I was sitting in Barnes and Noble, leafing through the newest books in my favorite aisle — Non-Fiction. Full of self-help books on how to become your best self, how to attract abundance into your life, how to mend your relationship with God, and every topic in-between, I picked a few newbies and proceeded to the nearby Starbucks to lounge, latte, and learn.
“Are you ready to tap into your fullest potential? Are your limitations holding you back? Here’s how to become an unlimited powerhouse in your own life!”
These are some of the quotes I read in the first few opening lines of the book. I’ve read them before, and not just in books — blogs, memes, inspirational quotes in subway tunnels. It seems that every self-help guru is recycling them or delivering them to masses of confused people looking for answers. And up until that day in Barnes and Noble, I was one of those people flocking to these quotes as the holy grail of life’s wisdom. I would take them as giant red flags in my own journey of life, asking myself — am I a limited human being who is only living in the confines of a small space I created myself? Why can’t I push past these limits to my fullest self?
And then it hit me. Maybe we’re wrong. Maybe all of these self-help experts and we who follow them are incorrect on this one belief — that one of life’s biggest goals is to become an unlimited human being. And I started exploring what it means to have limitations. And what I uncovered was the biggest truth I ever logically and emotionally agreed with, in one fell swoop.
Our limitations are not barriers keeping us at bay; they are boundaries that shape us and give us facets of evolving definition.
For so long, we’ve believed that limitations are challenges that we need to overcome. We’re limited in our careers, passion, relationships, self-esteem, confidence, and the like; so, we go out to seek help to overcome these hurdles, because we’ve labeled them as bad and unworthy. How can we possibly live the rest of our life with these things holding us back from our fullest potential?
But what if our fullest potential is simply being a human being?
Some of us are shy, introverted people who have a hard time opening up to new relationships or new opportunities. Some of us (well, most of us) are so afraid of change that we’d rather stay in jobs or marriages or cities that no longer serve us. And then on top of all of that, we’re confronted with this remedy that says — push past those limitations and you’ll be free. But I don’t think it works that way. What would we ever learn about freedom, happiness, joy, love, or success if it weren’t for those limitations? There is no knowledge or wisdom implanted into our brains that hasn’t come from experience. And that experience has often been daunting, overwhelming, heartbreaking, and just plain hard.
Subconsciously, whether on our own or in a society of like-decided people, we’ve set forth on a path that abolishes these limits, so that we can one day come to a point where we’re the polar opposite of everything we no longer like about ourselves. The limits that we currently stare at every morning are no longer pikes lining our road to happiness, but instead, bygone sticks of wood dished off to the side, in our victory to overcome them. But in front of us does not stand an open road, where we finally shake hands with our best Self. No. Without our limitations — which are really our definitions — we realize that nothing stands in front of us at all. Instead, a gaping desert of tumbleweeds and silence, because we’ve forgotten that being a human being is about what we embrace and reclaim.
By cleaning out the path to what we think leads to happiness, we’re really erasing the lines in the sand that give us definition. And mostly so, because somewhere along the way, we decided that we didn’t like being shy, introverted, afraid, unmotivated, etc. We so badly wanted to be the opposite of those things, that we vowed to clear away any signs that we once were this unacceptable version of ourselves. But if you clear away the darkness, the light cannot shine. It doesn’t know how.
Everything in the Universe points to the dichotomy of balance. Light and dark, yin and yang, black and white — they are pools of reflection by which we embrace our own balance.
Without this balance, we are not whole. We are not unlimited human beings who’ve tapped into their fullest potential. Instead, we are scattered, incomplete wisps of wind, forever searching for definition that only rests in the limitations we can’t stand to welcome. And we can spend the rest of our life spinning in circles, always on some threshold of undoubted achievement between the pages of self-help quotes — until we realize that the journey is almost over and we have uncovered nothing at all.
Your limitations are boundaries. Use them to speak your truth, to stand your ground, to change into and out of your definition as life goes on. They do not keep you from living your best life. They are your best life. Enjoy it while you have the time.