Are we conditioned to have “er” thinking?
Moving through the department store, laden with beautiful fashion, I found my brain working overtime. As my eyes scanned the racks and my fingers grazed the clothes, my mind kept saying, “I wish I was younger, thinner, richer…I would love to wear all these beautiful things.” I could just picture it – that long lean midriff baring dress, that gorgeous designer silk top, that adorable short skirt. In my next life, I would come back as some greater form of my current self and be all these “er” things.
Our desire to be better than we are is uniquely human. We strive for excellence, we long for that which we don’t have. We operate from a place of lack, as the researcher Brene Brown, reminds us. Lack is not a fun place to live – it burrows that uncomfortable feeling inside our bellies that something is missing…that something isn’t quite right.
Although it’s part of our genetic makeup to feel this way, it also is a mindset, a conditioned response. There are those of us who are never satisfied – no matter what we own or achieve. There are others, who are grateful for the smallest of things, a simple gift, a pat on the back. And then there are most of us – who waffle in between the two – myself included.
I am often very grateful for the things I have and am able to do – a bed to sleep in at night, food in my stomach, a vacation, dinner with friends. In these moments, lack is a four-letter word. And then there are those department store moments, when my senses are bombarded by all the things I would love to buy, but smartly resist (my budget goggles force me to look away.) I still have a thing about buying a $100 t-shirt…my more frugal self bristles at the thought of it, no matter how cool it looks. (I have those internal voices reminding me what a $100 can do for a poor family…food on the table, new shoes, medicine for a sick child.) You get the picture.
After I shake off those “er” feelings, I usually become grounded again. I remind myself that there are ways to be a higher form of myself, now. That although I can’t magically become young-er, that remaining young is a mental activity – what you think, you become. There are ways to become thinner and richer in the present – by putting in the work at the gym and the office. And also the reminder, that even when one does achieve these higher forms of self-dom, that happiness is not waiting there with a big, yellow smiley face sign declaring “You’ve Arrived!” It is far from the end of the road.
“Er” is a pervasive state. We want more – a runner wants to be faster, a hipster cooler. Er is knocking down that complacent door – tantalizing us with her sexy, shiny wares. It’s hard to look away…it’s hard to retreat inward and feel complete just as we stand.
There’s a reason there is no such word as perfect-er.