Letting Go of Absolutes: Embracing the Messy Middle

by | Aug 16, 2023 | Blog

Messy Middle

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In a world that often seems to gravitate towards absolutes…

Our brains love to believe that things are black and white, right or wrong, success or failure. One way or the other. That’s it– all or nothing. We love absolutes because it makes us feel safer. We think, If I know what success is, then I can go after it. These black and white definitions create a sense of certainty that our brains find comforting, but they also limit our understanding of the complexity of life. This is what the idea of the messy middle challenges us to explore: letting go of absolutes.

Take, for example, the field of medicine – there are flaws and limitations to Western medicine, but it’s also undeniably responsible for saving countless lives and improving life expectancy. Both experiences can be true without negating the other. It’s nebulous, it’s gray. It isn’t one-sided. And I think we feel so scared to admit that because then we’re left to settle, how do I know what is right? How do I know if going to this doctor is the right thing for me to do? Or if it’s just going to lead to a bunch of nothing?

When we hold onto the stark thought pattern of good-bad, we cause ourselves so much more harm than necessary.

We typically won’t always be in the ‘right column’ all the time, right? If there is good and bad, then there are good and bad decisions to wrestle with. If there is good and bad, then there are parts of you and me that are good and parts that are bad because we’re human. If we only live in this binary–that we only get to make good or bad decisions, only get to be good or bad–we create so much shame for ourselves and in our lives. It is unrealistic to only make ‘good’ decisions and to be ‘good’ all the time.

It’s the same thing with success and failure.

When we live our lives in an all-or-nothing thought pattern and define success in one way, we fail to experience success in all other potential aspects. What if parts of us are successes and parts of us are failures? What if parts of us are good and parts of us are bad? What if we all just kind of fall in the middle there? Embracing the messy middle means recognizing that life is a blend of successes and failures, highs and lows. Letting go of the need for clear-cut answers grants us a far more dimensional and forgiving life.

So, how can we practically apply the concept of the messy middle to our lives?

Reevaluate Your Beliefs: Instead of holding onto rigid beliefs, be open to the possibility that you might not have all the answers. Engage in thoughtful discussions with those who have different viewpoints, and be willing to learn from each other’s experiences.

Embrace Imperfection: Understand that you are not defined solely by your successes or failures. Embrace the gray areas, the moments of uncertainty, and the times when you’re figuring things out. It’s all part of the messy middle.

Practice Self-Compassion: Let go of the need to be perfect all the time. Understand that you’re human, and humans are complex beings. Treat yourself with the same compassion you would offer to a friend who’s navigating life’s challenges.

Let Go of Comparison: The messy middle reminds us that everyone’s journey is unique. Avoid comparing yourself to others’ highlight reels or assuming they’ve got it all figured out. We’re all navigating the complexities of life.

Prioritize Growth: Instead of fixating on an end goal, focus on the growth and learning that happens along the way. Allow yourself to pivot, change direction, and explore new avenues without the fear of deviating from a preconceived path.

Release the grip on absolutes.

The messy middle gives us permission to release the grip on absolutes and embrace the complexity of our lives. The beliefs we cling to are just thoughts, and thoughts can change over time. So, step away from the idea that there’s a fixed, definite path. Embrace the messiness, the ups, the downs – that’s what shapes a complete life.

If you’re still holding yourself to a perfectionist standard that you are struggling to meet, I’m here to help you. Go to lessonsfromaquitter.com/quitterclub and join us.