The Jonathan Livingstone Seagull Effect

seagullI mentioned last week that knowing who you are is a big part of Radical Self-Forgiveness. You may remember the story of Jonathan Livingstone Seagull. Written by Richard Bach, this is the story of an ordinary seagull who aspires to escape from being just a gull. He wants to reach a higher level of perfection as a flyer, and the story is about how he achieves his dream.

One of the many selves most of us have is our Ideal Self. The ideal self is that part of you that wants to be bigger, greater, more famous, more successful, richer, more intelligent, and whatever else you would rather be than what you are already. It represents how you would like to be in the future. It is what our gull friend, Jonathan, was using to propel him to excellence.

We all use role models to help define our ideal self. “I would like to be just like ________ ,” we say. If I remember right, our Jonathan saw how a peregrine falcon was able to dive at incredible speeds, and with extraordinary accuracy knock a bird out of the sky. Just seeing it done gave him the inspiration to fly beyond his known limits as a gull.

All that is fine. But only up to a point. If you use your ideal self to pull towards all that you can be as your real and authentic self, that’s fine. If, on other hand, your ideal self tends to take you away from your true authentic self, reaching for something that is not in accordance with who you are, then it can lead to a great deal of disappointment, low self-esteem and in a worst case scenario, self-hatred. So choose your role models carefully.

Another self that can get you into the same sort of trouble is the Inferred Self. This is the self you infer from how others consistently react to you. You say to yourself, “If that’s how they see me, or react to me, I therefore must be __________.”

Again, up to a point this is fine while you are inferring things about yourself that are congruent with your true nature. But if they are not, you will feel confused and very unsure of who you really are. Actors and comedians have this problem all the time. Many are not funny themselves. They are just good at acting funny. But people expect them to be funny all the time. Many of them become quite depressed as a result of their apparent success.

If you find people reacting to you in a way that is not you, you need to ask yourself, “What am I projecting about myself that is not true that others are picking up? Is it something that is in my subconscious mind that has been planted there through being shamed, or being pushed by my parents to be what they wanted me to be?” If it is negative in character, “Was I shamed into thinking I was that, even if, in reality, I was not?”

The remedy for both of these selves becoming aberrant, taking you away from your authentic self, is to do the Self-Acceptance Worksheet (available in the Free Stuff section of Colin’s Cafe) and/or the Radical Self-Forgiveness/Self Acceptance Online Program. After that, be careful who you hang out with. Choose people who get who you really are and appreciate you for just being you.

SFSA Coupon

This entry was posted in Shift in Consiousness. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Jonathan Livingstone Seagull Effect

  1. susan cummings says:

    The focus of this message is a very important area for the whole forgiveness theme. it is so pertinent to the discussion around appropriate and inappropriate guilt as well as shame. I felt a shift in myself while reading this message and reflected on just how relevant these comments were for me at this time and yet how below the radar the awarness of this dynamic remained for me as well. Thank-you Colin for shining the clear light of wisdom on this issue so that I can intentionally reflect on and address this issue for myself.

  2. Kim M says:

    Thanks for the reminder of the ideal self. I trip myself up often over thinking I should have done more or be greater. Totally ignoring what I have done.

Comments are closed.