When you look in the mirror do you see your ideal self? The self you really want to be, the one you feel is terrific today just as s/he is? Are you looking in the mirror and seeing all of you, the hurt self, the happy self, the strong self, the vulnerable one, the inquisitive one, the needy one? Are you able to look in the mirror and feel at peace with what you see? Do you criticize and condemn (I hope not) - or do you praise and applaud? Do you take time to care for yourself in this manner? Or are you habitually looking at the surface and then putting on your face for the day? Are you becoming who you want to be as a "grown up"? When we live by our ideals we can use them to find our short-comings or we can use them to grow the parts of us we want to expand. Many of us are stuck in a habit of comparing ourselves to others or an "ideal" model of what we want or think we should be. This comparing or criticizing only weakens us internally. The way we strengthen ourselves, tapping into our inner authentic power, is to live comfortably beside our ideals. In living beside them, we grow what we are aspiring towards. With the energy of our ideal held gently within us, we let go of old messages of how we "should" be. Instead we embody the way the ideal lives in us today and then focus on how we want to expand that energy within us.
Here is an example from my life. I want to readily speak about my experience when I feel inner conflict. The ideal is that I feel conflict and I easily share my feelings in a calm way. My past pattern has been to notice it, become silent and begin turning it over in my mind, eventually talking about it when I have reasoned out the issue to my own satisfaction. In this method, often a lot of time passes as I get pulled into my mental process, justifying my feelings by a story concerning the issue at hand and how I am entitled to how I feel because of this or that, and then when I feel kinder, I consider the other side and I can see how the other might be feeling the way they are but still, I certainly would feel the way I do given these circumstances - who wouldn't - woops I am justifying again and on and on, until I finally TALK aloud about it. What I am moving towards is to gently talk about what is troubling me more immediately. Even if I don't understand it all in the moment. I say I am moving towards this because I notice that the time between my feeling the inner conflict, and then the going silent followed by speaking, is all becoming a shorter cycle. I am holding the ideal of easily speaking when I experience conflict gently within, and I am moving towards it in my interactions. What I find is that I feel much lighter, much freer and more honest. I experience a sense of immediacy in my relationships and no longer feel alone to work through my inner struggle. Because I don't expect myself or the other to have an "answer" or a "solution" I just allow the talking about it and the wondering about the conflict and how it arises in me. Without a defensive posture inside, I rarely put anyone else on the defensive or offensive, and if it does go that way, I just stay with what I am trying to share as my own conflict and ask the other to do the same, gently.
It is possible to do this with any quality we wish to cultivate in our inner life and in our outer life. First we recognize what we are aspiring to - what is my ideal? It is prudent to spend a bit of time on what it is that attracts you to this ideal, how you imagine having it or living it will change your life, and how you might be resisting having it in the way you are living now. Once we have named it, we hold the energy of it gently within, not measuring ourselves to the ideal or comparing ourselves to anyone who already seems to have mastered the quality. Instead we just hold it in our consciousness, stating that "I am becoming more.......". Become - becoming. Be - - this exists -- come -- originate or arise within - becoming. Where/how does this quality exist in me? What gets in the way of this arising within me? How might I more readily embody this quality? Quality - where are you in there? Call it forth!
As humans, we embody all human qualities. Our birth and family life, and experiences and character all cause us to grow in particular ways, but we are all becoming something each new day, growing certain aspects all the time. Whether we are conscious of this or not, we are growing something. When we pause, and consider what we are growing within, we can see how our qualities are influencing what is happening in our life around us. For instance if I feel anxious often, and I desire the quality of calm within me, I begin looking for - how is my life full of fear - where does fear present itself in my life? (Knowing anxiety is fear.) My ideal is to feel calm - often. So I begin to cultivate calm. I begin to remove fear-based matters from my life. I begin to develop a sense of acceptance about things rather than resisting. Most importantly, I seek calm internally rather than outside myself. I create space in my life to learn to sit peacefully with myself and focus on finding an inner calm. This will be the most powerful remedy to anxiety in the long-term. Because once we find peace within and experience and enjoy it, we automatically respond to the world in ways that create a more peaceful life.
Trying this as an experiment can be an interesting experience to learn about how we manifest in our outer life what we cultivate in our inner life. Choose an ideal that you will hold within, a quality that you wish to cultivate in your world. Ask yourself the questions above and begin to hold the ideal within, gently. Take time each day to focus on drawing that quality forth within you. Seek relentlessly what gets in the way of you experiencing what you desire. It can be a fascinating and enlightening exercise and experiment! Living comfortably beside our ideals, rather than using them to feel "less than", can be a life changing alteration in our existence. As we gently, lovingly aspire to our ideals we become stronger and happier, more content with how we are growing and what we are creating.