I have been thinking lately of what it is we all long for in our lives. It isn’t an abundance of money, even if we think it is. It isn’t a bigger house or a motorbike or a puppy. It isn’t a holiday in the sun or new clothes or to win Britain’s Got Talent. What we all long for above all else is to be loved, to belong, to find in another/others all that confirms we really really matter, not for what we do, but for who we really are. In other words, to be happy and truly, deeply so.
We learn from childhood to design ourselves in a way that is acceptable to others, to parents, friends, siblings or teachers. We want to fit in. We long to fit in. It is a primal need. And, yet, in designing ourselves according to others’ ideas of who we are, we lose ourselves. We all do it. If the way we want to be conflicts with their ideal, and if we are strongly convinced of our own way of being, we will come up against the rocks. We will be labelled naughty, bad, impossible, awkward and Trouble. It is mighty exhausting to live this way and not many of us keep it up for long. After all, who wants to be sent to their room over and over again until they come to their senses? In other words until we conform and submit, and we carry that need for acceptance on and on throughout our lives unless we notice, see and call a halt.
But how to relocate a self, hewed by many into a shape that has no connection with who we are is indeed a big challenge. We may have walked under clouds for decades, behaving as we ought and as we should, all grey and soggy and with no idea why we ever let it happen at all. We may well have imposed the same on our own children and that is a sobering thought. The key, I believe, is to notice what we do in order to please others, whilst displeasing ourselves. We give, teeth gritted. Well, how about not giving that way? How about saying, gently and firmly, No, I cannot do that today/now/for you? Would that be so very hard? Yes, it would, the first time, but not thereafter, as the words come more easily. You notice how your shoulders come down and your back tension is less; your teeth no longer grit, your stomach is calm and you feel you are honouring yourself for once as those soggy grey clouds lift and the sun streaks through like honey drizzle on porridge. You begin to find out that, contrary to your entrenched belief, you rather like yourself. You don’t waste a moment beating yourself up, well maybe once or twice, for letting this all happen as you begin to re-design your own wonderful self. You are wonderful just as you are right now and the only person who will take some persuading of this is you.
You may not have a clue as to the road ahead, may not even see it through the fog, but, trust me, a way will show itself once that decision to be who you are settles within. You just know you will not longer live through other people and their opinions, through the currently acceptable shape and form of being someone who ‘fits in’. That sister who talks over you, so certain is she of how it should be done; that parent who wants everything to be as it always was and who will loudly and powerfully berate your resistance; that friend who expects you to give as they give. If none of these roles sit easy with you then Do Something to effect a change.
We only have one life. How about really living it? Therein, my friends, lies happiness, one that will, in time, light up not only your own self but will bring surprising joys once everyone gets the hang of you and comes to admire your courage. Which they will. And it all begins with you and with me.