You don’t always have to wait for things to get out of hand, making it too late for you to apologize, before adjusting your behavior. Before anyone telling that you’re not honoring your best self, you’ll see signs that indicate your primitive instincts kicking in: becoming defensive, labeling people, thoughts or actions, self-pity, self-doubt. These are all signs of something new and scary/exciting. So why go through with actions that put you down and put yourself up for criticism when you can do yourself that favor? Be a fair critic and you’ll help prevent yourself from aiming down.
Our identity is more complex than we might perceive it. It has to do with our cultural capital – where we are coming from culturally, our family and upbringing – and also with how we and other people perceive us. How others perceive us influences how we think and feel about ourselves. If someone tells us ‘You are always so brave’ or ‘You should try harder’ will have a deep influence on how we think about ourselves, particularly if we trust that person.
This leads to how relationships keep us in check in terms of who we are. Our life trajectory can be studying law and working in counter-fraud. We would have built a great part of the relationships as part of our professional identity. This might not go hand in hand with playing a leading part in a musical theatre and dropping everything for a different avenue.
We sometimes build arguments whenever we tell people that our interests are not limited to what the outside world knew about ourselves ‘on paper’ or when our decisions might not be approved in the eyes of the plenty. It’s time to acknowledge that we are the ones that have to be at ease with the decisions we made before going to sleep at night and that relationships go both ways: limiting our beliefs and empowering us. Try to find the right people to keep in your life, rather than the right thing to say to people who happen to be part of your journey.
‘Identity’ is an ever-morphing concept. We take pride in who we are from a young age and allow our preferences to dictate our identity. Preferences and not beliefs.
The first layer of conscious identity is forced on us by the views of our parents, carers, teachers – people. Before we get to take control of our narrative and even before we get to know who we are, we are aware of who we are expected to be.
It isn’t just the disconnect between what’s within us and what is projected on us that harms our potential, but also how imperceptible change is. What we don’t notice doesn’t get labelled which means that the old labels are out of date and trap us into falling into old patterns.
1 Minute Exercise:
Take one identity that really stands-out to you when you think about it eg. clumsy, know-it-all, lazy, serious. Think about experiences when you acted contrary to the general belief. What does this say about you?
I grew up in a community where being heterosexual (attracted to opposite sex) and monogamous (being with one person at a time) was not up for debate.
Even if this created tensions through relationships outside marriage or same sex relationships, people felt entitled to another person’s life.
The culprit was clearly the person acting unusual, unacceptable, outside of the norm.
In those times of crisis, the person committing the ‘crime’ would not evaluate their own needs. They would so desperately try to fit in, make other people happy, that they would attempt to go against their instincts. And failed every single time, harming themselves and others in the process.
This entire circus thought me to base my happiness on other people’s behavior, to put myself at the centre of other people’s lives and allowed others a central role in mine. It’s easy to see how things can get off-balance with all the forces at play.
The heteronormative thinking (where ‘1 she + 1 he = The relationship’ is the norm) got us this far: heterosexualised aggression from an early stage between young people (Ringrose, 2008), bullying & harassment towards non-conforming students (Miller & Gilligan, 2014), marginalised lesbian mothers accessing heteronormaitve health services (Halcomb, 2013). Now with more children than we can feed, defend and care for, we still find the time to perpetuate these negative behaviors.
‘School environments may well breed, enable, perpetuate, or even encourage bullying behaviors targeted at queer students, due to the fact that they are historically and institutionally designed to socialize and normalize children for life in what is assumed to be a universal society in which all citizens share common identities, goals, beliefs, values, and so on.’Miller & Gillian, 2014
Cultivating meaningful relationships where our child, partner, close one is our friend, ally and, most importantly, is their own person while we remain our own person also is a must.
Without a PhD in ‘Why We Need to Upgrade Their Belief System in Order to Evolve’ I can firmly say that raising children for the past reality is not the way forward.
An exercise that I came across recently proposed by Tony Robbins left me blank.
I could not think of any of the beliefs I’d held my entire life, such as ‘If I start watching a Netflix series I won’t stop until I reach the end of the season’. You might think it’s brutal to say that this, my friend, is not and empowering belief. It is simply a loop of giving yourself, your time, to a feeling of initial thrills followed by numbness. And we wait for the next peak moment of the story to make us feel again.
‘If I start reading a book I won’t stop until I finish reading it’ sounds more like a sound, empowering belief. Doing what’s easy once again proves to be on the negative scale of impact, the one of disempowering beliefs. What are your empowering beliefs?
The internal narrative which is writing our lives has corners unexplored by the conscious mind. We cling on to things, identities, relationships which can only serve us well for a little while. Progress means recognition and acceptance of change.
Things. Everything that creates a hassle and brings us negative emotions.
Identities. Who am I? No, not who I was, who am I re-presenting now. And who do I want to be?
Relationships. Do I still need protecting or can I offer my help instead?
When we walk into a room our internal narrative will tell us how to behave, but like anything in life, it often needs upgrading and adjusting. Take a moment and evaluate your behavior, you might realize that you are long needed an upgrade.