The Biggest Lie; Our Imperfection

photo by youngdoo

note: This is a summary of much of what can be found in Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Voice of Knowledge. If you would like to read more about it, I highly recommend checking out his book (any of them for that matter).

We’re born completely authentic. But something happens as we grow up; our authenticity is broken. Growing up we naturally want to please our parents. When we do something “good” we are told we are a “good boy” or a “good girl.” But when we do something “bad” we are told we are a “bad boy” or a “bad girl.” Our parents love us and are just trying to do what’s best for us. But behind their praise and chastising we hear a hidden message: it’s not okay to be who I am.

We are told this in school as well “You had better work hard and get good grades if you want to make something of your life.” Our teachers have the best intentions, but we still hear the hidden message: who I am right now is not good enough.

Our parents, siblings, friends and teachers all have an opinion of us. They think we would be best if we were this way or that way. We should be a certain way, but we are not. This is the beginning of our image of perfection.

The Image of Perfection

Before long we don’t need our teachers and parents to give us this image of perfection, we now have our own judge and our own victim inside our minds. We judge ourselves according to this image. We’re not good enough, we’re not smart enough, we don’t do enough, accomplish enough. We see what we should be, but we are not. In this the drama begins to unfold and the judge and the victim inside our head begin to rule our life.

This voice in our heads (otherwise known as the Voice of Knowledge) is constantly judging us and judging everyone else. But it is based on an image of perfection that we will never achieve! We are born perfect, nothing we do can ever make us perfect. We’re searching for a false image.

Imagine you’re building a house and you need a certain amount of wood to put up the frame. You know you need a certain amount of two by fours, four by fours and plywood. If you run out of wood for a certain part of the frame, you don’t blame the two by fours for being too short. You also don’t blame the plywood for being too flat.

We don’t judge the different pieces of wood for not being anything other then they are. But we do this with ourselves all the time.

A Beautiful Mind

Let’s look at the example of the movie “A Beautiful Mind.” The main character in this movie is a schizophrenic, but he’s also a genius. The problem is he sees people who don’t exist. The people he sees are controlling his life because he listens to them and does whatever they want him to do. After his wife discovers his condition, she puts him in an insane asylum. It’s not until he is given medication that he is able to see his hallucinations aren’t real.

The drug, however, gives him side effects so he stops taking the medication. Now he is faced with a choice, he can either go back to the hospital, lose his wife and accept his mental illness, or he can face the visions and overcome them.

He makes the choice to stay off the medication and battle his hallucinations. He decides “Whenever I see these people, I won’t listen to them. I won’t believe what they tell me.” The more he persists, the less power the visions have over him and he regains his personal freedom.

The beauty of this story is that it shows that if you don’t believe the voice in your head, it loses the power it has over you. So how can we conque the voice in our own head? How can we conquer the tyrant that is ruling our life?

Taming the Voice; Two Rules

Don Miguel Ruiz offers two simple rules for conquering the voice in your head:

1. Don’t believe yourself.
But listen to the voice of knowledge because sometimes it might have a brilliant idea. Don’t believe yourself mainly when you are using the voice against yourself. How many times have you said “yes” when you really wanted to say “no”? In the same way, how many times have you said “no” when you really wanted to say “yes”? You didn’t listen to your integrity because the voice in your head wouldn’t let you. The voice in your head is the ability to judge. Because of that, it will always say two different, conflicting things. Listen to the voice, but don’t believe it.

2. Don’t believe anybody else.
Just because someone else is telling your their opinion, doesn’t make it true. Realize that they are speaking from the perspective of their own story. When people are talking to you, don’t judge what they have to say, don’t believe what they say. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to them. Listen to their story and follow your own integrity. When someone is speaking from their integrity, our own integrity will be able to recognize it.

As I’ve said earlier, knowledge is the ability to judge. The voice in our head is the voice of knowledge. But that voice is like a wild horse, taking us wherever it wants to go. Once you tame the horse, you can ride the horse. With it, you can take yourself whever you want to go.

Using these two rules has helped me find inner peace. Searching for answers, I knew my image of perfection was unrealistic. I knew that striving for that would never bring me freedom. Knowledge is a valuable tool, but like all great tools, they have their disadvantages. And the principle disadvantage of knowledge is that we confuse it with reality. In reality, everything is perfect. Judgment is a part of reality, but reality itself is beyond judgment.

Points to ponder:

  • The truth survives our skepticism, but we can’t say the same about lies. Lies only exist if we believe in them. The truth is the truth whether we believe in it or not. That’s the beauty of the truth.
  • The voice of knowledge is a tyrant and it is ruling your life. If you refuse to believe what it says, it will become quieter and quieter. You can now use the voice of knowledge as a tool and reclaim your authenticitiy.
  • Everything in creation is perfect, but we don’t see that because our attention is focused on the lies. With awareness, we can recover our authenticity and live in truth.

In the next series on Truth I’ll be talking about the Four Agreements and how you can use them to recover your personal freedom.

What are your thoughts on the Voice of Knowledge? Has the voice inside your head been ruining your life?

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Comment & Add Your Voice

Scott May 28, 2008 at 2:19 am

Jonathan,

Thank you for this thought-provoking post.

One idea really jumped out at me- that we are born “authentic” and true to ourselves. It’s a major loss for us when this disappears in the noise of other people’s standards of perfection- which we then apply to our own lives.

This leads to us living in a way that others expect; saying “yes” when you mean “no”; losing weight to please those around us; doing things to keep others happy etc.

For me, the breakthrough came when I realised that it was physically and emotionally draining to try to fit an externally applied notion of perfection.

I took the time to think about what being “perfect” meant to me- and, you know what? I realised that it meant being “myself”. Soon afterwards, I lost the extra weight I’d tried to do for ages. I achieved other goals too. Success came because I did it for ME and no-one else.

As you point out, it is extremely tough to change this mindset. It’s like a radical overhaul of any longstanding habit- it takes time, effort and perseverence.

Did you find that regaining your own, unique authenticity from other people helped you achieve other goals?

I look forward to the rest of the series.

Reply

Evelyn Lim | Attraction Mind Map May 28, 2008 at 5:55 am

Great article! I was taught to ask this inner voice that tells us all our negative stories to soften or to “shut up” during a NLP workshop that I attended over the weekend. Fill our thoughts with more empowering ones instead!

Thanks for sharing,
Evelyn

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shann May 28, 2008 at 6:02 am

I agree that we are born authentic and lose our authenticity as we come up in the world. If we are lucky we start a quest to rediscover our authenticity after the dust settles and we’ve lived a little.

You are welcome to check out my blog for my experience with The Four Agreements.

http://truebalancelifecoaching.blogspot.com/search?q=four+agreements

In Balance,

Shann

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Bill Anders May 28, 2008 at 8:59 am

Another, yet similar take on this can be found in the psychologist Rogers’ book “On Becoming A Person” and his concept of unconditional positive regard.

Cheers,

Bill

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Jonathan May 28, 2008 at 9:43 am

Scott,

Absolutely. Regaining my own authenticity has given me the courage to be true to myself. I strive to pursue my own heart-driven goals more than anything. Doing what gives me joy and purpose drives me.

Evelyn,

Sometimes that’s what it takes. I think the key is listening to the voice, to learn from it. But not believing what it says.

Shann,

It’s nice to know someone that’s explored Don Miguel Ruiz’s work. He’s a brilliant man, with so much common sense wisdom. I feel compelled to share his teachings (and the Toltec wisdom) with others.

Reply

Doug Rosbury May 28, 2008 at 11:51 am

You are not that which is born and then dies. If that,
Then you are nothing. You are that which creates it and
lives forever. You are that which never leaves Heaven
And it remains there to this day, while it dreams of earth
Doug Rosbury

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Theresa May 28, 2008 at 9:41 pm

Very stimulating post!

The humanist Carl Rogers’ Person-Centered Theory is much like this, as Bill noted, and it is possible to accept others’ genuineness when you have defined your own. I also see RET and other cognitive theories, along with a dose of Maslow’s Heirarchy of Need which might play a role in Jung’s internal vs. external personality types.

I find it quite tonge-in-cheek that none of these psych theories are complete in and of themselves. It’s at this point where you might choose to reach for and explore “something more” for yourself. Like religions, psychology has many paths that reach for the same goal, pieces of the same pie, so be hungry and go for them all.

I’m a little confused at some of your statements, like listening to the voice you told to shut up. (Or did I misunderstand?) Is this voice your intuition, what’s in your heart? Would another way of framing this be balancing your thinking with your feeling?

I had to comment! I like this blog. Besides, yesterday, I also posted about socialization ruining the purity and joy of the child. But, I took a different path with it. I used it to explain our continued misinterpretations of abstracts.

Thank you for this great read!
Theresa
A Bumpy Path

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Tom Volkar / Delightful Work May 29, 2008 at 7:54 pm

Okay so you’re saying that the voice of knowledge is the voice of judgment, right? Is it still the voice of knowledge when it recognizes good and expresses appreciation? I think I understand but perhaps I need to read Ruiz’s book to fully grasp this concept.

I’d also like you to tell us more about this. “The truth survives our skepticism, but we can’t say the same about lies. Lies only exist if we believe in them. The truth is the truth whether we believe in it or not. That’s the beauty of the truth.” I’d like to hear more about how you discern the truth and distinguish it form this voice of knowledge.

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Loraleigh Vance May 30, 2008 at 5:16 pm

Great summary and I appreciate you providing it.

For the most part, I have learned to differentiate the nutjob in my head from the sane one. And more often than not, I know who to listen to. It’s been a lot of hard work but well worth the effort.

Now I just have to learn to do the same with other people.

Thanks so much.

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Mary@GoodlifeZen May 31, 2008 at 3:42 am

Becoming authentic is an adventure, because we start moving away from all the milestones someone else set for us – our parents, our teachers, our family.

On of the outcomes of regaining authenticity is that we tend to gain some deep friendships and we lose a heap of acquaintances. I think a lot of people feel threatened by people of authenticity because their own facade starts to crack and show.

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JEMi | Tips for Life, Love, You June 3, 2008 at 6:10 am

Thank you for this beautiful post. Seriously – because the voice of knowledge has been a tyrant in my life for a very long time. Do you know how refreshing it is to reaffirm that it needs to be tamed? Striving for this .. perfection has kept me as a woman unsatisfied with herself. The more I release that, the better I feel about being me.

I really look forward to the post on the Four Agreements – excellent picks you’ve got here! And I’m goin to ha to check out this book..

*smile* This post started my morning off right

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vimoh June 9, 2008 at 5:02 am

Hello Jonathan,

Followed you here from your comment at the Zen Habits post on LOA.

Happy that I did. :)

I have been browsing your site and like what I see. This post in particular. Echoes what’s inside me.

Keep up the good work.

Reply

dowsing August 24, 2012 at 6:02 am

Intuition provides help downloading the
ideas most frequently not accessible to our senses. Call it a still voice, a hint
or a gut feeling – right after it begins occurring you will realize
that it’s no coincidence.!
Dowsing is a art we can use to access the intuition by using dowsing pendulum as well as divining rod.
I’ve been using it for a very long time and I do think all
people can easily learn it.

Reply

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