After years of study, I have found the source of unhappiness! It’s not a difficult childhood or parents who might not have understood us. Nor is it our life circumstances or events that happen in our lives. It’s not even the people who haven’t met our expectations or who seem to have failed to fulfill our needs. No, the source of unhappiness is much closer to home:
Ignoring our true selves
What does that mean? How does it happen? What effect does it have on us? Why does it make us unhappy?
How We Lose Ourselves
Usually it starts early. As soon as we’re born, we have needs, and as infants we are good at letting those around us know what they are, so our parents can meet them. But as we age, our needs hit the hard wall of societal demands. It’s not ok to scream how hungry we are in the middle of the grocery store, we must learn to wait until we’re home to eat. This is appropriate management of our behavior, but many of us receive messages that lead to unhealthy suppression or denial of feelings and instincts. And it’s often a subtle process.
For example, I didn’t learn directly how to ignore my true self. I didn’t do it on purpose. I didn’t even know I was doing it. “I” didn’t even know there was a true “I” hiding inside there. The “I” who directed my life was one who learned the rules of family, community, and society, and followed them to the letter because I thought that would make me feel good, or at least feel like I fit in. And back then, fitting in was more important than following my heart or listening to my inner self. Having friends, hiding from bullies, staying invisible when conflicts arose at home or school, these were higher goals than just being me.
Feelings are Key to Recovering Our True Selves
Many of us subsume our feelings – those inner guideposts to true self – for what seems to be the higher good of family and society, or simply to survive those demands. But feelings tell us who we are and who we want to be. To recover that true self, who might be buried in layers of expectation and societal pressures, we have to reconnect with our feelings.
- Do you recognize when you are happy, sad, angry, frustrated, depressed, irritable, disappointed, hurt, etc.?
- Do you honor your feelings? If your gut tells you not to do something, do you listen, or do you do it anyway?
- If something “feels right” to you, do you follow through?
- How about if something “feels wrong”?
Finding Ourselves Takes Time and Patience
It took me a long time to recognize my feelings, never mind honor them. I used to be so out of touch, I couldn’t decide my way out of a paper bag. I chose the college I went to because a friend of mine was going. I needed much practice to acknowledge and consider using my feelings as guidance for decision-making. Several years later, after working to get back in touch with my feelings, I moved towns and had to find an apartment. I looked at two places and could not decide which was better. I slept on it, and in the morning, I felt a certain knowledge, literally in my gut, which one to pick. I took it and lived there happily for two years, until I was able to buy a house.
If you are looking for your true self, be patient. Listen. If you don’t know what to decide, give yourself time to consider. If you make mistakes, forgive yourself. Learn to know yourself as you would get to know a friend. Understand your weaknesses – and acknowledge your strengths. Every one of us brings a special gift with us, that no one else can offer. Let that gift become known, to yourself and others, and share your light. On your own terms, in your own time.
Be true to you!