Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hey, were you hiding under the couch all that time???

“To find yourself, think for yourself.” - Socrates

The phrase authentic self has been popping up in conversations with a lot of people I know lately.  Maybe it’s because many of my friends are hitting those decade birthdays which always seem to lead to self reflection but a lot folks are searching for this authentic self and packaged up with it seems to be the belief that if they can only find it that all will be right in their world.  Recently one of these friends asked me how I managed to find my authentic self to which I jokingly replied, “I was cleaning up the dust bunnies under the couch and low and behold there it was.”

In all seriousness I am a little bothered by all of this authentic self seeking and the promise of deep happiness or satisfaction finding it is supposed to bring (which of course ought to be the first clue that I am not the person to be asking about it since I walk around at least mildly dissatisfied with the world most of the time).  To me it mostly seems to make those who are seeking feel really, really bad about themselves for not finding it and those that profess to have found it appear to spend much of their time teaching expensive workshops to others about how to get there. 

To me where ever you are right now is your authentic self.  You might not be perfect, you may or may not be happy and you may or may not be doing exactly what you want to be doing in the world right now but to say that where you are at this moment isn’t authentic or real serves only to discredit your personal journey.   Life is an ever changing process during which you are going to have good days, you are going to have bad days and you are likely going to question the path you are walking on everyday for the rest of your life.  You may discover that there are things you do that aren’t in your own best interest and perhaps you will find ways to change those habits so you can have a better than average chance at being happy.  BUT that doesn’t mean that at any time during this process you were any less authentically you than you are now or will be tomorrow. 

Could we be doing things to make our lives a more enjoyable experience?  Yes of course we can.   We are often our own worst enemy when it comes to pursuing that which will make us happy.  Most of us listen a little too closely to what everyone else tells us we should be doing until after a few years of walking that path we realize we are dissatisfied.  Hey, good for you!  You have just discovered what you don’t want to be doing.  Some people never get that far.  Have you discovered your authentic self?  Well if you hadn’t had it all along how would you have known that what you were doing didn’t make you happy?  

If I don’t buy into all of this authentic self business why did my friend ask me how I managed to find it?   I mean I think my life is pretty good but I’m not 100% satisfied with it.  It wasn’t until my early 30s that I began to have a clue what I might want out of life and nearly a decade later there are still days that I am a bubbling cauldron of self doubt and I think I’m not good enough/talented enough/ready enough for the opportunities that come my way.  So why in the world would anyone think I had some sort of answer?  Well I think maybe it is because despite all of those doubts, worries and fears I go out and pursue whatever it is I want to do anyway even when I’m so nervous or scared that feel like I’m most likely going to toss my cookies before I accomplish anything.   

Perhaps when people are seeking their authentic selves what they are searching for isn’t the path to their heart or inner being but instead they are seeking to find a way to overcome the fear that is stopping them from acting on what they already know.  Fear can serve a useful purpose in our lives (like deciding not to take that dare to play chicken with a train) but the fear that most of us encounter is the fear of failure.  We want to be absolutely sure that before we set out on some new path that we won’t be making a mistake or we won’t totally suck at what we attempt to do or that people won’t laugh at us.  Since we can’t have that reassurance we don’t take any action at all and then we tell ourselves that it must because we are flawed, that we haven’t deeply connected with ourselves enough and thus we must keep on seeking.  Because after all if we had really found our authentic selves we wouldn’t be so afraid to take that step because we’d be absolutely sure of our success.

I call bullshit!  You probably know quite well what your desires are, what dreams you want to pursue but something always stops you from acting.  That little voice of doubt that says, “You might be wrong.  You might be making a mistake. You aren’t ready to do this.  You might make an absolute fool of yourself.”

And yes, that voice might be right because there are no guarantees.  Taking the steps to achieve a dream involves huge amounts of risk and a whole lot of hard work.  I’ve done things that left me exhausted, broke and wondering after what the hell was I thinking when I said I’d do this? But then there are all of those other times where I’ve taken the plunge and WOW, amazing things have happened.  It took me a long time to get to this place but all of those years that I ambled through life without much of a clue of where I wanted to be were not wasted and there wasn’t some magical moment where I suddenly came home to find my authentic self waiting on the couch saying, “Hey, I’m finally here.  What’s for dinner?”

My so called authentic self has always been there, what I was lacking was the courage to take the steps necessary to pursue my dreams and the willingness to risk failing at them.   And yes, taking that step can be absolutely terrifying but these are your dreams and your hopes we are talking about here. Playing chicken with a train can leave you dead on the tracks, taking a step towards achieving your heart’s desire might leave you….well, I can say this.  It won’t kill you, in fact it might just lead you down the road to living.    

Below is an interview from The Dream Share Project (which I do reccomend checking out).  What I love about this video is Kirk's advice to "do it quickly" and not put things off.   I also like that he is someone who didn't start out knowing what he wanted to do and in fact, as he states in the interview, he was not at all sure of his chances of success once he started pursuing his dream...but he did it anyway.   

1 comment:

  1. I liked this a lot. It is, indeed, a discredit to your personal journey to say that where you are right now is not authentic. I have too many people in my life who seem to be mired by this mindset.