It can be an interesting exercise to write down all the aspects of you that you think you are – father, son, husband, career, body image etc etc. Now what if I took those away. You would still exist but who would you be then? There is still a ‘you’ but who is it, if it is not all these labels that you identify with?
It is very common, at some point in our lives, to have the uneasy feeling of ‘I don’t know who I am anymore’. Along the way, we have got so caught up on the treadmill of life and society’s conditioning that we have lost the connection with our inner selves, one might say ‘our true self’.
So, get a piece of paper, write down who you think you are and then one by one, strike these off and see who you are left with.
There is a scene in the movie Avatar where part of an indigenous ceremony involves telling the person being initiated that they are truly seen. For example, they would say I SEE YOU ALLISON, meaning they saw the true essence of the person. I think this is something everybody longs for – to be truly seen for who they are at their deepest core. Yet, how many feel comfortable actually being seen? We long for that acceptance and intimacy and yet how much do we really allow another to see us.
We wear all sorts of masks to portray what we think others want. We wear masks to cover up what we think is unlovable. We wear masks because we are so long disconnected from ourselves, we don’t know who we are anymore.
To allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to show our true selves takes a lot of courage but my goodness, to continuously wear a mask to cover up our inner self is exhausting and only serves to deepen the sense of shame and unworthiness we all carry on some level.
It is important to begin ‘coming out’ with people you trust will respect you. This is not automatically those in your inner circle. It can be but be mindful not to take that first – often scary step – in the very place you instinctively know it cannot be held.
Most people are well intentioned.
Most people have our best interests at heart.
But only we know what is truly right for us. And it can be tempting when we feel unsure, or inadequate, to let someone else who wants to ‘protect’ us, to tell us what we need to do.
In the short term, it seems to quell the anxiety of the moment. When we are struggling with decisions and making choices, our anxiety levels go way up. Giving someone else permission to tell you what you should do is actually an act of abandoning yourself.
By all means, seek support. Absolutely, discuss your situation with trusted people. However, if this morphs into you following someone else’s way of doing things, you are going off track. Don’t try to wear someone else’s shoes. Wear your own, tie your laces in a way that makes the shoe a good fit for you.
A lot of people look at this quote and immediately go into a mode of defensiveness against other people trying to control us. Nobody psychologically controls us unless we first abandon ourselves (this is often an unconscious act). And remember, with the best will in the world, even if someone has been in shoes that are very similar to yours, they’re still not your feet. Only you know what’s the right fit for your feet.
The first time I saw this, it stopped me in my tracks. If you really allow yourself to digest this, it has the potential to change your inner frame of reference for the rest of your life.
I was familiar with wanting change, I was familiar with trying to change. I was certainly familiar with putting in (sporadic) efforts to change. But I had never turned it around and instead of focusing on what I wanted new in my life, looked at what I was doing that was preventing the change and accepted this was a choice I was making.
It can be so deceptively simple that we overlook it. And often we choose to overlook it because it brings the responsibility back to me.
What repetitive pattern do you complain about? Oh, how you wish it were different. Why do you always end up being ………..… ? (fill in the blank). You want it to be different. You want the new, happier version to happen. Yet, honestly, do you take responsibility for the actions that perpetuate this revolving door and say, okay, I am choosing to continue to do this.
That stings, doesn’t it? I. Am. Choosing. This. Not, life keeps doing this to me. How unlucky am I. Nope, because I refuse (for whatever reason – and it’s helpful to figure this out, if you can) to change this thing, then that is actually me choosing it.
Sit with this. Repeat it silently in your mind. Please don’t go into criticism with this. That’s completely unhelpful. If that’s what you usually do i.e., berate yourself, then remember – if you continue with it, if you don’t change it, then accept that you are on some level, choosing to beat yourself up and make yourself feel like crap.