Susan (not her real name) came to me many years ago as a client. She was suffering with tremendous anxiety and insomnia. She was the mother of 3, worked part time and spent most of her time shuttling to soccer games, volunteering and arranging playdates. She was, on the outside, a super-mom. Inside, she was a sensitive, loving, caring… and dying human.
She loved her role as mom and wife and “wouldn’t have it any other way”. But inside, parts of her were dying.
She thought her anxiety was caused by her busy-ness, her son’s problems at school and her inability to keep up with balancing her life. But upon deeper exploration, Susan discovered a deep sadness and grief. Her wants, dreams, and aspirations to be more, give big and become an artist, a scientist or even a dancer, were slowly breaking apart inside her. The dreams of her true self were buried.
“But being a mother means you sacrifice, you give yourself up, right?” She said. That was the key.
There, hanging in the air of the counselling office, was the core belief she had learned as a small self, from her mother, her grandmother, because they had learned it from society. She could just as easily learned “Being a mother means you love your kids AND live your dreams” or “Don’t be a mother, it will shatter your life.”
Either way it doesn’t matter. We only know it doesn’t fit, when it feels too tight, too small, and it creates a lot of anxiety, pain or sickness. Then we know we have side-stepped our true nature, our pulsing life force that wants to expand and move beyond what we think.
When we are born, we are without name, identity, habits, religion, or any labeling that puts us in part of a group.
We have our givens: our DNA, our gender, our physical body, skin, hair colour, temperament. We are in our truest nature.
Very quickly we learn so much. How to get our survival needs met by crying, that someone out there will help us get comfortable when we are in distress (maybe), and we start to recognize familiar faces.
Soon after that, we learn social programming. This is, how to please others and fit in, how to gain approval, how to belong, what others like and don’t like, and if we are going to survive, we adapt.
We put on a costume and start performing. If we are lucky, we are raised in an environment that promotes diversity and being an individual. But this is not often the case, as there is a huge societal need to conform and belong. This is not a bad thing. Belonging is important as we need to see our commonalities to connect, enjoy each other and be in relationship with one another.
But what if we abandon ourselves completely to the character we have adopted?
What if we compromise our true nature to become that which “the world wants me to be”.
What if we say “yes” when our hearts scream “no” and say “thank you” when we want to say “@#$% off!”.
The truth is, there is a self inside of you that has nothing to do with your roles, your job, your religion or political party.
Why do people crash when they lose their friends, their marriage ends, they don’t get that job, they can’t buy the latest gadget?
Because they have identified with this false self, the image of who they thought they were… based on ideas of what they downloaded through social programming.
You are not your things, your house, your clothes, your job, your thoughts or your emotions…. why?
Because those things all come and go, they pass. Yet you remain.
Some are lucky and remain dedicated and loyal to their true selves. These people are often true creators, innovators, out-of-the-box, and at some point are judged, left out, for sure criticized and often exiled. It takes a very brave soul to stay true to oneself.
Yes, we are all individual, unique beings. There will never be one just like you. AND at our very essential humanness, we are more the same than different.
How well do you embrace difference? Do you judge or are you afraid?
This is the very root of all conflict. How well we can embrace our differences.
And this depends on how much we have abandoned our own true selves.
All the time I see people who have adopted roles that don’t fit, clothes that are too small, and identities that no longer serve them. They have long forgotten who they are, and it requires making a trip back in time to see what beliefs not longer fit who they are now.
Often, this abandoning of the true self results in illness, anxiety, depression, chronic inflammation and burnout.
Who would have thought that trying to fit in could lead down such a path, but true freedom only ever lies in being true to yourself.
How do we know if we are living from our true self or our small self? Here are some clues…
The small self judges and fears. The true self accepts and loves.
The small self thinks and doubts. The true self knows in her gut.
The small self controls. The true self lets go and allows life to move.
The small self tries… to get it right, to prove themself, or they’re not good enough. The true self knows they are enough and always has been, just as is.
Where do you leave your true self by the wayside and morph into what others want?
Where do you look for approval, or keep your opinions to yourself even when you disagree?
What rules or obligations are you following that no longer fit for you?
Above all, this I know for sure:
When you step into your true self, your power and “aliveness” will be the greatest force for good in your own life, for other and the world.
The world needs you to come alive, not to strive for some unknown destination of ‘happiness’.
Today, do what makes you feel alive.