Discovering our own paths
If we are not careful and gentle with ourselves, our efforts can become unnatural and unhelpful - we can stumble over our ideals of what it means to be a Buddhist, what it means to hold vows or to be a spiritual practitioner. Instead of listening inwardly to our present reality, we formulate actions or words that we think we should do; compassion or patience are forced through when really we are angry or fed up. Meditation becomes a chore or just something to tick off a to-do list because we think we have to just get it done. We can go through the motions without heart or sincerity because we think we have to otherwise we will be doing something wrong.
"I can't feel anger, I can't get impatient with them. I must be kind to them and say nice words even though on the inside I'm fuming!"
So we can become spiritual actors; people going through the "right" actions and the "right" words and getting all pent up and exhausted inside because how we're really feeling, what we're really experiencing, isn't accepted or welcomed in. We can deny ourselves our own reality in favour for an ideal which we hold ourselves up to.
We lose the joy and flavour of practice when it becomes another part of the ego mask, something to be done for acceptance; to be acceptable. To be "good" and "right" and "Buddhist". This is why we must be gentle and sincere with our practice. How are we feeling? What are we thinking? Welcome all of it without judgement. We do not have to act on anger or fear or anything like that, but we do not have to pretend they aren't there either. We do not need to tangle ourselves up in our efforts to be perfect or to be faultless in our vows. Opening the heart to our own difficulties allows us to open our heart to the difficulties of others in a truly sincere way - this should be our approach to a joyful and fulfilling practice.