Therefore, you have to jump on the treadmill once again. This time, you set the incline higher and make the pace more rapid, in order to ensure that you’ll finally be satisfied. But it’s still not enough, because you can never drink, drug, eat, sleep, gamble, or possess sufficient homes, cars, money, accomplishments or power to reach a state of mental health. To attain that state requires that you reach a point some time in your life where you feel at peace with your world, with others and, most of all, with yourself. At this time of year, it is the goal you need to set, instead of making New Year’s resolutions not to drink or smoke, to exercise more, eat less and work harder, etc.. If you’ve followed me up to now, you’ll realize that, long-term, none of those resolutions work. You can’t be rich enough, thin enough, sober enough, or drug-free enough to experience the state of self acceptance that each of us is searching for. No matter how much others appreciate or value you, it doesn’t stick unless you first come to value yourself. That can only come about when you make the resolution not only for next year, but for the rest of your life, to get in touch with and accept you as you are. That means that you shouldn’t try to change or improve you until you first learn to value you, to listen to your desires and follow through with them. You need to be able to speak your mind, whether it’s politically correct or not, express your thoughts and opinions, whether they’re popular or not, and allow people to know the real you. But, that will only come about after you win the battle with the little kid in you who wants to please, needs acceptance, is frightened of rejection or disapproval, who can’t accept his/her own weaknesses or insufficiencies and feels lacking as a person. This process of achieving a sense of well being can only occur after you can accurately see you with your shortcomings, fears and insecurities, and share that you with others.
The story I always tell to illustrate this is about a pet store owner who opened his doors on a Monday morning, to a woman who was frantic to buy a canary because the one she and her husband had for years died over the weekend. She asked if she could take each canary outside of the shop in order to see how it would sing when it was alone. He agreed. Eight hours later, she decided on a canary that she thought would be a wonderful replacement. She explained that her husband was confined to a wheelchair and it was extremely important that this canary give him the pleasure that their previous one had. She left and the pet store owner sighed with relief.
The next morning, when he opened the shop, there was the same lady, carrying a covered canary cage. He asked, “Is there something wrong with the canary?”
“Did it sing?”
“Sing? Like an opera star. The song that came from the canary was like medicine to my husband’s ears. We couldn’t have been more pleased.”
“Then why are you here?” he asked.
“Last night, when my husband went to cover the cage, he discovered that the canary only had one leg.”
After a pregnant pause, the pet store owner said, “Well, what did you want, a singer or a dancer?”
The moral of the story is, you can’t be everything. Even more importantly, you needn’t be everything. You just need to be the best You that you can be, in spite of your shortcomings or deficits, because everyone has them. Similarly, everyone has worth that makes them loveable, likeable and acceptable, not only to others but, also to themselves. So, please, this New year, resolve to discover you, to love you, share you and to live happily with the you that you uncover.