Letting Go of Good—To Find Your Authentic Self

by Andrea Mathews

Most of us have been raised to be “good,” using certain dimly specified, but quickly absorbed ideals that were meant to define us as good. Most of us have, indeed, been taught that being good is the ultimate in being. That to be without being good is to be unworthy, at least to some degree. This idea of being good is so ingrained that it almost feels essential to our beingness. Because of this, most of us do not really see the gravity of being good or how heavy the weight of this burden really is. Instead most of us see being good as essential to our wellbeing. But goodness always comes attached to its polar opposite, badness or evil. One cannot think in terms of goodness, without also considering that polarity. In some sense then, goodness is a battle against badness, for to do good is to avoid doing bad. Therefore, attempting to accomplish goodness is generally a struggle to some degree. We must try hard to be good, for if we are not good, we might be bad and if we are bad, we are unworthy.

Yet most of us have been taught that this is a positive kind of striving that builds character and makes us better people. But the truth is that the more we identify with goodness, the more our psychic energy becomes focused on that internal power struggle between good and bad. Over time there is less and less psychic energy focused on being authentic. So not only must we constantly perform as good people, but we must do that without much contact with our deepest authenticity. Further, it is not uncommon at all for us to make deep and early associations to the rewards and consequences of goodness or badness. These associations may stay with us, even as we develop an awareness that they don’t consistently apply and often don’t really even make sense.

We place tremendous power in the way we perceive what good is and what bad is. They are concepts we imagine to be concrete, but goodness and badness are not things we can measure. When we look around it becomes fairly clear that what is good to one family, one culture, or one society may be bad to another. The danger here is that living as if these terms have a standard definition can split us off from other parts of ourselves.

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Excerpted from Letting Go of Good: Dispel the Myth of Goodness to Find Your Genuine Self  by Andrea Mathews. © 2017 by Andrea Mathews. Used by permission from Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd., Llewellyn.com.

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