A while back I was offered a job as a dental assistant and, before I knew it, a Yes had popped out of my mouth even though I had never had any training for this work. My first day on the job was such fun as I arrived in the innocence of not knowing and with an openness and willingness to learn and bring what I could. I also had the support of the dental nurse who was about to leave.
After a few weeks the dental nurse left and I was on my own. Even though I had been working by that stage without much assistance, thoughts started to creep in that I should know it all by now. I would go into work with a slight anxiousness which meant that I walked into work thinking I did not know enough and that I was less if I did not ‘get it right’.
This changed everything: I would make mistakes. The dentist would get frustrated and I would feel even less. I would come home exhausted and could not sleep due to cramping in my legs and aching in my hips from standing all day gripping the floor with my toes. We worked long hours – sometimes a twelve-hour day, and I was on my feet all day. Because I felt not good enough, I would compensate for being slow by trying to catch up in my lunch break which meant I was not able to function so well in the afternoon.
So why was I thinking I had to get it right?
My dad was a scientist and he was endeavouring to ‘sharpen’ our minds so we could wield intelligence as a sword and shield to protect ourselves in the ‘battles’ of life. He would cross-examine us at dinner and we had to prove how our day was to such an extent that we would lose any sense of joy we might have felt. We got approval when we got things ‘right’ or got good marks at school and there was always pressure to do better than before. I was in competition with myself, in comparison to the picture I had of the perfect me I should be, which meant that I always came up as ‘not good enough’.
This setup had ruled my life and I realised that at 75 years I was still doing this – seeking ‘daddy’s approval’ from the dentist! The pressure to please by getting it right had squashed the joy and fun that I had felt in the first days at work.
Whose thought is it anyway?
One day we had to take some X-rays of a small child’s teeth. The bitewings are uncomfortable in the mouth and he was resistant but we finally managed to take them. As I was walking to the X-ray machine to develop them, I was aware of a thought: “You’re going to stuff this up!” I knew it wasn’t my thought. I knew it was being fed to me – but I took the ‘hook’ and I felt a growing anxiety as I walked towards the machine as I have had trouble with it on several occasions. I did ‘stuff it up’. . . I somehow let the light in so one of the pictures was blank.
Movement is the key
That morning, I had walked into work with my heart open, with a sense of strength and authority in my body and ready to respond to what was needed. I stood with my feet in full contact with the floor and my toes did not scrunch up. I was aware of my breathing, my jaw was relaxed, I felt the delicate sensitivity in my fingers. The morning flowed beautifully. The dentist, the patient and I were in harmony, as One.
However, as I was walking towards the X-ray machine I started to contract. I became a walking self, concerned about me and whether or not I would get it right. No longer walking with the authority of God, I was walking in the fear of not getting it right and I gave power to the X-ray machine rather than claiming mastery of it.
Wanting to get it right is a form of control.
I realised later that the anxiousness arose because I had a picture of what should happen and I was attached to an outcome. Instead of allowing what was to be to happen, I was trying to control the situation so that past mistakes would not be repeated and this made me contract and lose my presence.
Trying to get it right is self-entitlement
I was being run by the thought that I am entitled to my picture of a favourable outcome which made me try to control the situation. This is such a narrow view – just so I won’t feel bad about myself! Who knows that if this body made a ‘mistake’ it might even be a divine error that benefits all? We cannot judge the situation.
I have been blessed with a job that, although it is excruciatingly uncomfortable at times, offers me an opportunity to watch the thoughts that I allow in and the movements that my body makes as a result.
It is showing me that:
- I am no less if I don’t know something
- Making a mistake is not sinful
- Trying to be perfect is a picture that imposes on me and others and interrupts the flow.
- Trying to get things right brings in a force which warps the day
- Thoughts are not mine and I can discern if they are true or not
- What matters is the quality that I bring
- How I move determines the flow of the day
I appreciate the support of the many practitioners and friends who reflect to me who I truly am. This has made it possible for me to understand the set-up behind the need to get it right. I also acknowledge myself for being willing to face an uncomfortable situation without blame, knowing that I can use it as an opportunity to evolve.
Sandra N., Australia
If you enjoyed this article you may also like to read:
Flexibility and Adaptability in my 70s